Dental Deep Cleaning Alternatives

17 May 2024

Dental deep cleaning is a procedure carried out by dental professionals to treat gum disease but what's involved and what alternatives are out there for patients who dread the thought of hours in the dental chair.

What Is Dental Deep Cleaning?

When gum disease is present, pockets form under the gums creating warm, dark areas where pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria can breed. The bacteria, collectively known as dental biofilm, thrives in areas where there is little or no oxygen ie deep inside pockets underneath the gums. As the pockets deepen, it becomes more difficult for individuals to clean them adequately allowing dental biofilm the freedom to mature and develop. This triggers an inflammatory response as the body tries to fight back against the bacterial attack, further compounding the problem and deepening the pockets.

The process of dental deep cleaning involves a dental professional accessing the gum pockets to disrupt the biofilm and remove any hardened calculus (a byproduct of dental biofilm) The goal of treatment is to shrink the pockets to less than 5mm or to eliminate them completely by reducing the inflammation that causes them. This in-turn, stops the gum disease from progressing and means the teeth and gums can be kept clean at home, using regular oral hygiene aids as instructed by your dental professional.

How Is Dental Deep Cleaning Performed?

There are different ways dental deep cleaning can be carried out and various methods that can be used to disrupt the dental biofilm from within the pockets. Traditional dental deep cleaning is carried out using hand scalers that are slid inside the pockets and worked up & down the root of the tooth breaking down any biofilm in their pathway. Often, mechanical or ultrasonic scalers are also used which have the additional benefit of creating small bubbles inside the pocket that implode and help to breakdown the protective walls of the dental biofilm. There is robust evidence to support both of these approaches in performing successful deep cleaning. Local anaesthetic would usually be used with these methods as the instrumentation of inflamed tissues can be uncomfortable for the patient. It would normally take more than one visit for dental deep cleaning to be carried out using these methods.

With modern approaches favouring the preservation of dental tissues, there is a growing demand for alternative, less invasive ways of carrying out traditional dental deep cleaning. Also, with dental anxiety ranking highly as one of the most common phobias in society and with modern diets leading to more tooth sensitivity than ever, there is increasing demand from patients seeking more pain free options.

What Are The Alternatives To Dental Deep Cleaning?

Mature dental biofilm, like that found in the pockets of diseased gums, is usually thick & very sticky and it needs disrupting in order to stop it from feeding the disease process. Biofilm is mechanically quite vulnerable and can be broken down easily by rupturing the cell walls and exposing the bacteria within it. In breaking through the protective biofilm wall, the bacteria loosen and become unstuck. This is known as biofilm disruption and is a key goal in all dental deep cleaning.

Modern developments are exploring approaches to decontaminate the pockets, whilst also eliminating much of the discomfort, time and expense associated with traditional dental deep cleaning. Let’s look at some of those options.

Guided Biofilm Therapy

Guided Biofilm Therapy is an effective treatment modality that can achieve dental deep cleaning without the associated discomfort. It uses gentle jet wash-like equipment to disrupt biofilm with the least amount of pain and discomfort to the patient. It uses AIRFLOW and PERIOFLOW technology to deliver the combination of warm water and soft erythritol powder right to the base of the gum pockets. This is called airflowing. The Erythritol powder works against the dental biofilm helping to break it down, while the warm water flushes away the debris to effectively decontaminate the pocket. The no pain piezon ultrasonic is then used where there are hard calcified deposits to complete the deep cleaning process.

Most dental deep cleaning carried out with Guided Biofilm Therapy does not require the use of local anaesthetic and can be performed in fewer visits. Patients will also benefit from shorter treatment times and the pleasant feeling of a clean jet-washed mouth afterwards. There is good evidence to support Guided Biofilm Therapy as an effective deep cleaning modality and also as a treatment option for long term supportive care after your disease is stabilised.


Air-polishing is the universal term used for an instrument which uses compressed air to catapult water and powder at the surface of the teeth and gums, dislodging any soft debris it’s way. Powder selection is important to avoid abrasion of the tooth and gums. When used correctly, air polishing can be a favourite among patient wanting to see and feel a difference after cleaning.

Most air polishing devices and powders are not suitable or licensed for use during dental deep cleaning. However some, such as AIRFLOW and PERIOFLOW used during Guided Biofilm Therapy, are licensed and can be safely and effectively used up to 9mm into a gum pocket if/when required.

Is Air-polishing and Airflowing The Same Thing?

There is a difference between air polishing and airflowing. Both terms are based on the same principle which is air, powder and water used to remove deposits from teeth.   The main differences lay in the type of powder used and the way they are delivered onto your tooth surface.

The definition of ‘polishing’ is to change the surface of something in order to give it a new surface and the term ‘air polishing’ was introduced in the 1970’s when more abrasive powders were used to clean the surface of teeth.

Nowadays, there are systems which use much more advanced powders that remove biofilm and stains without changing the surface of the tooth as they clean it.

The term airflowing, used in Guided Biofilm Therapy, refers to the removal of biofilm and stains using a highly effective Erythritol based powder and a highly regulated flow of air & water jets.

The advantages of air flowing over air polishing is that treatments are more predictable since the flow of powder is more consistent, they are highly comfortable because the powder is soft and the water is warm and it is safe to use on teeth, gums, restorations, implants and even for tongue cleaning. Because airflowing is the most minimally invasive way to clean teeth, it preserves the integrity of the hard and soft tissues whilst giving the patient a more pleasant experience.

Do Any Natural Remedies Work?

There are currently no natural remedies that have been proven to be an effective alternative to dental deep cleaning. Choosing these unproven remedies will likely only delay treatment and allow your gum disease longer to progress. The only effective treatments for gum disease are those provided by dental professionals.

Can I Avoid Dental Deep Cleaning Altogether?

The best way to avoid dental deep cleaning is prevention. Gum disease is preventable with the right intervention early on. Seeing a dental professional regularly for prevention-led treatment will reduce your risk of developing gum disease and the need for costly dental treatments. If you do suspect you have gum disease don’t turn to home or internet remedies. Seek advice from a dental profession. Every mouth is different, and your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your gum disease depending on what stage it is at. The earlier treatment is sought, the less likely you will need to have dental deep cleaning performed and the less invasive and less costly it is likely to be.

If you are interested in Guided Biofilm Therapy follow the links on this website to learn more and find a GBT clinician near you.