Dental cleaning is an essential part of oral health. Teeth cleanings help prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease and can also help you keep your natural teeth longer and maintain your overall health.
If it's been a significant amount of time since you last saw a dentist, you may be wondering whether to expect your teeth cleaning appointment to hurt. This article will discuss what to expect at a routine cleaning appointment and whether you should expect any discomfort.
If you know what to expect from teeth cleaning and how to prepare for and ease any discomfort afterward, you’ll feel more comfortable at your appointment.
The Importance of a Professional Teeth Cleaning
The American Dental Association recommends that people schedule a dental cleaning and exam every six months. This allows your dentist or hygienist to monitor the health of your teeth and gums over time.
Thorough dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar from your teeth, preventing the buildup of bacteria in your mouth and helping you avoid cavities and gum disease. Unremoved plaque turns into tartar, irritating your gums and leading to infection.
In addition, if you've already developed gum disease or tooth decay, regular cleanings allow your dentist or hygienist to treat these problems quickly before they develop into something more serious. Patients with periodontal disease may need more frequent cleanings.
What to Expect From a Professional Teeth Cleaning
Before your appointment, let your dentist or hygienist know if you have health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Dental cleanings typically cause little or no discomfort and are performed without an anesthetic. Your mouth will be checked for signs of gum disease, such as tenderness, bleeding, or inflammation. You may have X-rays taken of your teeth, which your dentist will analyze.
These are the steps in a dental cleaning:
- Removal of plaque using an ultrasonic scaler, a handheld device that emits rapid vibrations to remove plaque and tartar.
- Manual removal of remaining plaque and tartar with a handheld scraper.
- Tooth polishing.
Does Teeth Cleaning Hurt?
The risk of pain from a routine dental cleaning appointment is minimal. With proper techniques and care, most healthy people will have a smooth, painless experience with teeth cleaning.
No special preparations are needed before a routine tooth cleaning—simply brush and floss your teeth as usual before attending your appointment.
If You Have Dental Anxiety or Sensitive Teeth or Gums
Some patients may experience slight discomfort during teeth cleaning. If you're concerned about pain, let your dentist or hygienist know before the procedure begins. If you experience dental anxiety or phobia, bring this up with the receptionist when you schedule your appointment.
If pain is a concern, a desensitizing agent may be applied to your gums to help make the process more comfortable. Local anesthesia may be recommended to numb the area if you have especially sensitive teeth or gums or if there's a significant amount of plaque buildup to be removed.
If you fear going to the dentist, sedation dentistry is another option for easing anxiety and helping you feel calm and relaxed during treatment. Medications such as nitrous oxide or oral sedatives may be administered to help put you at ease and make the procedure go by quickly.
How to Ease Any Discomfort After Teeth Cleaning
Most patients don’t experience pain during or after a dental cleaning. But if you do experience tooth sensitivity or gum tenderness, an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help. You may want to avoid beverages or extremely cold or hot foods, and you may be more comfortable avoiding hard foods.
Any tenderness or sensitivity should subside within a few days. However, if you experience lingering discomfort, call your dentist's office.