Teeth Cleaning – Prophylaxis

Teeth Cleaning - Overview


Knowing what happens during this cleaning can help put you at ease and allow for a comfortable experience.

Step 1: Physical Exam

The hygienist, who will be the one to clean your teeth, will begin by examining your mouth with a small mirror. This is to check your teeth and gums for any signs of issues.

Step 2: Removal of Plaque and Tartar

Your hygienist will use a scaler to remove any plaque and tartar from around your gums and between your teeth.

Step 3: Brushing

Once the hygienist has removed the plaque from your teeth, they will use a high-powered brush to clean your teeth.

Step 4: Flossing

After your brushing, your hygienist will then floss your teeth. This flossing will help remove any remaining plaque and toothpaste.

Step 5: Fluoride

Fluoride will be applied to your teeth to help protect them from cavities. The fluoride helps keeps your teeth protected for months at a time.

Although brushing and flossing at home is important, scheduling routine visits to the dentist are one of the best ways to keep a healthy smile. If you’re due for a six-month cleaning, schedule your visit with a dentist near you.

Is It Normal for Teeth to Hurt After a Cleaning?

Is It Normal for Teeth to Hurt After a Cleaning?

Have you ever had a painful visit to the dentist, even though it didn’t involve anything more than an exam and a cleaning?

Is it normal to have sensitivity after a cleaning? What happens if it’s more than that, and your teeth actually hurt afterward?

We asked dentists we know when a patient should be concerned after having their teeth cleaned. Here’s what they had to say:

Dental “cleanings” is a general term that is really not accurate. For normal, healthy patients, the term “prophylaxis” is used for cleaning the teeth above the gum line and may just slightly below the gum line without intention debridement of the gum tissue. During a prophylaxis, tartar and superficial stain from foodstuff, tea, coffee, etc., is removed, and the enamel, fillings, and restorations are polished to minimize the ability of plaque to adhere to the teeth. In healthy mouths, this procedure should not be painful, and there should be very little if any, post-op sensitivity.

If there is heavy build-up of tartar and stain, then the hygienist may have to put more effort and increased pressure to clean the teeth surfaces. This might create some mild post-op sensitivity and discomfort for a day or two. This typically would not have any reflection on the hygienist’s skill or quality of care but rather on the health of the patient’s mouth. This type of discomfort usually can be managed by a day or two of over-the-counter headache medications if necessary and by eating a soft diet for a day or two to minimize trauma from chewing.

Lastly, sometimes gum disease with inflammation is necessary to treat with a “cleaning.” This could be several quadrants of the mouth at one time or only localized teeth that are involved. Sometimes, those areas are so sensitive that numbing is required to perform this type of “cleaning,” which is properly called scaling and root planing. This involves going down deep around the teeth and scraping diseased build-up off root surfaces and even debriding diseased gum tissue. This type of cleaning can result in more post-op sensitivity than the other types but typically does not need more care than over-the-counter headache medication and a soft diet for a few days.

In general, healthy teeth and gums do not bleed and do not result in sensitivity after cleaning. However, sometimes therapeutic intervention is needed, which can be mildly uncomfortable. In any case, if you experience pain or discomfort after a cleaning, it is never inappropriate to call your dentist about it with any questions and so that he or she can make sure there is not a more serious problem that needs further treatment.

Kevin D. Huff, DDS – Dover, OH

Usually, there will only be mild discomfort for a day or two following a cleaning. If your gums are swollen and bleed easily there may be moderate discomfort. Taking 400mg Advil and rinsing with warm salt water should provide relief. If you have root surfaces that are exposed you may have more sensitivity to cold than normal for you or you could have some aching. Using toothpaste for sensitive teeth as well as staying away from any whitening toothpaste or whitening products. Avoiding acidic foods for a while as well as very hot or very cold products may help. Usually, in these more extreme sensitive cases, it may take a week or two to get back to normal.

However, if one tooth is extremely sensitive and getting worse it may be that the tooth has a problem such as a leaky filling or a bad nerve. There are times where a tooth has a problem but it can’t be seen in the mouth or on an x-ray yet and it hasn’t had symptoms until after a cleaning. This truly is a coincidence and we should not ignore it. Please call if any sensitivity seems abnormal or doesn’t go away within two weeks.

Cynthia M. Sachs, DDS – Rockford, IL

The health of the patient’s mouth appears to be the biggest factor in whether or not they experience pain after a routine visit to the dentist.

Some mild discomfort can be expected for those who require more treatment for potential gum issues, but if you experience pain or sensitivity that seems significant, it’s always a good idea to check with your dentist to make sure the pain isn’t a sign of an additional problem. Your dentist is the best authority on whether or not your teeth are healthy, or if the sensitivity you’re experiencing might be something to look into.

Minimize mouth pain by maintaining good oral hygiene, and be sure you’re seeing a dentist regularly to stay healthy.

If you’re looking for a dentist, be sure to consult our directory to read reviews for dentists near you!

How Does a Dentist Clean Teeth?

Dental Cleaning – How Does a Dentist Clean Teeth?

Your at-home hygiene care is important for maintaining healthy teeth and a healthy mouth. However, just as important as your at-home care, is receiving a professional dental cleaning at your dentist’s office. These cleanings are important, because your oral health actually has an effect on the health of your body and mind, in addition to your mouth. If you do not receive professional cleanings, you will not be keeping your mouth as healthy as possible.

What Will Happen During Your Professional Cleaning Appointment?

It’s important to know, in case you have never been to the dentist, that your dentist will not actually be the one who cleans your teeth. Your dentist will have a team of hygienists who perform cleanings and other procedures, based on their level of education. Your hygienist will use specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth and from where your gums meet your teeth.

During the course of your cleaning, your hygienist should carefully explain what he or she is doing, and why they are doing it. Below, we outline what typically occurs during a professional cleaning:

A Physical Examination

Before anything else happens, as soon as you sit in the dental chair, a hygienist will carefully examine your mouth and teeth with a small mirror. This occurs so your hygienist can spot any potential problems or concerns right away. If they spot something serious, they will call the dentist in right away to determine how to proceed.

Plaque and Tartar Removal

After your mouth has been carefully examined, your hygienist will begin to scrape away plaque and tartar from your gum line and in between your teeth. Your hygienist will utilize two tools: a scaler and a small mirror. The small mirror helps to guide your hygienist along while the scaler is used to remove plaque and tartar build up. Do not be alarmed by hearing a scraping noise during this time, that is perfectly normal.

A Thorough Cleaning

When you think about going to the dentist, this is probably the part you think about (or hear) the most. In order to clean your teeth thoroughly, your hygienist uses a high powered electric toothbrush. You know, these are the toothbrushes with infamous grinding/vibrating noise. This toothbrush is designed to clean and eliminate and tartar that is left behind after the initial plaque and tartar removal.

When receiving a brushing at the dentist, you may notice that the toothpaste is much grittier than the toothpaste you use at home. The gritty texture of this toothpaste will work to scrub your teeth and give your teeth a gentle polishing.


Why do you receive a flossing if you floss at home? A professional flossing will be much more effective compared to when you floss at home. Your hygienist will know the proper form to use, and which areas need more attention based on what they saw during the initial examination. And, sorry to tell you, dentists and hygienists know when you don’t really floss. We asked a few top dentists if flossing really produces results, you can read about it in another blog article.

One Final Rinse

After all of the cleaning, scraping, grinding, and flossing are over, you will be provided with a cup that is full of water to rinse with. This final rinse will wash away any debris or leftover particles from your cleaning.

A Fluoride Treatment

After your cleaning is completely done, your hygienist will take one final step: a fluoride treatment. Typically, your hygienist will fill a mouthpiece with a foam that fits over your teeth. Typically, this mouthpiece is left on your teeth for one minute and then removed. This fluoride treatment will help to remineralize your teeth.

At the end of your appointment, your dentist will stop in to look at your teeth, evaluate your care, and give you feedback about your oral health.

In addition to the steps above, there may be additional steps taken, depending on what happened during your visit. Once per year, you should expect to have x-rays taken of your jaw bone and mouth. These x-rays are important in identifying potential health issues.