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Why does it hurt so much when you get your teeth cleaned?

The biggest reason why people don't see the dentist as often as they should is because of the pain. If trimming our nails hurt as much, I'm sure many people would be walking around with 10cm long fingernails and shoes with extra long toe sections!

Girl flossing

When you get your teeth cleaned, the calcified plaque is being removed. This stuff is called calculus. It is stuck on firmly to your tooth and requires strong forces to scratch off. The longer that it is stuck to your tooth, the stronger that it sticks. In such cases, the dentist may need to increase the intensity of the ultrasonic scaler or push harder. This is when it starts to hurt.

If you have gum disease, there is calculus deeper down the root of the tooth. This means the scaling must be done deeper and again, cause more pain. Often if severe gum disease, a deep clean must be performed, which is DEEEP scaling and local anaesthetic is given so there is no pain.

The source of the pain can be from 2 things. The poking of the scaler into the gums or stimulation of the dental nerve by the running water and the scratching of the tooth.

The poking could be from a dentist who doesn't know their own strength or you might just have sensitive gums. If your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold drinks, you are much more likely to feel that pain during the clean.

At times, I will use some topical anesthetic to give some superficial numbing of the gums. The topical anesthetic only lasts around 15-30 minutes and does not make you feel like your mouth is missing.

The best way to minimise the pain from having your teeth cleaned is to have it done regularly. The calculus will be easier to remove from the teeth and there will be less to clean. This means that it will be more comfortable and faster, making for a more pleasant experience. You will also find your gums are healthier and bleeding will be less.

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