Generally, with a trip to the dentist every six months or so, your teeth and gums will be in great shape. Still, there may be times that you’ve gone a little too long without a professional cleaning and plaque or tartar found a way under your gums.

Plaque and tartar (calculus) adheres to the tooth surface and acts as an irritant to the surrounding bone and gum tissue. The continued presence of calculus and irritation of hard and soft tissue can lead to periodontal disease. When this happens, a deep cleaning (or scaling and root planing) may be necessary to effectively remove plaque and calculus.

Periodontal disease (also known as “gum disease”) is when a gum “pocket” is formed around the tooth that is filled with bacteria and tartar buildup. This can lead to:

  • bleeding gums
  • inflammation
  • gum recession
  • supporting bone loss
  • loose teeth
  • bad breath
  • pain when chewing
  • swollen and tender gums
  • gum infection



There are actually different stages and levels of severity of gum disease.

These three main stages of gum disease are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Each stage is worse than the next, so it’s best to stop gum disease early before advanced periodontitis can set in.


Gingivitis, which is simply an inflammation of the gums, is the earliest stage of gum disease. Possessing gingivitis, you may experience some bleeding while brushing and flossing along with red and puffy gum tissue. It is caused by plaque that builds up around the gum line and is a reversible process with a simple professional cleaning.


If you allow your gingivitis to go untreated, the inflammation can continue into the bone and cause periodontitis. At this point, pockets have developed below the gums, and damage is being done to the bones and fibers that help to hold teeth in place. With mild supporting bone loss, the teeth can develop slight mobility. While periodontitis can be controlled, oftentimes the damage is irreversible.


At this point, your teeth will begin to loosen, and the fibers and bones of your teeth are often beyond repair. There may be a slight chance of slowing the gum disease to a point where the teeth can still be saved, but the predictability of their long term survival is in question. This is why it is so important to see a dentist as soon as you notice redness and swelling along the gums, and bleeding while brushing or flossing.


If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while or if you’ve developed periodontal disease, you may need a deep cleaning to ensure the complete removal of calculus and bacteria that is accumulating in the deep gum pocket.



The process of scaling and root planing begins with an evaluation from your dentist. If you haven’t had a routine cleaning lately, they’ll likely take the time to perform a thorough evaluation of your gums. During the examination, your dentist may also take x-rays to see the conditions of your teeth and the level of the supporting bone.

The first part of the deep cleaning process is scaling. This is part of the process where your dentist will remove the plaque and calculus from the tooth’s surface, as well as right below the gum line. This will involve scaling along the root surface.

A special tool called an ultrasonic scaling tool is used to properly remove the plaque, debris and tarter that is causing the gum disease. Often, to ensure the procedure is as comfortable as possible, the dentist may recommend that some local anesthesia be placed to numb the root and gum tissue.

The next step of the process is root planing. This is where the root of a tooth is smoothed over to create a more difficult surface for plaque to adhere. This process will also remove any food debris, plaque or tarter below the gum line.

Once the process is completed and your gum tissue has had a few weeks to heal, you should see your gums return to a more stable condition. You will need to maintain your cleaning appointments with your dentist to ensure they remain healthy. Sometimes your dentist may recommend an additional cleaning or two during the year to make sure your teeth remain calculus free.


Instead of going through a deep cleaning that involves scaling and root planing, you should regularly visit your dentist at least twice a year. You should also make sure to take care of your oral health between visits. This includes brushing, flossing and washing your mouth at least twice a day.

You’ll also want to check your children’s gums occasionally to make sure they look healthy, and double-check to make sure they are brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Kids are also at risk for gum disease if their oral health isn’t properly managed.

Even with proper oral care, if you don’t have your teeth properly cleaned by a dentist, it’s likely that periodontal disease will still occur. Once it does, if it isn’t taken care of soon, it can continue to irritate your gums, as well as the bones and fibers that hold your teeth in place.

Your gums and bone may begin to recede, and at a certain point, your teeth may become loose and even fall out! Be sure to contact your dentist for an evaluation if you are concerned about the health of your gums.

West Mobile Dental Care is conveniently located in Mobile, AL but proudly services Daphne, Prichard, Montrose, Fairhope, Tillman’s Corner and other neighboring communities.