When you walk out of a dentist's office with your freshly cleaned teeth on display, you expect your smile to carry a little more zap than usual. You don't, however, expect to experience sharp jolts of electric pain shooting through your teeth! You'll be happy to know that this phenomenon is common. It is also not a sign that something is wrong. On the contrary, it is a sign that your hygienist gave your teeth the thorough cleaning they deserved.
Dental Cleaning Prevents Gum Disease
Any pain or sensitivity you feel after a dental cleaning is likely the result of your hygienist removing a large amount of calculus from your teeth. Calculus causes gum disease. Mild gum disease (gingivitis) can be cured—by dental cleanings.
However, larger buildups of calculus, whereby the tartar has invaded the gum pockets around your teeth, lead to the more serious form of gum disease known as periodontitis. In the US, half of all adults suffer from this more serious form of gum disease. This form of gum disease is incurable and can only be managed by good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings.
If your teeth are sensitive after a dental cleaning, don't blame your hygienist. Thank them, because they may have helped you prevent gum disease.
Large Calculus Build-ups Lead to Post-Cleaning Pain
Your teeth probably need a readjustment period. If it has been a while since you last had a dental cleaning or you haven't brushed your teeth as much as you should, there may be more tartar on your teeth than usual. Large build-ups of tartar act as a layer of insulation that protects your teeth from the forces of cold and heat.
With the tartar removed then, your teeth may become more sensitive than usual, at least until they adjust.
You May Have Lost Some Enamel to Decay
What calculus also does is prevent your saliva from protecting the affected areas of your teeth. Saliva contains the materials, such as phosphate and calcium, responsible for repairing and strengthening your teeth. Saliva also neutralizes the acid secreted by tooth-decay causing bacteria. This means that with the layer of calculus removed, the newly exposed and slightly damaged enamel will be more sensitive than usual.
To help your teeth recover, try to eat foods rich in calcium and xylitol, both of which can help to strengthen and repair damaged enamel. However, these two compounds cannot repair a fully formed cavity. Only your dentist can do that.
If your teeth are sensitive after a recent cleaning, don't worry. Your newly sparkling teeth simply need a little TLC. Fluoride toothpaste will also help to strengthen your teeth as they recover. If symptoms persist, however, for more than a few days, check with a dentist, as you may have an undiagnosed cavity.