“Regular” Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning

Our hygienist Jamie describes the differences between a “regular” cleaning and a deep cleaning. She also exposes a big secret about dentist offices across the country.

Transcription of video:

One of the biggest questions we get here in our office is, “What is the difference between a “regular” cleaning and a deep cleaning? And we wanted to make this video to help you understand the difference.

First, a “regular” cleaning, known in dental offices as a prophy, is a preventative cleaning done for the purpose of maintaining healthy gums. Healthy gums are firm, pale pink, and there is no bleeding when you brush your teeth. A regular cleaning can only be done when the gums re healthy and there is no presence of gingivitis or periodontal disease.

A deep cleaning, or what is known as scaling and  root planing in most dental offices, is done when a significant amount of bacteria and tartar has built up underneath the gums. A lot of times you cannot see the bacteria or tartar with the naked eye, but it does cause the gums to become puffy, inflamed, and start to bleed.

Last time you were in a dental office, you might have noticed the dentist or hygienist calling out numbers before they started the cleaning. What these numbers are, are measurements of your gums, and it helps the dentist and hygienist to determine the health of the gums. The lower the number the better, and if you hear all threes or under, you are in great shape. When you start to hear fours, fives, and sixes, that means that the bacteria has gotten under the gums and started to create pockets between the teeth and gums, and a deep cleaning needs to be done.

Those are the biggest differences between a regular cleaning and a deep cleaning, and if you have any questions about where you stand, we would be happy to answer them at your next appointment.

9 Factors You Didn’t Know About Gum Disease

Gum disease is a huge hot topic in dentistry today. With the onset of corporate dentistry, it seems like periodontal disease is the biggest point of contention between dentists, and hygienists alike. Dentists will never agree on the subject, some studies say that 85% of Americans have gum disease, and some reports say that the number is closer to 60 percent. That is a very wide gap, but on the low end, that is still 60% of all Americans that have some sort of periodontal disease. There are numerous factors contributing to gum infection like age, genetics, smoking, and gender. But some contributing factors may come as a surprise to you. The top nine factors that come as somewhat of a surprise are:


Many systemic diseases have been linked to periodontal disease with the biggest being diabetes and heart disease. Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which in turn can increase blood sugar and diabetic complications. Some studies have shown tha the inflammation associated with gum disease can contribute to heart disease as well.

Other diseases that have been linked to periodontal disease are osteoporosis, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Also, post-menopausal women have an 86% higher chance to develop gum disease.


Studies have shown that certain types of oral contraceptives, antidepressants, and heart medication have a side effect of gingival overgrowth, which can be a contributing factor of gum disease. Also, any drug that has a side effect of dry mouth can increase the risk for gum disease. We will get into this a little later.


Clenching and grinding teeth together breaks down the fibers and bone that hold teeth in place, and can speed up the rate at which the gum tissue is destroyed.


A diet low in fruits and vegetables can compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection, and because periodontal disease begins as an infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums.


Studies have shown that getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less makes you 3 times more susceptible to periodontal disease.


Stress affects the immune system, which fights against the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, making you much more prone to gum disease. Studies have shown that those at greatest risk for gum disease were those who were highly emotional in dealing with financial problems.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth irritates the gums which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without saliva protecting the teeth and gums, tooth decay and gum disease become more common. Medications like antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, and diuretics are the most common cause of dry-mouth. Dry-mouth has also been linked to pregnancy and menopause as well.

Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene habits are the number one contributor to gum disease. If you don’t have good oral hygiene habits, then none of these other factors really matter. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist and hyginist are the first line of defense against periodontal disease. These are also the only ways to fight gum disease or to get your mouth healthy again if you already have gum disease.

Our hygienists are trained and highly skilled in the area of periodontal disease detection and prevention. They both would be happy to go through your medical history with you, assess your risk factors, and help you in your fight against gum disease, call or click here to make an appointment today!

What Is a Deep Cleaning? Why Do I Need One? And What Does It Have To Do With My Heart?

Some of the most common questions we get from our patients here at Legacy Dental Group revolve around “deep cleanings”. Many patients come to us as new patients from other offices stating, “the dentist said that I needed a ‘deep cleaning’ and tried to force me into a big treatment plan.” This is actually a very common occurrence here, and we would like to clear up some of the questions we get from those patients.

First off, what is a “deep cleaning”? Well to be totally honest, there are a few different levels of gum disease, so there are a few different levels of cleanings. The different types of cleanings are:

  • Prophylaxis
  • Full Mouth Debridement
  • Localized Scaling and Root Planing
  • Full Mouth Scaling and Root Planing

The first level of cleaning is called a prophylaxis. This is the cleaning that patients come in and get for their bi-annual checkups. This is what most patients consider to be a “regular cleaning”. This is a preventative cleaning and can only be done when the patient’s mouth is completely free of gingivitis and periodontal disease. The other three types of cleanings could all be conveyed as “deep cleanings” as they are not considered preventative in nature.

A Full Mouth Debridement is usually done when a patient has not been to a dentist in a few years and has plaque, tartar, and hard calculus buildup present on their teeth. When there is calcified buildup present on the surfaces of the teeth, the hygienist cannot get correct gum measurements to evaluate how healthy a patient’s gums are. That is the purpose of having the Full Mouth Debridement done, to remove that calcified plaque and tartar to be able to accurately assess the health of the gums around the teeth.

Localized Scaling and Root Planing is also considered a “deep cleaning” by many patients as it is a periodontal procedure. Localized Scaling and Root Planing is only done when there is periodontitis (periodontal disease) present in the mouth. What happens in this case is the plaque and tartar present have reached down below the gums, and have started to infect the gums around the teeth. When this starts to happen, the gums recede away from the teeth and in serious cases, the bacteria starts to erode away the bone of the jaw. Localized Scaling and Root Planing is done when the periodontitis is only present in a few areas of the mouth, hence the “localized” descriptor. The hygienist would start by getting the affected teeth numb first, and then they would focus on cleaning the bacteria out from underneath the gums. This is generally why it is known as a “deep cleaning” because it goes below the gum line.

Full Mouth Scaling and Root Planing is very similar to the cleaning mentioned above, it just isn’t focused on one or two teeth, it is required in the whole mouth. Scaling and Root Planing can be done on a patient that is just at the beginning stages of periodontitis or a more severe stage, but it is best to have the procedure done in the early stages, as severe periodontitis could require periodontal surgery that would need to be performed at a specialist’s office.

As far as the last question posed in the title of this blog, what do deep cleanings have to do with my heart? According to the American Academy of Periodontology, “Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the association.”

So while everyone is thinking about hearts this Valentine’s Day, protect yours by giving us a call at 602-993-4200 to schedule your cleaning and checkup today!

Watch your heart on Valentine’s Day!

This year is flying by, and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of roses, candies, and hearts.  Tying in with those hearts of Valentine’s Day, the American Heart Association has made February American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.  To prevent heart disease and increase awareness of its effects, Legacy Dental Group is proudly participating in National Heart Month.

Periodontal disease has been found to be directly linked to heart disease, as many studies have shown.  Our own hygienists Jamie and Nancy just attended a seminar that talked about the oral-systemic link, so we wanted to sit down with them, and ask them some questions about it:

Q: What is “oral systemic health”?

A:  Oral systemic health is the connection between oral health, and overall health.  Countless studies have demonstrated a link between poor oral health and systemic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even pregnancy problems.


Q: Is “bad breath” a sign of gum disease?

A:  In a word, yes.  Bad breath happens when bacteria and dead skin cells decay, producing sulfur compounds which give off the bad breath smell.  Chronic bad breath should always be viewed as a bad sign and risk factor for tissue breakdown and disease.  While standard mouthwashes will mask the smell in the short term, they don’t get rid of the bacteria which is really the underlying cause.

Q: What can our patients do at home to protect their oral health?

A:  Well we’d love for them to come in so we can get to know them better, but good home care is vital to help preventing periodontal disease.  It’s going to be the usual suspects, brushing after eating, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash are the best things that they can do.

Jamie has been with us now for a little over 6 months, and has been a hygienist for almost 10 years.  She has quickly become a valued part of our family.  Nancy has been with us on a part time basis since 2006, but came aboard full time 2 years ago, and must be some sort of hygiene ninja, because most of our patients tell us that she is the most gentle hygienist that they have ever been to.  If you are overdue for your checkup give us a call today at 602-993-4200 to schedule an appointment, they would love to meet with you.

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month – Are you at a higher risk for gum disease?


Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce, and/or use insulin.

Is there a link between gum disease and diabetes?

Of the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes, many may be surprised to learn about an unexpected complication associated with this condition.  Research shows that there is an increased incidence of gum disease among those with diabetes, adding gum disease to this list of other complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Is there a two-way street?

Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes is two-way.  Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to gum disease, but gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control, and contribute to the progression of diabetes.  Research suggests that people with diabetes are at a higher risk for oral health problems such as gingivitis (the early stages of gum disease) and periodontitis (advanced gum disease).  People with diabetes are at an increased risk for gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

Are there any warning signs of gum disease?

Often, gum disease is painless.  You may not even know that you have it until it has reached an advanced stage.  While gum disease may not hurt, there are warning signs to watch out for:


    • Bleeding gums when you brush or floss.  This bleeding is not normal, even if your gums don’t hurt, you should call to schedule an appointment right away.
    • Red, swollen, or tender gums
    • Gums that have pulled away from teeth.  Part of the tooth’s root may show, or your tooth may look longer.
    • Pus between teeth and gums (when you press on the gums)
    • Bad breath (halitosis)
    • Permanent teeth that are loose or moving away from each other.
    • Changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite
    • Changes in the fit of a partial denture or a bridge

If you have any of the above warning signs, we suggest that you call us to schedule an appointment as soon as you can so that we can assess your oral health.

Prevention, Treatment, and Maintenance

Prevention of gum disease starts at home with good oral home care.  Some prevention measures include:

Brushing properly (at least twice a day) making sure to angle the brush underneath the gum line to remove the bacteria from in and around the gums.

Flossing daily using either standard dental floss, floss picks, or a water pick.

Using mouthwash.  A chlorhexidine gluconate-based mouthwash works best to combat gingivitis, which we do have available here in the office.

Treatment of gum disease depends on the level of severity.  With a mild case of gingivitis, usually just one or two regular cleanings (prophylaxis) are needed.  When gum disease reaches periodontitis, a deep cleaning (periodontal scaling and root planing) will be recommended.  When a deep cleaning is needed, it is done by quadrants of the mouth, usually 2 quadrants (one whole side) of the mouth are done at a time.

The first step of a deep cleaning is for the hygienist to numb that area that they will be treating.  After the area is numb, they use special instruments to remove the plaque, calculus (tartar), and bacteria from underneath the gum line.  After the bacteria is removed, most times the sites are irrigated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic called Arestin® to help aid in the healing process.


After the deep cleaning is performed, the hygienist will schedule you back for a 6 week evaluation appointment.  At that appointment, they will perform a periodontal exam, and check to see how the gums are healing.  Then after the examination, it is recommended that periodontal maintenance cleanings be done at least every 4 months to closely monitor the overall health of the mouth and gums.

If you are experiencing any of the warning signs of gum disease, or would just like to schedule for your bi-annual cleaning appointment, give us a call today or go to www.legacydentalgroup.com to learn more.  We would be happy to find a time that would work for you.