Q: Hey Doc, I’m a snowbird and have my teeth cleaned both here and up north. I have one girl that really gets in there and scrapes. My gums are sore afterward and they bleed a lot when she is cleaning them. The other gal just seems to go around and scrape here and there. I just don’t feel like I am getting a good cleaning. I’ve talked to some of my friends and we all disagree. What’s the real truth?
A: Another great question! Generally speaking it should not ever, ever hurt to have your teeth cleaned.
This is especially true if your gums are healthy and you visit the dentist twice per year for routine exams and cleanings. The person cleaning your teeth should be removing the plaque and tartar that has accumulated at the gumline.
A gentle periodontal probing should be performed at minimum one time per year prior to cleaning. This will determine if there are any periodontal or gum problems.
The findings should be reviewed with the patient and if problems are found a plan for further treatment can be discussed. If everything is healthy there should be no need for soreness and bleeding.
There is a misconception among some people that if it doesn’t hurt then their teeth aren’t clean. This can’t be farther from the truth. In fact, this type of aggressive cleaning can actually cause harm to the teeth and gums.
The hygienist in my office had a patient that would demand her teeth be cleaned twice because otherwise they just didn’t feel clean. She requested that the hygienist really “dig” around her gums so that they would bleed because that is what she is used to from her other hygienist. We both explained to her that it was not necessary and could actually cause permanent damage to her teeth and gums. Eventually, she came around but it is very common especially if a person has been used to this type of very aggressive cleaning.
People who haven’t been to the dentist in a while, have untreated gingivitis or periodontal disease, take certain medications or those who have poor oral hygiene may experience some bleeding and slight soreness. These are all exceptions to the rule. Your hygienist role is to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Your hygienist should be gentle but thorough and your cleaning no more painful than a haircut.
Questions can be sent to Fred Eck, D.D.S. at Marco Dental Care, 950 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 305, Marco Island, or call 389-9400. Web site: marcodentalcare.com. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Detroit Mercy and is licensed by the Florida State Board of Dentistry.