Pain After Dental Cleaning – Is This Normal?

Jim asks:

“Can a dentist damage your teeth by giving to much high pressure cleaning when scaling them? I recently had a dental cleaning and my teeth are still sore days later”

 

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the question. In short, no. It is impossible to damage teeth with a scaler, not in the range at which dental scalers vibrate. It is however, very common for ones teeth to feel very sensitive after a scaling. This is particularly true if there is a lot of cleaning to be done!

This is a very common misconception, that patients feel their mouths have been damaged by the treatment. This is understandable, as you likely went in to the dentist with no pain or noticeable problems and are left with sore teeth for days afterward. But the reasons for the pain are;

"An image of teeth being proffessionally cleaned for gingivitis treatment

Scaling itself is harmless but can lead to temporary side effects

  • If you had a lot of tartar build-up, although this can do great harm, it insulates the teeth against the cold/heat etc. So as tartar strips away your gums, it also covers the underlying tooth surface, so you are not aware of any issues. Take this tartar away (as must be done) and the teeth are sensitive for a few days or more. So the sensitivity is not directly due to the scaling, but down to the removal of tartar.
  • Some people have sensitive teeth and the scaling can upset the trigger the nerve endings, leading to transient pain.
  • If you have inflamed gums, these may also become painful as a reaction to the cleaning. This should settle down within a few days.

So, don’t worry about the pressure being too high in the scaler. But if any pain you have persists for more than a week to ten days, or is at any stage severe in nature, contact your dentist.

-Hope this helps!
Further reading:

Gingivitis treatment

Oral hygiene advice

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