The other day, Dr. Ito and I were chatting with a friend. She asked if it was normal for gums to hurt after a cleaning. She explained, “The last time my teeth were cleaned, my gums were really sore for a couple of weeks afterwards. . . that’s never happened to me before, is that normal?”
I’ve heard this question before. Discomfort around teeth and gums is not pleasant, and we’d like to avoid it completely. When we experience unfamiliar pain in connection with a routine dental visit, it can be disconcerting. In fact, since it is difficult for us to really see what is happening in our mouths, many consumers judge the quality of a dental visit on the absense of pain.
The first thing Dr. Ito asked our friend, was, “When was the last time you had a cleaning.” In her case, it had been a couple of years. Understandably so. She was a busy mom, her family had relocated during that time, jobs and insurance had changed.
Dr. Ito asked, “Did it hurt while you were getting your teeth cleaned?” She said it hadn’t. Dr. Ito explained to her, “That probably means the hygienist was doing a really great job.”
When plaque builds up and is allowed to remain on the teeth over time, it hardens at the gum line and inflames the gums. A good hygienist will be sure to remove all of this tartar from the gumline. This is a tedious, time consuming process, and one that can potentially make patients flinch, especially if the gums have receeded exposing more of the tooth. A great hygienst will carefully remove all the plaque, taking care to be gentle. If she is rushed, or rough, the process may be less thorough and more uncomfortable.
Following a thorough cleaning, even when done gently, the gums may be sore afterwards, because they were inflamed as a result of the plaque buildup. However, the good news is now they have a chance to heal, especially as you keep them clean through brushing, flossing, and returning for your next cleaning on schedule.
You can do your part to avoid discomfort at the dentist by maintaining your at home hygiene, and keep up your regular schedule of dental visits. Your dentist may recommend intervals of 3, 4 or 6 months depending on your situation.
So, while we all like to avoid pain, sore gums following a cleaning can actually be an indicator that good things are happening. At Sonoran Hills Dental we make it a priority to schedule our appointments with sufficient time to clean teeth thoroughly, using gentle, non-hurried techniques. Some new patients find this to be a different experience than they have had in previous dental offices. Come find out how our approach can make for your and your family.