What is the Difference Between Dental Deep Cleaning and Scaling?

Deep cleaning in dentistry removes tartar from teeth & helps treat periodontal (gum) disease. Learn more about deep cleaning & scaling here.

What is the Difference Between Dental Deep Cleaning and Scaling?

Scraping and root smoothing, also known as deep cleaning in dentistry, is a procedure that removes tartar (hardened minerals) that may stick to the teeth. It is usually necessary when a patient has periodontitis (advanced gum disease). Deep cleaning is a general term for periodontal treatment known as root scraping and smoothing (SRP). While general cleaning (prophylaxis) is done preventively to help patients maintain good oral health, scraping and root smoothing therapy may be necessary to treat periodontal (gum) disease and stop the disease process.

Routine dental checkups usually involve cleaning teeth down to the gumline. In deep scraping, a dentist or hygienist removes plaque and tartar from the teeth below the gumline in the area of the pocket between the teeth and the gums that forms when there is inflammation. The gum tissue is gently pushed back. Dentists then perform a procedure called root smoothing, in which exposed root surfaces are smoothed to eliminate inflammatory agents, such as stones, microorganisms and toxins, which promotes reintegration into the gums.

Deep cleanings are usually done in two or more visits and include gum scraping and root smoothing. Each visit can last 1 to 2 hours. Routine cleanings may be essential for preventing gum disease, but scraping is used to treat the condition. It is considered a method of “deep cleaning” teeth and is the most commonly used treatment for periodontal disease.

The difference between scraping and root smoothing is simple. Scraping involves removing tartar and bacteria from teeth above the gum line. Root smoothing is the process by which harmful bacteria and infected tissue are gently removed from below the gum line, creating a clean environment that allows the gums to heal. It's a non-surgical procedure, but it does more than standard cleaning, since it cleans the areas of a tooth that are below the gum line, not just above it.