What Does it Mean if a Teeth Cleaning Hurts?

Many of our patients love having their teeth cleaned.  We know that not everyone feels that way, though.  For some, teeth cleanings are uncomfortable or even painful.  The bad news is that avoiding teeth cleanings will only make matters worse. 

The good news is that we can manage any discomfort you might feel during a teeth cleaning so that you don’t miss the vital preventive care you need.  First, we must understand what might cause pain during a teeth cleaning.

Potential Causes of Discomfort during a Teeth Cleaning

There are two main categories of pain sources during a professional teeth cleaning with your dental hygienist.  You could feel discomfort from the gum tissues, or the pain could originate in the teeth. 


When the gums hurt during a professional teeth cleaning, the cause is typically a condition called gingivitis.  Gingivitis simply means inflammation of the gums, and it includes redness, swelling, tenderness, and a tendency to bleed easily.  When the gums are inflamed, a teeth cleaning is likely to hurt.

The tricky part is that the only way to reduce inflammation in the gums is through a professional teeth cleaning followed by great oral hygiene at home.  The cause of the inflammation is bacterial buildup on the teeth.  Your dental hygienist removes that bacterial buildup during the cleaning, and then you are responsible for keeping it off through consistent brushing and flossing at home. 

If your gums are often tender during a professional teeth cleaning, or you experience any bleeding from the gums during routine brushing and flossing, you probably have gingivitis. 

Sensitive Teeth

The other common cause of pain during a teeth cleaning is tooth sensitivity.  This condition makes your teeth hypersensitive to the stimuli of cold air and cold water included in your teeth cleaning.  There are a wide variety of causes of sensitive teeth.  Some people have gum recession that has exposed the roots of the teeth.  Roots do not contain a protective enamel coating, and they “feel” the sensations of cold and sweets more profoundly. 

Some people have sensitivity as a result of heavy clenching forces that aggravates the nerves inside the teeth.  Sensitivity may also result from large cavities, gum disease, or cracked teeth.

You can also prepare for a teeth cleaning by using Sensodyne Rapid Relief toothpaste for the two weeks before your appointment.   This formulation contains standouts fluoride, which is a powerful sensitivity fighter.

How You can Prevent Pain during a Teeth Cleaning

The first, and most important, step is to NOT skip your teeth cleaning.  You must commit to your consistent visits with the dental hygienist.  When you miss a dental cleaning, the situation only worsens, increasing the risk for discomfort from your next cleaning.

If the source of your pain is gingivitis, you should begin using an antiseptic mouthwash or whitening mouthwash to reduce the inflammation.  You must also improve your brushing and flossing routines.  By removing more dental plaque, you will reduce inflammation and make your teeth cleanings much more comfortable!

If the reason you fear dental cleanings is your sensitive teeth, talk to your hygienist.  He or she can apply a fluoride treatment or refer you to the dentist for treatment of a particularly sensitive tooth.  We can help you manage sensitivity through oral care product recommendations and prescription fluoride treatments. 

More Questions about Teeth Cleanings?

Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara and Dr. Summer.  We can assess your specific situation and help you understand why a teeth cleaning might be uncomfortable for you.  We will also help you take measures to reduce the discomfort you experience during a professional teeth cleaning.  Our compassionate, gentle dental hygienists love helping patients overcome fears of dental care.

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