Professional dental cleanings are an integral step toward good oral health. These cleanings are recommended every six months to help prevent the formation of cavities and protect the gums from gum disease. During a dental cleaning, the hygienist will use a scaler to scrape dental plaque from your teeth. They’ll floss between all of your teeth and even behind those hard-to-reach ones in the back. In most situations, a dental cleaning is painless, but there are times when this isn’t the case. So, when can a dental cleaning hurt?

Ouch! Why did my dental cleaning hurt?

Like we said, in most situations, getting a dental cleaning is painless. And when the mouth is healthy, these dental cleanings will not hurt. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to almost every rule. The good news is that if your last dental cleaning was anything less than comfortable, it doesn’t have to be that way next time.

Common Reasons for a Painful Dental Cleaning

  • Gum inflammation
  • Tooth decay
  • Other signs of oral disease
  • Waiting too long since your last professional tooth cleaning

And though all of the reasons above can lend themselves to why a dental cleaning can hurt, the pain almost always stems from inflammation related to gum disease. Thankfully, gum disease is reversible if it has not advanced too far. So let’s talk about gum disease stages.

1. Gingivitis

This first stage of gum disease is characterized by bleeding gums when brushing or flossing your teeth. This is the only stage that can be reversed. With a professional dental cleaning and more attention to your home oral care routine, your gums can likely be on their way to good condition in as little as one or two weeks.

2. Periodontitis

At this point, the damage done to the gums is no longer reversible. Your gums may form a pocket below the gumline that traps food particles and other bacteria. You may notice increased swelling or redness in your gums. You may even have signs of halitosis (bad breath) even after you brush your teeth or rinse with a minty mouthwash.

3. Advanced Periodontitis

This third and final stage involves the destruction of the fibers and jawbone that support your teeth. This means that your teeth can begin to shift or loosen—not something you want to happen to your adult teeth. Advanced periodontitis presents itself with swollen gums that occasionally ooze pus. You may also be feeling pain when you chew, or you may have serious tooth sensitivity or bad breath.

What is the difference between a standard dental cleaning and the deep cleaning of scaling and root planing?

Standard dental cleaning will do the trick for a healthy mouth. However, once pockets begin to form below the gumline, other treatments are necessary to halt the progression of gum disease. One of the most common non-surgical treatments is deep cleaning, a more in-depth type of dental prophylaxis consisting of scaling and root planing. This procedure is, in many ways, similar to the routine dental cleaning you receive during regular visits.

Similar to your typical cleaning, your dental team will use a scaling tool to remove hardened plaque and tartar deposits. However, routine cleaning only takes place above the gumline. Standard dental cleanings can’t reach those deep pockets that have developed due to gum disease. Yet, the plaque and tartar must be removed from these pockets to prevent bacteria from continuing to fester. After the scaling procedure is complete, root planing is done to prevent the bacteria from taking hold again. The process involves creating a smooth tooth surface below the gumline so that it’s harder for the bacteria to attach and grow.

In summary, removing plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and gum pockets is known as scaling. Root planing is the process of smoothing the surface of the roots to prevent bacteria from being able to attach to the surface.. For more information, check out our prophy vs. scaling and root planing video on our patient education videos page.

Help make painful dental cleanings a thing of the past.

Whether you are in the early stages of gum disease or battling advanced periodontitis, the team at Metro East Dental Care can help make dental cleanings as pain-free and as comfortable as possible. We make it easy to afford your dental care too, so don’t let your financial situation keep you away. We offer membership plans with steeper discounts for families, so don’t delay your care because of insurance—we can help. Prolonging a trip to the dentist can lead to far more costly appointments and dental treatments down the road.

Request an appointment today with our team at Metro East Dental Care. We’re convinced that we’re the best dentist in Granite City, IL, and we can’t wait to show you why. Schedule an appointment for the whole family, and get ready for a comfortable and stress-free dental experience.