I was at a coffee shop the other day. This happens to me way too much… I happened to overhear a couple talking, perhaps a bit too loudly, about a visit to the dentist. “I went in for a simple cleaning, and they told me, No! They said I need a dental deep cleaning. It’s like ten times the price. Can you believe that?” she said. Let me break that down for you. To summarize, what she’s really saying is…what is a dental deep cleaning and why is a dental deep cleaning necessary?

As a dentist, whenever I overhear dental frustrations or misconceptions, it piques my interest. More importantly, it puts me on high alert to help clear the confusion.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings are all too common.

In this article, we’ll talk about why your dentist is recommending a deep cleaning, what is a dental deep cleaning,  and why it even matters. Oh and we’ll also answer the most important question you’re probably thinking..”Um, now tell me why exactly is a dental deep cleaning necessary?”

What is a Dental Deep Cleaning

what is a deep dental cleaning & what is scaling and root planing illustration

I’ll give it to you straight. A dental deep cleaning is the most common way the periodontal disease is prevented. A dentist recommends a dental deep cleaning when there are signs of periodontal disease, specifically inflammation of the gums from bacteria.

Now you may wonder, why can’t a regular cleaning work? Doesn’t a regular cleaning remove plaque? And do I really need this deep cleaning?

Think of it this way. A regular cleaning is like washing your hands. Lathering up your hands with soap and water is excellent at removing bacteria from the surface of the hands. A regular dental cleaning is similar. It focuses only on the surface of the teeth above the gumline.

Back to the handwashing analogy. What about under the fingernails? Imagine you had an infection under your fingernails. Would you assume only soap and water would treat that infection? You simply cannot sterilize under your fingernails that effectively. The access is limited.

Periodontal disease is the same as an infection under the fingernails. It’s difficult to access. The dentist cannot easily clean below the gumline during a regular cleaning.

Enter a deep dental cleaning. During this procedure, a dentist is able to clean both the surface of the tooth like in a regular cleaning, but also by below the gumline and the roots of the teeth.

How Long Does a Dental Deep Cleaning Take

During a dental deep cleaning, the dentist numbs the areas being worked on using a local anesthetic like lidocaine. Typically its done in quadrants, with two quadrants per visit being most common.

The dental deep cleaning procedure takes about 60 to 90 minutes to complete 2 quadrants on average. So plan for two visits to complete the process with both appointments at least an hour or so.

Why is a Dental Deep Cleaning Necessary? Do I really Need One?

is a deep dental cleaning necessary & is scaling and root planing necessary

Is a dental deep cleaning necessary? Well, necessary is an interesting word. I’m not going to try to convince you, you’ll decide for yourself.

Is a vaccine necessary? Well no, it’s not necessary per se, some people choose not to. But if you value preventing disease later on… it is necessary for that purpose.

A dental deep cleaning is similar. It is a treatment that prevents or drastically reduces the progression of periodontal disease. So yes, you can let it go and you probably won’t notice anything for many years.

But do you really want to do that?

Studies show that periodontal disease affects 20 to 50% of the world population. It is one of the primary reasons for early tooth loss.

And you may think, oh it’s just a tooth. While that may be the case, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hidden issues that occur after tooth loss—TMJ disorder, digestive issues, and reduced self-esteem just to name a few.


It doesn’t end there. The latest research is showing some mind-blowing information about how long-standing periodontal disease preceded the diagnosis of Alzehimer’s disease, Parkingson’s disease, and dementia.

That’s pretty scary. And you know what, periodontal disease is one of the few illnesses that we have the ability to prevent. So if your dentist sees the early signs of periodontal disease and strongly recommends treatment, you have a decision to make. Is that dental deep cleaning necessary?

What Does a Dental Deep Cleaning Cost?

Oh, before I answer this, I should note a deep dental cleaning is technically called scaling and root planing. So technically this will also answer, what does scaling and root planning cost? Either way, it means the same thing. Now you know, so don’t get confused by the terminology on your bill.

On average, a regular cleaning will cost between $100 to $200. A dental deep cleaning costs from $200 to $600 for each quadrant of your mouth.

The cost mostly depends on the cost of living in the area where you live and the number of teeth and quadrants that need to be treated.

And I know, if you don’t have dental insurance, that’s a lot.

But if you think that way it will drive you crazy. The cost really should be considered an investment. By investing in the scaling and root planning cost, you’re avoiding much more costly periodontal issues later in life.

Does Insurance cover it?

Most dental insurances have a great appreciation for preventative treatment like deep dental cleanings. From the insurance perspective, if the insurance company covers preventative treatment, it prevents more complex (costly) treatment that might be required if the preventative treatment wasn’t completed.

Therefore many dental insurance plans will provide benefits of 50% to 100% of the scaling and root planing cost. Wondering if your insurance covers the dental deep cleaning cost? Check the back of your insurance card for a phone number, and give your insurance company a call. They will explain your specific insurance policy and coverage percentage.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it. The highlights of what you need to know about deep dental cleanings and why your dentist is recommending one. If I can leave you with only one takeaway about deep dental cleanings, you must know that the key concept is prevention.

You’re not going to get any cosmetic benefit. You’re probably not even doing it to treat a painful tooth. That makes it hard to visualize why it’s needed but it shouldn’t undermine the importance.

A deep dental cleaning is necessary because of what it prevents long-term, not necessarily for the immediate benefits of the present.