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Tips: Make Your Next Teeth Cleaning Less Painful


Article written by Kaylan Mahelal, Registered Dental Hygienist of 17th Ave Dental Choice.

When you have poor oral health, it can affect not just your teeth, but your quality of life, too. Missing teeth, oral pain and infections can all influence how you eat, speak and socialize. They can also reduce your quality of life by affecting your mental, physical and social well-being.

Importance of Oral Health For A Less Painful Cleaning

Research shows a clear link between oral disease and numerous other health conditions, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory illness in older adults
  • Stroke
  • Low-birth-weight or pre-term babies

health conditions and oral health

Dental researchers are just starting to understand the correlation. Recent data does show oral disease could aggravate other medical ailments, according to the Canadian Dental Association, and maintaining a healthy mouth is one essential part of staying healthy.

Like any other type of disease, you need to have a trained health care provider treat oral disease. You shouldn’t ignore a chronic mouth infection, either. Somehow, many people overlook tender or bleeding gums and mouth sensitivity. To maintain a healthy mouth, you need to take care of it, reminds the Alberta Dental Association and College.

Another step you need to take to ensure a healthy mouth is to get your teeth cleaned in a time frame suggested by your Registered Dental Hygienist, this is usually anywhere between 3-6 months depending on your oral condition. Unfortunately, some people avoid professional dental cleanings because the act itself can be painful or make their teeth hurt after cleaning.

However, if you’re looking for how to make teeth cleanings less painful, there are steps you can take and tips to follow. Check out these tips you can do at home, plus additional tips to follow at the dentist’s office, to help make for less painful teeth cleanings.

Tips for Making Your Next Teeth Cleaning Less Painful

Here are some steps you can take at home to help make your teeth cleaning experience a little less painful.

At Home

Take ibuprofen.

Tartar and plaque buildup can cause your gums to swell as they respond to the cleaning. You can relieve pain after dental cleaning by taking Motrin, Advil or another type of ibuprofen an hour before your dental visit. Take another dose around six hours following your appointment.

Some people who are prone to bleeding issues cannot take ibuprofen, so check with your physician before taking this medication.

Switch toothpaste.

As your teeth start wearing down with gum recession, age or acidic drinks, their inner parts become more sensitive. The tooth’s inner part, or root, tends to be sensitive to cold, hot and sweetness — and may also lead to sensitivity during teeth cleaning.

By switching to a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate, you can minimize root sensitivity. The potassium nitrate enters the tooth’s tubules to block nerve signals of pain. This will usually take up to 3 weeks to activate into the tooth surface.

Don’t overbrush.

When brushing their teeth, many individuals overdo it, damaging their teeth and making them more sensitive. When you brush your teeth incorrectly, you make them porous, which increases sensitivity. Ensure you’re brushing your teeth correctly, so you can potentially prevent sensitivity for an upcoming professional tooth cleaning.

Prevent gum recession.

When your gum recedes and exposes your tooth’s sensitive lower area to bacteria, it can cause gum recession. And, gum recession causes your teeth to become more sensitive to cleanings. If your gums are inflamed, and they begin healing, they can start to recede.

Your gums may recede further the more healing cycles and inflammation they go through. Avoid receding gums by keeping your teeth healthy and clean at home.

Prevent gum disease.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, often gradually progresses with no pain. Because of this, many individuals don’t even realize they have gum disease, which can make it hurt to get your teeth cleaned. You can easily prevent periodontal disease by practicing good oral hygiene, including regularly brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash.

Use fluoride.

Fluoride’s a mineral. You find fluoride in Canada naturally in the food, water, soil and air, according to the Canadian government. Fluoride can help to prevent tooth decay by:

  • Lowering your mouth’s acid level
  • Strengthening your tooth enamel
  • Rebuilding your teeth strengthening minerals
  • Helping protect your teeth from sensitivity

Here are some sources of fluoride.

  • Toothpaste: Prevent tooth sensitivity by brushing with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Water: Drink water containing sufficient levels of fluoride.
  • Varnishes: Fluoride varnish helps those at risk of tooth decay prevent the disease. Your dental professionals will paint the fluoride varnish on your teeth.
  • Mouth rinse: Mouthwashes or mouth rinses with fluoride also prevent tooth decay in those at higher risk. They also help with teeth sensitivity. Since rinses contain incredibly high fluoride levels, you shouldn’t give them to children under six years old, because there’s a good chance they may swallow them. Talk to your dentist before using these.
  • Gels and foams: You apply gels and foams to your teeth to help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity. They don’t work as well as varnish, however.

Use an electric toothbrush.

An electric toothbrush may do a better cleaning than a regular toothbrush, always look for a soft or extra soft brush. That can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to avoid having your teeth hurt after a dentist cleaning. This area typically hurts the most during and after cleaning, since it’s where the hygienist will be removing buildup.

When using an electric toothbrush, hold it gently against your teeth at an angle and let the brush do the brushing for you.

Request a de-stressing option in advance.

If the thought of having your teeth cleaned stresses you out or causes anxiety, you can speak with your dentist ahead of time about what they offer to help make you feel more comfortable. Many dental offices offer nitrous oxide you can inhale during your cleaning to help you relax.

They might even prescribe you a short-acting anti-anxiety medicine to help take the edge off. If they can’t prescribe it, have them write a note and ask your primary health care provider or therapist to prescribe it instead. Just be sure to talk with your dentist before you take it and let them know you plan on taking it. You want to be sure it won’t interfere with anything they’re going to do. De-stressing options will typically come at an additional cost to the patient.

Improve your oral hygiene.

The better you keep up on your oral hygiene, the less your teeth cleanings will hurt. Brush and floss your teeth after meals. Teeth cleanings can be painful if you don’t regularly floss. That’s because flossing does a lot of the plaque removal job. If you don’t floss, the hygienist will have to scrape more hard deposits from your teeth.

floss regularly

Know the warning signs of gum disease.

According to the Alberta Dental Association and College, you should know the warning signs of gum disease, along with performing preventive oral health maintenance. Gum disease can make routine teeth cleaning more sensitive and painful.

Some gum disease signs to look for include:

  • Bleeding gums while you eat hard foods, brush or floss
  • Persistent bad taste in your mouth or bad breath
  • Swollen, red or tender gums
  • A change in your bite
  • Gums seeming to pull away from your teeth
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus comes out between your teeth and gums when pressing on your gums
  • A change in how your partial dentures fit

At the Dentist’s Office

Choose a hygienist wisely.

Some dental hygienists may be overzealous about teeth cleaning, and be rough on your teeth and gums. You’ll want to choose a hygienist who has enough experience to clean your teeth gently, but thoroughly. While you want your teeth to be fully clean, you don’t want a toothache after cleaning.

You’ll also want to choose someone who is compassionate and understands your anxiety over teeth cleaning. Look for a hygienist who will do their best to make you feel comfortable. When they already know ahead of time you’re worried about being in pain, they’ll take extra precautions while cleaning to cause you as little pain as possible.

Book your appointment during calm times.

Dental offices are busier at certain times of the day. However, depending on the office, they could be slower in the afternoon. During the middle of the day, most people are at work and children are at school, so the office tends to be a little quieter, making for a more relaxed environment. Or, consider asking if you can book the first appointment of the day, when the office typically isn’t chock-full of patients.

The less chaotic the environment is, the calmer you’ll be. Also, during quieter times, you’re more likely to get in and out of the dentist’s chair quickly. There will be less of a wait time in the waiting room for you to sit there and agonize over the painful cleaning to come.

Request a numbing topical.

Before the hygienist starts the cleaning, ask them for a topical anesthesia to numb the tissue, which will help minimize any pain.

Request a local anesthetic.

If you’re going to need treatment along with your cleaning, talk with your dentist ahead of time about the type of anesthetic they’ll use. Carbocaine or Mepivacaine can both help block out any pain without a vasoconstrictor or preservatives. You’ll want to request these medications in advance, since some dentists may not carry these drugs.

Agree on a signal to let your dentist know you’re uncomfortable.

Many individuals are worried about not being able to communicate with the dentist during a procedure. Before the cleaning begins, agree to a signal you’ll make to let your dentist know you need a break or are in pain. It can be as simple as raising your hand. Just make sure your dentist knows what to look out for.

agree to a hand signal

If you’re worried about requesting this from your dentist, don’t be. Most dentists would prefer you’re as comfortable as possible, so they will want to know if they’re causing you pain and take steps to minimize it.

Ask your dentist to walk through the steps of what they’ll be doing.

Before the cleaning starts, have the dentist or hygienist walk you through all the steps they’ll be taking to clean your teeth. Have them show you the tools they’ll be using, and whether they could cause any pain. Knowing ahead of time what they’ll be doing may help reduce some of your anxiety.

Bring along a sympathetic friend or loved one.

A loved one can help make your experience more pleasurable by giving you a massage. A massage in the dentist’s office might sound strange, but some dental offices even have massage therapists who will perform complimentary massages on patients who are anxious about their cleanings. The massage helps take your mind off the cleaning.

Now, not a whole lot of dental practices provide this service, so that’s where a loved one will come in. Just be sure you ask ahead of time if this would be acceptable during your cleaning, or if it would interfere with the procedure.

Listen to music while the dentist cleans.

Music can distract you from what the dentist is doing. If your dentist says it’s fine, bring your headphones and plug into your favourite music during your cleaning. Many dental offices provide music or TV sets to take your mind off the procedure and make you more comfortable. If you bring headphones, be sure they’re earbuds and not a bulky headset that could get in your dentist’s way.

Schedule regular teeth cleanings.

If you wait too long to have a cleaning done, your gums may become more sensitive to the touch. Cleanings become more painful by waiting, since you’ve allowed time for the debris to build up, particularly around your gum line. That means it will take more work to get your teeth cleaned.

Visit the Team at Dental Choice for Your Next Teeth Cleaning

Whether at home, at the dentist’s office or both, there are many ways to help to make teeth cleanings less painful. The most important thing, however, is to find a dentist who understands your concerns and commits to making you as comfortable as possible. If they won’t work with you to ease your mind and your pain, find another dentist.

If it’s time for your next teeth cleaning, reach out to the team at Dental Choice today to request an appointment. Be sure to schedule regular checkups and a minimum of two professional cleanings a year. The more often you get your teeth cleaned, the less the hygienist may need to clean, potentially making your experience less invasive.

Call us here at Dental Choice in Edmonton at 780-444-8936 or Calgary-Airdrie at 403-265-2527 or complete our online form to request an appointment.

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