The 4 Types of Dental Cleaning: A Comprehensive Guide

Prophylaxis dental cleaning, scaling and root planing cleaning, periodontal maintenance cleaning, and gross debridement cleaning

Jon Smith

6/16/20233 min read

The 4 Types of Dental Cleaning

Regular dental cleanings are an essential part of maintaining optimal oral health. These cleanings go beyond your daily brushing and flossing routine, providing a thorough removal of plaque, tartar, and stains. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the four types of dental cleanings: prophylaxis dental cleaning, scaling and root planing cleaning, periodontal maintenance cleaning, and gross debridement cleaning. Read on to discover more about each type and their significance in maintaining a healthy smile.

Prophylaxis Dental Cleaning

Prophylaxis dental cleaning, commonly known as routine cleaning, is a preventive procedure performed by a dental hygienist. This type of cleaning is typically recommended for individuals with good oral health who do not show signs of gum disease. During a prophylaxis cleaning, the dental hygienist removes plaque, tartar, and stains from the tooth surfaces, along with polishing the teeth for a smooth and clean finish. This type of cleaning is typically performed every six months as part of a regular dental check-up.

Scaling and Root Planing Cleaning

Scaling and root planing cleaning, also referred to as deep cleaning, is a non-surgical treatment for gum disease or periodontal disease. This type of cleaning is usually recommended when there is a presence of gum pockets, gum inflammation, and signs of bone loss. Scaling involves the removal of plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line, while root planing smooths the tooth roots to discourage bacterial growth and promote gum healing. Scaling and root planing cleaning is typically performed in multiple sessions and may require local anesthesia for comfort.

Periodontal Maintenance Cleaning

Periodontal maintenance cleaning is a specialized cleaning procedure for individuals with a history of gum disease. After undergoing scaling and root planing or other periodontal treatments, regular periodontal maintenance cleanings are essential to manage the condition and prevent the recurrence of gum disease. These cleanings typically include a thorough examination of gum health, removal of plaque and tartar, measurement of gum pockets, and assessment of the overall oral health status. Periodontal maintenance cleanings are usually performed every three to four months, depending on the individual’s needs.

Gross Debridement Cleaning

Gross debridement cleaning is a preliminary cleaning procedure performed when excessive plaque, tartar, or debris has built up on the teeth, making it difficult to perform a comprehensive examination. This type of cleaning involves the initial removal of large deposits of plaque and tartar, allowing the dental professional to assess the overall oral health accurately. Gross debridement cleaning is often followed by a more detailed cleaning, such as scaling and root planing or prophylaxis cleaning, to achieve optimal oral health.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are dental cleanings painful?

Dental cleanings are typically not painful, as dental hygienists use special instruments and techniques to ensure your comfort. However, individuals with gum disease or sensitive teeth may experience some discomfort during deeper cleanings. Local anesthesia or numbing gels can be used to minimize any potential discomfort.

2. How long does a dental cleaning appointment take?

The duration of a dental cleaning appointment can vary depending on the type of cleaning, the individual's oral health, and other factors. On average, a routine prophylaxis cleaning may take around 30 minutes to an hour. Deep cleaning, such as scaling and root planing, may require multiple appointments, with each session lasting approximately one to two hours.

3. Can dental cleaning whiten my teeth?

Dental cleaning can remove surface stains and plaque, which can make your teeth appear brighter and whiter. However, for significant teeth whitening results, additional cosmetic procedures may be recommended, such as professional teeth whitening treatments.

4. How often should I get a dental cleaning?

For individuals with good oral health, a routine prophylaxis cleaning is typically recommended every six months. However, those with gum disease or a history of periodontal issues may require more frequent cleanings, such as periodontal maintenance cleaning every three to four months.


Regular dental cleanings are vital for maintaining a healthy smile and preventing oral health issues. Whether it's a prophylaxis cleaning for prevention or a more specialized cleaning for gum disease management, each type of dental cleaning plays a significant role in promoting optimal oral health. By understanding the differences and benefits of each type of cleaning, you can work closely with your dental professional to determine the most suitable cleaning approach for your specific oral needs.