Dental Hygiene,  Dentist,  Procedures,  Q&A

Why Do My Teeth Hurt After the Dentist Cleaned Them?

This article is a part of our Q&A series in which we give detailed answers to our readers' questions. Have a question? Don't hesitate and send it to us to get a detailed answer!

A visit to the dentist for a routine cleaning is an essential part of maintaining oral health. However, it is not uncommon for some patients to experience discomfort or pain in their teeth after the procedure. This guide seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of why this happens and offers practical advice on managing and alleviating this discomfort.

What Happens During Dental Cleaning?

  • Plaque and Tartar Removal: The dentist or hygienist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar build-up from the teeth and gum line.
  • Polishing: The teeth are then polished with a gritty toothpaste.
  • Flossing: Finally, the teeth are flossed to remove any remaining plaque or toothpaste.
  • Fluoride Treatment: Sometimes, a fluoride treatment is applied to the teeth to help strengthen them and prevent cavities.

Why Teeth Might Hurt After Dental Cleaning

  • Sensitivity Due to Cleaning: The process of removing plaque and tartar can occasionally cause the teeth to become sensitive, especially if there was a significant amount of build-up.
  • Gum Irritation: The instruments used during the cleaning process might irritate the gums, causing them to be sore or bleed, which can create a sensation of tooth pain.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: If you had gum disease or cavities before the cleaning, the procedure might exacerbate the sensitivity of these areas.
  • Exposure of Dentin: Cleaning can sometimes expose the dentin, the sensitive layer beneath the tooth enamel, leading to increased sensitivity, especially to hot and cold.

Managing and Alleviating Discomfort

  • Use a Sensitivity Toothpaste: Switch to toothpaste specially formulated for sensitive teeth. These toothpaste types usually contain potassium nitrate or strontium chloride, which can help alleviate tooth sensitivity.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: In the first few days after a dental cleaning, avoid consuming very hot or very cold foods and beverages as they might exacerbate the sensitivity.
  • Soft-Bristled Toothbrush: Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush gently, especially around the gum line, to avoid irritating the gums.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, can help alleviate any discomfort. Always follow the dosing instructions on the label or as advised by your healthcare provider.
  • Warm Saltwater Rinses: Rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water) several times a day to reduce inflammation and soothe the gums.

Why are Dental Cleanings Important?

Dental cleanings are crucial in preventing gum diseases, cavities, and ensuring the overall health of teeth and gums. If the pain is severe or persists for more than a week, it is essential to contact your dentist. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Bottom Line

Experiencing some level of discomfort or sensitivity after a dental cleaning is not uncommon and is generally not a cause for concern. However, understanding the reasons behind this pain and taking steps to alleviate it can make the recovery process more manageable. If the discomfort is severe or continues for an extended period, consulting a dentist is advised to rule out any underlying issues. Regular dental cleanings are a vital component of oral health, and any temporary discomfort should not deter individuals from maintaining this essential practice.

This Q&A series article is complete and was published on July 21, 2023, and last updated on July 21, 2023.

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