If you put off having routine cleanings, the plaque and tartar buildup can become hard, thick, and creep under your gums and onto the roots of your, teeth causing gum infections like gingivitis or periodontitis. This is when a routine cleaning may no longer be sufficient to remove plaque and tartar buildup, and you will need a deep cleaning or tooth scaling and root planing.
Putting off having your teeth cleaned might seem like a good way to save time and money, especially if you do not have dental insurance. But the costs to your health and bank account will continue to increase the longer you delay. Regular professional teeth cleanings can help you prevent tooth decay and gum disease and dental insurance help you cover the costs.
How much is a dental cleaning without insurance?
Having your teeth cleaned once or twice a year can be a good way to remove the plaque and tartar build-up that you can’t dislodge with tooth brushing and flossing alone. According to a 2017 survey by Dental Economics, a routine adult cleaning ranges from a $88 to $135, while a full mouth deep cleaning can cost over $1,000. This does not include any added charges for examinations, X-rays, fluoride treatments, or other services.1
Dental insurance that covers deep cleanings
Many dental insurance policies cover routine adult cleanings as preventive care. Deep cleanings are considered a more complex service outside of preventive care like regular cleanings and exams, and a dental insurance plan may cover some of the dentist’s fees. Before scheduling your deep cleaning, check your insurance policy.
Guardian Direct’s Dental Advantage Gold and Dental Advantage Silver plans cover 50% of deep cleanings after a 12-month waiting period.
Why do I need a deep cleaning?
Routine cleanings usually require some removal of light, chalky deposits that are mostly found above the gumline on the upper surfaces of your teeth. Removing those with hand instruments then using a mildly abrasive polish to remove stains and remaining plaque completes the process of a routine cleaning. The entire process is normally painless and usually takes less than an hour.
If you do not have regular cleanings, with each month that passes, more and more buildup can accumulate on your teeth, eventually getting under the gums, causing infections, and destroying the bone that supports the teeth. This is a serious gum disease called periodontitis.
Periodontitis affects over 47% of adults over the age of 30 in the United States.2 It is a preventable disease and one that is easy to cure with professional cleanings and proper after care. If you are diagnosed with gingivitis or periodontitis, a routine cleaning may no longer be enough to remove the deposits. This is when deep cleanings can become necessary.
A deep cleaning can remove all the bacteria, plaque, and hard deposits from underneath the gums. This procedure allows the gums to heal and tighten up around the teeth and roots and helps cure infections.
What to expect if you need a deep cleaning
Deep cleaning requires two steps: scaling to remove plaque and hard deposits from the teeth and surfaces of the roots underneath the gums, and root planning where the root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed to make it harder for new deposits to accumulate.
Dentists use electronic scalers as well as hand instruments to remove the deposits from under the gums that attach to the surface of the roots of the teeth.
Deep cleaning can require at least two appointments and can take as many as six, depending on the extent of the buildup that your dentist or hygienist must remove. If the buildup is generalized all over your mouth, each section, called a quadrant, is treated during separate appointments. The mouth has four quadrants, so four sessions of scaling and root planing might be necessary. Add to those follow-up visits to check the healing process and remove deposits that could not be reached during the scaling appointments, and you might need six or more appointments to complete the treatments.
After a deep cleaning is completed, you might have some pain for a few days, and the teeth may feel more sensitive, especially to cold. Over-the-counter pain medications are usually all that you need to control the pain.
It is important to schedule follow-up visits and to have routine cleanings after deep cleanings are completed. Your dentist will determine how often you should come in for after-care.
Keeping your teeth healthy for a lifetime
Whether you need a routine dental cleaning or a deep cleaning, having your teeth regularly cleaned by a professional can help maintain your oral health. Even though good home care—daily brushing and flossing—will keep the teeth clean and gums healthy, there is still a certain amount of bacteria that hides between the teeth and under the gums that only a professional cleaning can remove. Dental insurance can help you cover the costs of regular cleaning as well as any deep cleanings you may need.
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This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.