Teeth Deep Cleaning: Everything you need to know

According to a 2021 report, one in three New Zealanders lives with untreated tooth decay. In 2019, 32,000 children and 274,000 adults had teeth extracted due to decay, an abscess, infection, or gum disease.  Teeth deep cleaning is one of the key steps that adults and children can take to prevent this type of teeth and gum disease, helping to reduce the chances that you will need to have a tooth extracted.

Unfortunately, many people are put off going to the dentist and misinformation means they think it will either be too painful or too expensive. We are here to talk about the process of deep cleaning teeth and how, when carried out regularly, the process can save people money in the long run, with fewer visits to the dentist and fewer “urgent” visits required to treat painful conditions that can develop if your teeth are not properly cared for.

What does a deep teeth cleaning consist of?

As the name suggests, deep cleaning of teeth is a different process from regular dental cleaning. Deep cleaning of your teeth goes below the gum line. The reason for this is to get to hard-to-reach places that even the most dedicated brushing and flossing regime can sometimes miss.

Under the gum line, you will find the roots and pockets that sit at the base of your tooth. Whilst regular brushing and flossing can help to prevent debris from getting into these pockets, unfortunately, over time, tartar can build up around the exterior and the roots of teeth. When this tartar is left unchecked, it can cause serious bacterial infections which can develop into tooth decay and the eventual need to remove a tooth.

Professional teeth cleaning with an ultrasonic scraper

Deep cleaning is a technique used by dentists and dental hygienists to remove the build-up of tartar from below the gum line to ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy. The technique of removing tartar buildup is called periodontal scaling and root planing.

Your dentist or hygienist will use a combination of manual scraping tools and an ultrasonic scraper. This process can be quite rigorous and uncomfortable at the time as additional pressure is placed on your teeth and gums to remove the build-up of tartar.

How do I know if I need a deep cleaning?

There is no definitive answer to this question as a lot will depend on your daily oral hygiene routine. Those who brush at least twice a day, floss and use a mouthwash between meals will likely see less build-up of tartar in between visits to the dentist or hygienist. However, if you are not as consistent with your dental hygiene routine, then more regular deep cleaning may be necessary.

The good news is that your dentist or hygienist will be able to agree on a schedule with you after an initial visit and assessment of your teeth. If they identify that you are susceptible to tartar build-up, they may recommend more frequent visits, however, over time and with improved home hygiene, these visits may become less frequent.

There are some symptoms that you can keep an eye out for when it comes to the need for deep cleaning. Gum disease is one of the clearest signals that it might be time to visit your dental practice and there are a few signs to look out for:

  • How far your gums pull away from your teeth – any pocket that is more than 5mm deep will require immediate deep cleaning
  • Swelling gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bruising around the gums
  • Pus in the gums
  • Bad breath

Whilst these symptoms might be a sign of other underlying issues, if you are experiencing any of the above, we recommend you book in to see your dentist or hygienist immediately.

As a general rule of thumb, your dentist or hygienist will recommend a visit every six months for a deep clean.

Can a deep cleaning be done in one day?

Depending on how much tartar has built up in your teeth will dictate whether a deep cleaning treatment can be carried out in a single visit or whether it will require multiple visits. The sensitivity of your teeth and gums might also dictate how many sessions you require.

As with most things relating to oral health, the better you take care of your teeth at home, the less treatment you are likely to require on a trip to the dentist or hygienist.

How long does it take for gums to heal after deep cleaning?

After a visit to your dentist or hygienist for a deep clean, there is a chance your teeth and gums will be sore for a few days after. There might even be some bleeding of the gums. A deep clean process applies more pressure than usual to your teeth and gums and a side effect of this pressure can be bleeding gums and bruising for some patients.

This should subside over the 2-3 days following your deep clean and as your swollen gums start to settle down, you should notice that discomfort subside.

Is deep teeth cleaning painful?

For most patients, a teeth deep clean treatment is uncomfortable but not painful. Again, this will depend on the length of the process and the level of cleaning required. For patients with particularly deep pockets, there may be more discomfort than for others.

We recognise that every patient is different and if you do experience any pain or discomfort during your appointment, you should let your dentist or hygienist know straight away so they can adjust their treatment and minimise your discomfort.

How often should teeth be deep cleaned?

We have already touched on this above, however, a good rule of thumb is to schedule a visit to your dentist or hygienist every six months for a deep clean to prevent issues from developing. Your dentist or hygienist may make further recommendations based on what they see. This might mean you have to come more regularly to begin with if there are deep pockets that have developed or you may not need to come as often if you practice good oral hygiene at home.

What happens after deep cleaning?

As we have mentioned, there could be some sensitivity around the teeth and gums and some bleeding for a few days after a deep clean treatment.  We would recommend avoiding hot, hard, or crunchy foods if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

You might also have some sensitivity with your teeth so you could also try using a sensitive toothpaste for a few days after the treatment.

If you can, avoid agitating the affected area and take a few days off from flossing whilst the swelling in your gums subsides. Some patients find a mouthwash or saltwater solution to be soothing as well as a good way to clean their mouth after eating.

Is deep teeth cleaning worth it?

Yes. The simple answer to this is a resounding yes. Teeth deep cleaning is an important part of your overall oral hygiene as it cleans places that are hard to reach by brushing and flossing alone.

If you have never had a deep teeth clean, then we recommend you book in to see your dentist or hygienist today so you can get checked out and ensure you have no underlying issues.


Teeth deep cleaning should be a regular event in your diary and a key element in your dental care routine. If you have never had a deep clean procedure, you can always talk to your dentist or to our hygienist to find out more about the procedure and how it can help you to take better care of your teeth and gums.

You can also find out more about professional dentist teeth cleaning and other hygiene treatments on our services page.

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