Dentist wearing eyeglasses gloves and mask examining a patient teeth with a dental probe and a mirror in a clinic box with equipment in the background

Regular cleaning vs. Deep cleaning – What is the difference?

Regular Cleaning (Scaling)

Regular cleaning, otherwise known as scaling, is the process in which a hygienist removes a buildup of plaque and tartar from a patient’s teeth. This process is needed every 3-6 months in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Regular cleanings help prevent periodontal infections and inflammation and should be done every 3-6 months.

The procedure time for regular cleanings (scaling) is on average between half an hour to an hour depending on the amount of building up of plaque and tartar that the patient has. Thus, the more build up, the longer the procedure would take to complete. There is no need for anesthesia with the regular cleaning (scaling).

Common side effects after a regular cleaning (scaling) is sensitivity in the teeth, sore gums, bleeding, swollen gums and a small gap between the teeth. The small gap between the teeth that is mentioned is that patient may see a small space in the area between the teeth and gums and mistake that the hygienist did something to make a hole. This is not the case as the area was filled and blocked by plaque and tarter buildup and their removal leaves the space. Please note that not everyone gets these side effects, and some patients may experience a combination of side effects.

Regular cleaning vs. Deep cleaning – What is the difference?

Deep cleaning

Deep cleanings (sometimes called gum treatment) are a similar process to regular cleaning, but it takes a step ahead and cleans below the gum the gum line, removing buildup of plaque and tartar. Deep cleanings are not done regularly, and the patient is not able to ask for one like a regular cleaning; it is a procedure only done when there is gum inflammation or for other reasons when recommended by the doctor. The aim of the procedure is to promote healthy gums, protecting the root of the teeth.

The time it takes to do the deep cleaning differs according to the patient and their case but on average the procedure takes about one to two hours. This is also because local anesthesia is used and there is a wait time for the anesthesia to work, numbing the area. After the local anesthesia numbs the area, the doctor gets to work in cleaning, gum scraping, and scraping the plaque off the teeth.

Please note that in Korea, the laws for the usage of anesthesia and drugs are very strict so only local anesthesia can be administered to patients in normal dental clinics. If anything stronger needs to be administered like general anesthesia or being put to sleep, patient’s will have to visit the large general (university) hospitals as they are the one’s that are allowed in general to administer anesthesia stronger than local.

The common side effects for the deep cleaning procedure are some sensitivity, soreness and bleeding from the gums which is completely normal. The bleeding usually stops soon after the procedure is completed (may differ according to the patient) and the soreness goes away after a few days. During this time, it is important to maintain proper oral hygiene to ensure that the gums heal normally.

Other risks or side effects may include the possibility of fillings becoming loosened or popping out if the patient has any (the doctor can repair it later) because of the scraping process when doing the deep cleaning procedure.