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Deep Teeth Cleaning: What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist

Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen
Amanda Dexter
Amanda Dexter
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Robert Berry
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If you're reading this article, it may be because your dentist has recommended that you get a deep teeth cleaning. This might be an alarming thing to hear.

But don't panic!

It's not as bad as it sounds, and it can greatly improve your oral health. In this article, we'll talk all about deep teeth cleanings, including various aspects of deep dental cleanings such as:

  • Cost
  • Side effects
  • Healing process
  • Alternatives

Knowing all of this, you can head into your deep dental cleaning appointment with confidence. 

What is deep teeth cleaning?

deep cleaning teeth
The discomfort of deep cleaning is well worth it

A dental deep cleaning is a procedure that you may need if you are at risk or already have periodontal disease, or if it's been a long time since you've been to the dentist. It consists of scaling and root planing.

We cover scaling in another article, as it relates to routine dental cleanings, so we won't go over it much here. But essentially it involves using a special tool called a curette to scrape tartar from below the gum line. 

Scaling is a pretty standard oral hygiene practice in the UK. It's the second act of this two-act performance — root-planing — that makes it a deep cleaning (and generally causes the most apprehension).

When your dentist performs a root planing procedure as part of deep teeth cleaning, they may use the same tool, the curette, as they did for the scaling. But instead of scraping plaque and tartar from below the gum line, root planing actually smoothes down the tooth root to help the gums reattach to the tooth. 

Check out the following video for more information on what is involved in a deep teeth cleaning:

Ask a dentist: Are office cleanings the same as dental scaling and root planing?

Not every in-office dental cleaning is the same. Each offers distinct approaches to managing your oral needs.  A common name for dental scaling and root planing treatment is deep cleaning.

Deep cleanings can halt or reverse gum disease when it is found in its early stages. If a dentist sees signs that your mouth is in the early stages of gum disease they will prescribe a deep cleaning, also known as dental scaling and root planing, to both prevent more serious problems and treat the current issues.

If you see any of these symptoms or a combination of them, you may be in need of deep cleaning:  

  • Gums are starting to pull away from your teeth.
  • Tartar has spread to the roots of your teeth.
  • Gums are showing signs of persistent inflammation.

Dr Robert Berry, Mountain Aire Dentistry

Difference between normal cleaning and deep teeth cleaning

In the UK, you may find that during your normal cleanings your dentist performs a simple brushing and flossing, or they may scale and polish your teeth. Root planing is not performed during a routine dental cleaning, but rather only during this procedure.

Have a look at the following table for a summary of the differences between normal cleaning and deep cleaning: 

Routine cleaning

Deep cleaning

What is involved?

A routine cleaning can just be a simple brushing and flossing, but your dentist may also scale and polish your teeth as well.

A deep cleaning involves root planing. This is done after extensive scaling, so that your gums can adhere to the roots again.

Who is it for?

For everyone! Meant to prevent periodontal disease.

For those who already have periodontal disease.

How long does it take?

Less than an hour.

Can take muiltiple hours, depending on the severity of tartar buildup.

Does it hurt?

Not too much, your teeth and gums may be a bit sore afterwards.

You may experience quite a bit of soreness for a few days after the procedure.

Who needs a dental deep cleaning?

As you may have seen in the table above, deep teeth cleaning is used to treat gum disease. When plaque builds up on your teeth, the bacteria in plaque can cause inflamed gums.

Inflamed gums pull away from teeth and create pockets. These pockets are plaque-trappers and can't be cleaned with regular brushing. You can read more about gum disease in our article here

So, if you have gum disease, your dentist may prescribe you this type of procedure as treatment. It can be scary to be diagnosed with a disease but don't worry, it's treatable and you're certainly not alone.

The NHS reports that over half the adults in the United Kingdom suffer from some level of periodontal disease that has progressed beyond just gingivitis.

Deep cleaning is also a way to stop your teeth from becoming further damaged, whether you have thin enamel and translucent teeth, or the first signs of decay.

Deep teeth cleaning procedure

deep cleaning teeth before and after
Deep cleaning teeth before and after pictures

As mentioned above, this procedure normally consists of dental scaling around and below the gum line to remove tartar and plaque. The scaling may either be done with a hydraulic scaler or a metal hook-like tool called a curette.

Your dentist may also use an ultrasonic tooth cleaner to remove plaque and tartar.

After a dental scaling, your dentist will use the curette to smooth down the roots of your teeth so your gums can reattach to the tooth roots.

Now let's look at some other information relevant to the deep teeth cleaning procedure.

How long does a dental deep cleaning take?

When more extensive tartar removal is required, involving extensive scaling and root planing, it takes longer than a standard cleaning — even hours— and may be spread over more than one appointment.

Patients who are nervous about this procedure can request for it to be done under IV sedation. With this, the patient is awake throughout but very relaxed, and won't remember much of the deep teeth cleaning experience. However, IV sedation usually has to be paid for privately.

What is the deep teeth cleaning cost in the UK?

Private care teeth deep cleaning costs in the UK average between £25 and £85 for a standard scale and polish. If you need more than a standard clean, a full mouth deep clean including root surface debridement may cost you upwards of £300 without insurance.

However, this doesn't take into account the cost of anaesthetics you may need or the higher costs charged by some dentists.

If you do have dental insurance, the amount you will have to pay can vary greatly depending on your plan. Make sure to discuss all of the fees with your dentist beforehand, so you know how much you'll really have to pay. Some of the best dental insurance plans can mean lower costs.

What does a deep teeth clean cost with the NHS?

If your NHS dentist recommends that you need deep teeth cleaning you will need to pay the cost of an NHS band 1 at £23.80 or a band 2 treatment at £65.20. The amount of work needed and the severity of your case will determine which band your deep teeth cleaning will be classed as.

teeth deep cleaning cost uk
Your teeth may be sensitive after a deep clean

Side effects of deep teeth cleaning

After this type of dental work, you're more than likely to experience some side effects in the first few days after your appointment, and maybe even a week or more after. These side effects may include:

  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Sore gums
  • Swollen gums

Your dentist may give you an injection or prescribe you medication for the pain. While these side effects are some of the main disadvantages of deep cleaning teeth, they are worth it in the long run!

Dental deep cleaning alternatives

If you are looking for dental deep cleaning alternatives, you're sort of out of luck. That's because, if your dentist recommends that you get one, it's because you need one.

In that sense, as professionals in the dental industry will vehemently insist, the only real alternative to deep dental cleaning is a good oral hygiene routine that will prevent the buildup of tartar in the first place. 


It may not make you jump for joy to learn that you need a dental deep cleaning, but with around half of Brits in the same position, you're certainly in good company.

You may be a bit nervous about your deep cleaning dentist visit,  but don't worry, you're dentist will most likely give you a local anaesthetic to help with any pain. And after you're done, you'll be on the road to much better oral health!

Just make sure to keep up the good work with regular brushing and flossing until your next yearly dental visit. One way to help with this is by using an electric toothbrush like this Oclean X10.

It keeps your teeth super clean with 5 cleaning modes and 40,000 sonic vibrations per minute. You can give the Oclean X10 a try by clicking the link below.


How much does deep cleaning teeth cost?

Deep teeth cleaning in the UK costs between £25 and £85 on average, but it can cost as much as £300 if you need a lot of work. If you get treatment with the NHS it is a band 1 or 2 treatment.

How do I find a dentist or hygienist for deep cleaning near me?

The majority of dental clinics will be able to provide deep teeth cleaning. You can call around a few in your area to check prices, or to book an appointment with an NHS dentist.

Does deep cleaning hurt?

Unfortunately, this type of cleaning does often hurt or is at least irritating. That's because your gums are inflamed and are more sensitive. But there are ways to make it less painful. If your dentist thinks that you will experience pain, they will most likely give you a local anaesthetic. 

disadvantages of deep cleaning teeth
Take care of your teeth after a dental deep cleaning

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

Any gum pain should disappear after a week, but your gums may appear swollen for a bit longer. Thankfully, there are some simple things you can do to help the process.

You can take an Ibuprofen or other painkiller or anti-inflammatory, and you can do salt water rinses to help the swelling go down.

What are the side effects of dental deep cleaning?

There are side effects to a dental deep cleaning, but the benefits to your oral health make them well worth the ordeal. Dental deep cleaning side effects include swollen and sore gums and sensitive teeth. These side effects should subside after a week.

Deep Teeth Cleaning: What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist
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NCBI: Gingivitis and periodontitis: Treatment of periodontitis: Cleaning, scaling, care. Consulted 15th August 2022. Scaling and Root Planing. Consulted 15th August 2022.

GOV.UK. Periodontal diseases. Consulted 15th August 2022.