Practising great oral care not only involves brushing twice a day and flossing daily—it also means visiting your oral care provider for a professional cleaning every six months. While these visits usually are painless and quick, they can sometimes leave your teeth feeling sensitive, especially if you received a deep cleaning. Luckily, over time these sensations will fade and do not indicate anything serious. Here’s a look at why you have sensitive teeth after a cleaning and what you can do if this feeling lasts longer than expected.
Why Are My Teeth Sensitive After A Dental Cleaning?
Teeth sensitivity happens when the dentin, which is the layer beneath your enamel, becomes exposed due to receding gums. Remember—your roots don’t have enamel to protect them, so anything that comes in contact with them may cause sensitivity, like dental tools. While several factors contribute to tooth sensitivity, dental cleanings are a known cause, as your dental care professional may probe your gums and use tools that contact-sensitive areas of your teeth.
Not every dental visit will involve a deep cleaning, but your teeth may also feel sensitive afterward if you do receive this procedure. According to Health Link BC, root planing and scaling (deep cleaning) are done when the gums have started to pull away from teeth, (creating pockets) or the roots of the teeth have tartar on them. When your oral care provider performs this procedure, which is also known as scaling and root planing, they’ll remove tartar and rough bacteria that have calcified on your teeth in these pockets. According to the Ontario Dental Hygienists' Association, scaling involves removal of plaque that accumulates on teeth, especially around the gum line, as well as calculus and stains. Planing is when they smooth out your teeth’s roots to help your gums reattach to your teeth.
Before a deep-cleaning session, the gums may be inflamed and swollen or have deep pockets infected with bacteria. Both scaling and root planing help treat these problems, but this treatment can hurt your teeth after the cleaning due to natural discomfort and bleeding. The dentist may offer a local anesthetic if your deep cleaning is likely to be more irritating.
It’s normal to experience sensitivity after a deep cleaning, which can last up to a week. Soreness and pain may also linger for a few days as your gums may be swollen or bleed. Your oral care provider may prescribe an antibiotic or mouth rinse to manage any pain and fight any possible infections.
Taking good care of your teeth after a deep cleaning treatment helps your gums heal by reducing the common triggers of pain and sensitivity. Wait at least a day before flossing, and brush your teeth carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush while your gums are still sore. Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth to help treat and prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid eating foods or drinking liquids that set off your sensitivity. If your teeth are sensitive three or four weeks after treatment or you have other concerns, contact your dentist for a follow-up visit. Your dentist can check if your gums are healing well.
One way to avoid teeth sensitivity after a deep cleaning is to look for ways to improve your current day-to-day oral care routine. In addition to brushing twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, avoid aggressive or hard scrubbing when brushing. You should also try to avoid acidic foods and drinks, which can lead to enamel deterioration (though using a straw can help mitigate that risk, as well as drinking water after an acidic beverage). If you grind your teeth, your oral care professional can provide you with a mouthguard that can protect you from grinding down your teeth and causing sensitivity.
While the sensation of feeling sensitivity in your teeth feels uncomfortable, it’s normal to feel it after a cleaning, and it’s usually temporary. But if your symptoms last longer than a few weeks, you should contact your oral care provider to talk about your concerns.
Remember—teeth cleanings (and deep cleanings) are easy & excellent ways to maintain great oral health and prevent cavities. Even though your teeth might be sensitive after a cleaning, don’t worry. It’s normal and temporary, and soon you’ll be on your way to a healthier smile.