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Deep teeth cleaning: What is root planing and scaling and when is it necessary?

06 October · 5 minutes

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential to preventing health problems, but, sometimes, daily brushing is not enough to remove the bacteria and tartar that accumulates over time. When this occurs, the first step is to visit a clinic for a hygiene appointment (also called a scale and polish). However, there are times when a professional dental clean is not sufficient either and we must resort to a deep cleaning of the teeth. In this article, we will look into this procedure; we will explain exactly what a scaling and root planing consists of, when it is necessary and we will provide answers to all the frequently asked questions on this topic. 

What is deep cleaning?

Before delving into what a deep cleaning is, also called scaling and root planing or dental curettage, we must clarify that it is a procedure that is only performed by professionals. To carry out this treatment, a periodontics specialist completes a thorough clean, eliminating the tartar and bacterial plaque that brushing alone fails to remove. This procedure is carried out frequently on patients with periodontitis (in cases where the infection is not very advanced) and, as such, is also known as periodontal deep cleaning. In short, dental deep cleaning, or root planing and scaling, is a procedure in which the dentist polishes the teeth and smoothes them down to the root, thus removing the tartar and plaque that has built up in the periodontal pockets.

Dentist performing a deep teeth cleaning on female patient

Difference between root planing and curettage

It is important to note that, although today both terms are used synonymously, there is technically a difference between "root planing‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúcurettage‚ÄĚ. In fact, dental curettage is a technique that was used in the past which consisted of scraping the inside of the gums, only at surface level (without reaching the root).

The current procedure that is routinely performed is scaling and root planing, which treats the periodontal problem at the root of the tooth and is, therefore, much more effective. As curettes are used for both treatments, there is a tendency to generalise and call it ‚Äúdental curettage‚ÄĚ, when it is in fact ‚Äúroot planing and scaling‚ÄĚ.

What is the difference between a deep clean vs regular teeth clean?

When talking about the difference between a periodontal deep clean vs regular teeth clean, it is important to highlight that the former is a more intensive treatment to improve periodontal problems and is performed below the gum line.

The difference between deep cleaning and regular cleaning (commonly referred to as a dental hygiene appointment) is that the latter is a non-invasive and preventive technique that removes the tartar from the tooth’s surface up to the level of the gingival margin, in order to prevent build-up. However, root planing and scaling is performed when bacterial plaque has reached the root of the tooth. When a disease, such as gingivitis (or gum disease), is very advanced, symptoms such as swollen and reddened gums can appear.

How is a deep teeth cleaning procedure carried out?

The specialist performing the scaling and root planing procedure follows certain steps in order to carry out this complex treatment. It is also worth noting that dental curettage is a process that can be somewhat uncomfortable for the patient, so local anaesthesia is used.

To explain how scaling and root planing is done, we will divide the treatment into two phases.

Phase 1

The first phase of a deep teeth cleaning procedure consists of scaling the tooth below the gum line. Once the area is anaesthetised, the ultrasonic scaling begins, using specific tools to remove the plaque and tartar. In this first phase, the level of tartar on the teeth is analysed, which is then re-evaluated at the end of the treatment.

Phase 2

The second part of a scaling and root planing procedure involves polishing the teeth, leaving them smooth and shiny. At this stage, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned and stains with rough textures are removed.

In order for the periodontal deep cleaning to be effective, it is necessary to re-evaluate the condition of the patient’s mouth and perform any routine procedures to prevent further bacterial build-up.

Dentist shining light into male patient’s open mouth

How long does a deep clean take?

How long it takes to perform a scaling and root planing is difficult to calculate. The time involved in cleaning a tooth below the gum line can vary greatly depending on the complexity of each case and the way in which the professional approaches it.

Pros and cons of deep teeth cleaning

There are several pros and cons of deep teeth cleaning. Having the treatment has a direct impact on the improvement of the patient’s oral health but, sometimes, there can be some minor complications.

What are the benefits of dental deep cleaning?

Periodontal deep cleaning eliminates tartar and bacterial plaque, improving the overall health of the mouth. This further improves the appearance of the teeth and gums, and reduces the risk of tooth loss due to diseases such as periodontitis. Furthermore, another benefit of dental deep cleaning, or cleaning the teeth below the gum line, is that it prevents bad breath and reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Are there any disadvantages of deep teeth cleaning?

Some patients may experience minor complications as a result of a dental deep clean. One of these is gum recession. Another disadvantage of deep teeth cleaning is that, with the dentine more exposed, the patient may feel greater sensitivity in the teeth, which can cause discomfort.

What are the risks of scaling and root planing?

Scaling and root planing does not have many risks, however, as previously mentioned, it should only be performed when a dental professional deems it necessary.

Is root planing painful?

As it is done using a local anaesthetic, root planing is not painful. However, the patient may experience slight discomfort once the anaesthesia wears off and in the days following the treatment. If you do experience severe pain after scaling and root planing, speak to a specialist about how to manage the symptoms.

Cost of deep teeth cleaning in the UK

The cost of dental deep cleaning depends on the areas affected. The specialist will determine the treatment by dividing the mouth into zones, or quadrants.

The price per quadrant starts from £110 in the UK. The total cost of scaling and root planing is thus calculated by taking into account the number of quadrants to be treated, as well as the number of sessions necessary.

Dentist performing root planing and scaling on male patient

Scaling and root planing at Impress

Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential for good dental health. It is also important to regularly check the condition of our teeth and gums, especially before starting orthodontic treatment.

Periodontal deep cleaning is a common pre-treatment that helps patients begin orthodontics with teeth in optimal condition. Therefore, during the first visit, the specialist may recommend that the patient undergo scaling and root planing prior to orthodontics.

Our patients’ health is our priority. That’s why, at Impress, we ensure that patients start orthodontic treatment with good teeth and gum health. To make the process as simple as possible, many of our Impress clinics have both the experienced personnel and the appropriate tools to carry out this procedure.

Want to improve your smile? Contact us and discover more about our orthodontic treatments, as well as the pre-treatments available at your closest Impress clinic. You can get in touch via phone +44 20 3808 1072, on WhatsApp, by sending us an email at or filling in this simple form.

Find out about our prices, orthodontic treatments and pre-treatments with no obligation. See you at one of our Impress clinics soon!

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Frequently asked questions about dental deep cleaning

What happens if you smoke after scaling and root planing?

Tobacco is one of the worst enemies of our teeth and gums, and our health in general. As such, smokers are more likely to suffer from dental infections. After dental curettage, the treated areas of the mouth are sensitive to temperature changes, so specialists recommend that smoking is avoided for at least 48 hours after treatment.

Is deep cleaning good for the teeth?

A deep cleaning of the teeth is performed only when it is deemed necessary by a dental specialist. It is particularly recommended for people suffering from periodontitis in the initial and moderate stages.

Is it normal for the gums to still bleed after deep cleaning?

Bleeding gums after a deep cleaning is completely normal. The symptoms can last a few days.

When is scaling and root planing necessary?

Prevention is always the best tool for maintaining good dental health. Proper oral hygiene and regular visits to a dentist can prevent future problems. However, sometimes this is not enough and, when tartar and bacterial plaque build up, they cannot be removed by daily brushing alone. Your dentist will indicate when scaling and root planing is necessary.

What can I eat after a deep cleaning of the teeth?

As the teeth and gums are sensitive to temperature changes after root planing and scaling, it is recommended to wait a few hours before eating, and not to consume food that is either too hot or too cold for the first few days.


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