Why does dental cleaning hurt so much?

Good oral hygiene entails a lot more than simply proper brushing and flossing. Even when you diligently observe a home care routine, you cannot completely get rid of all plaque that hides in the crevices between your teeth, putting you at risk of tooth decay, periodontal disease, bad breath, and even more serious health risks.

A professional dental cleaning and check-up is one of the most valuable services you can seek from your dentist’s office. It will help you improve your overall health, yet some people dismiss this service as “simply a cleaning”.

However, a good number of patients don’t see the importance of regular cleanings, especially if they maintain a regular brushing and flossing routine.

Why endure the discomfort and/or pain?

Does dental cleaning hurt?

Even for simple teeth cleanings, people occasionally postpone coming to the dentist because they worry it may hurt. While dental cleanings might be painful, they don’t necessarily have to hurt, because you have a lot of control over whether or not they do.

For an individual who schedules regular dental cleanings, at least once or twice a year as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA), then dental cleanings are unlikely to hurt because any potential problems that may trigger the pain will have been detected at the earliest time and corrected before they become a nuisance.

Fact is, cleaning your teeth can be simple and painless, but poor oral hygiene is the main cause of dental pain during cleanings!

Cause of pain during professional teeth cleaning

The vast majority of uncomfortable issues that arise during a dental cleaning are brought on by the fact that you don’t take good care of your teeth. You’ve definitely heard tales of dental hygienists asking patients how often they floss, only to hear answers like “every day” when the patient’s mouth is bleeding profusely from sensitive gums that have never been flossed.

One of the most prevalent diseases among persons with poor oral hygiene is gum disease, which is also one of the main causes of why tooth cleanings hurt so much. This infection, also known as periodontal disease, affects not just the gums but also the ligaments and bones that surround the tooth roots.

Gum disease frequently presents with symptoms such as gum swelling and bleeding, bad breath, spaced between teeth, bite misalignment, and tooth sensitivity.

Teeth sensitivity

Your teeth may feel extremely sensitive during a cleaning—more so than usual—and gum disease is the explanation. Your gums pull away from your teeth when you have gum disease, exposing the tooth’s base, which is considerably more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold temperatures.

The hygienist or dentist may poke and prod this area during a cleaning in order to remove tartar and other accumulation and to assess the severity of the issues, causing you to feel pain during cleaning.

Gum disease

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease marked by inflamed and sensitive gums/gingiva. Blood vessels abound in the gingiva, which can burst and bleed when handled by cleaning tools because the gingiva are swollen and fragile. This gingivitis might develop into periodontitis if it is not treated.

Gum disease starts when the bacteria growing around your teeth cause an infection and inflammatory reaction, destroying gum tissues and bone around the concerned teeth. These bacteria can contribute to the development of diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Professional cleaning is claimed to reduce the risk of heart attack by 24 percent and stroke by 13 percent.

The truth is that if you take good care of your mouth by brushing and flossing regularly, using mouthwash, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises when the hygienist begins cleaning your teeth.

Professional teeth cleaning near me

Professional cleaning typically involve a thirty-minute to one-hour appointment, where your dental hygienist performs various inspections and measurements in your mouth before the actual teeth cleaning begins. Below are some of the assessments you can expect:

  • Measure your blood pressure, take digital photographs and radiographs to check for decay, inspect existing margins of fillings and crowns, check for bone loss, and update your health history.
  • Examine your gums to check for bone disease and recession, measure pocket depths, and check to see if your gums bleed easily. Healthy gums should be tight with shallow pockets, whereas diseased gums tend to be inflamed with deeper pockets that are filled with bacteria.
  • Check the way your teeth fit together to see if your bite has any problems that can lead to damage.
  • A laser pen may be used to check for cavities or to establish if the tooth can have a sealant
  • The airways are checked for obstruction and sleep-apnea – both can occur in kids and adults, and should be referred to a physician if detected.
  • He/she will perform and oral cancer screening

During the cleaning, the dentist uses a scraper or an ultrasonic vibrating device to scrape off tartar or shake it loose (above and below the gum line) and rinse it away with a stream of water. The teeth are then polished using a mildly abrasive paste and finished up with flossing. In some cases, a topical anesthetic or desensitizing paste may be used to keep you comfortable. The resulting smooth surface makes it hard for plaque to accumulate.

Professional dental cleaning after tooth extraction

This is an important service that helps to eliminate harmful bacteria in your mouth that may cause oral diseases.

That said, your dentist may recommend that you wait for four to eight weeks after the surgical procedure before scheduling professional cleaning or any other kind of dental work.

Generally, the tooth hole tends to close within 14-21 days after extraction, and the gums have recovered somewhat. If a large tooth, such as the molars or wisdom teeth was removed, the healing time may take up to one month.

It’s best to not only brush your teeth carefully around the extraction site, but also avoid any dental procedures including professional cleaning during this time as it may cause bleeding and increase the risk of infection since the body’s immune system is somewhat in a weakened state focusing on recovery of the extraction site.

What to do when dental cleaning hurts

If it hurts, let your dentist or hygienist know! You don’t have to put up with discomfort and anguish during professional cleaning due to a case of untreated tooth sensitivity or gum disease.

Your hygienist or dentist will try their best to make you as comfortable and safe as possible if you let them know if you’re hurting. You may also consider the cleaning as your first step to recovery and improving your oral health.

After the cleaning, your hygienist will help you come up with a proper at-home oral care routine, and/or schedule any necessary procedures to treat any dental or gum issues that caused your teeth cleaning procedure to hurt.


  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

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