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You may experience sensitive teeth after a dental cleaning, particularly after your dental hygienist performs a deep cleaning. Over time these sensations fade, leaving your teeth and gums healthier than before. But if your sensitivity after the treatment continues longer than normal, your dentist can offer the following help and advice.

Deep Cleaning

When tartar and other rough bacteria calcify on your teeth, a deep dental cleaning is the only way to eliminate it. Tartar appears on or near the gumline, and a dental hygienist removes it with special tools through a process called scaling. The dental hygienist may also perform root planing, which involves the use of tools between the gums and tooth roots to remove plaque and tartar on the root surfaces.

Before a deep-cleaning session, the gums may be inflamed and swollen – there may also be deep pockets infected with bacteria. Both scaling and root planing help treat these problems, but this treatment can cause some natural discomfort and bleeding. The dentist may offer a local anesthetic if your deep cleaning is likely to be more irritating.

What Happens Next

General soreness, sensitive teeth, and bleeding gums are normal after deep cleanings. Some effects are due to the cleaning tools themselves making contact with inflamed gums – which bleed easily. Another effect of deep cleaning is newly exposed areas of the teeth that were previously covered with tartar. Where the gums have receded from the teeth, removing tartar exposes the tooth roots, and it takes a while for your teeth to acclimate to this new vulnerability. These areas aren’t covered in enamel, so they’re more sensitive than the rest of the tooth.

Sensitive Teeth

Bleeding, uncomfortable and sensitive teeth after cleaning should last no more than a week. Swollen, tender, or bleeding gums improve more gradually over time, provided you brush carefully and regularly. General discomfort due to dental cleaning, however, disappears in one or two days for most patients. Tooth sensitivity is simply harder to avoid on a daily basis – especially when eating or drinking hot or cold foods, biting down and brushing – but it shouldn’t be a problem for more than a week.

Caring for Deep-Cleaned Teeth

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 a 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. He or she can check that your gums are healing well.

Sensitive teeth after cleaning aren’t an immediate concern; you can treat them at home not just with the right toothpaste, but by watching what you eat and drink. When your symptoms last longer than a few weeks, you should contact your dentist, but always expect it to be something you may have overlooked in your home care routine.