Why Do Some Dental Cleanings Cost More?

Not all dental cleanings are created equal. Find out why some hygiene appointments cost more than others and why it is recommended you receive a certain kind of cleaning

A “regular” cleaning is clinically called prophylaxis or a prophy cleaning and is a preventative measure to prevent periodontal disease. The dental hygenist will remove plaque and tartar from tooth surfaces and just below the gum line. Our hygienist will use an ultrasonic “water pick” scaler and hand scalers to safely and comfortably remove tartar that cannot be done by toothbrushing alone. A prophylaxis cleaning is appropriate for children and adults who do not exhibit any bone loss, have healthy gum measurements, or tartar adhered to the surfaces of the roots.

However, not everyone is a candidate for a regular cleaning. In some individuals, the buildup of tartar is heavier and deeper on the surface of the roots. When this is the case,  a regular cleaning will not be sufficient. This is when a “periodontal cleaning” is necessary;  the hygienist needs to get your gums numb and comfortable and use more specialized methods of adequately removing this tartar. If the hygienist were to do a “regular” cleaning in this situation, tartar would be left behind on the teeth which causes bone loss and eventual loss of teeth.

Dr. Ewell and our hygienist will let you know if you need a “regular” cleaning or a “periodontal cleaning.” The “periodontal cleaning” is also known as a “deep cleaning” or “scaling and root planing.” These cleanings require the hygienist to numb the area and remove tartar below the gumline that is adhered to the surfaces tooth roots.


Periodontal disease is diagnosed with dental x-rays, measuring the pockets of the gums, and determining if there is bone loss around the teeth and tartar build up around the roots. If a diagnosis is made, a periodontal cleaning/Scaling and Root Planing is recommended. The treatment of Scaling and Root Planing requires more care and technique skill than a regular cleaning, and therefore costs more than a regular cleaning. We also use an antiseptic rinse and laser to further reduce the periodontal bacteria. Our goal is to minimize future bone loss and prevent tooth loss. A regular cleaning that leaves behind tartar underneath the gums is negligent; we will not do this at Dentistry of Arizona. Likewise, recommending Scaling and Root Planing that is unnecessary is unethical and overtreatment; we will not recommend deeper cleanings unless they are necessary and we can show you how we are making our diagnosis.

Research has shown that the periodontal disease bacteria regrows with a vengeance after 4 months. In order to keep the bacteria in check, periodontal maintenance cleanings are necessary every 3-4 months. Generally, you do not need to be numb for these subsequent appointments. It is important to remember that not all dental insurance covers this many cleanings during a calendar year. At Dentistry of Arizona, we will inform you what your insurance covers and what we recommend. We hope that you will choose to maintain your frequent periodontal maintenance visits to avoid the progression and return of periodontal disease.

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