Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by Beth Skwarecki
Routine teeth cleaning is vital to maintaining good oral health and helping prevent gum diseases, cavities, and other dental issues. While the benefits of teeth cleaning are undeniable, many individuals often experience discomfort or pain in the aftermath of this seemingly routine procedure. Understanding the causes of post-teeth cleaning pain and learning effective strategies for relief is crucial for ensuring a positive dental experience.
In this article, we’ll explore the causes of pain after teeth cleaning and provide practical tips and home remedies on how to relieve pain after teeth cleaning. Strategies include saltwater rinsing and over-the-counter pain relievers. It also discusses essential home care practices to maintain oral hygiene and reduce recurring discomfort. The goal is to give readers insights into managing post-teeth cleaning pain effectively and promoting a healthier, more comfortable oral environment.
Causes of Pain After Teeth Cleaning
It’s common to experience pain or sensitivity after professional teeth cleaning. There are a few reasons why this occurs:
- The cleaning process can cause minor trauma to the gums and teeth, especially if pre-existing inflammation or infection exists. Scraping, probing, and cleaning between the teeth inevitably involves some irritation of the gum tissue. It can lead to swelling, soreness, and general discomfort after the numbing wears off.
- Tartar removal can expose small areas of softened enamel and dentin, the tooth layers underneath the enamel surface. Once exposed, these areas are more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. The sensations may be painful immediately after cleaning and can persist for days.
- Vigorous gum irritation and inflammation from all the scraping, suctioning, and probing can cause tenderness after cleaning. The gums may look red and puffy and feel sore to the touch. This normal inflammatory response usually peaks in the first 24 hours before gradually subsiding.
- Powerful vibrating tools like ultrasonic scalers are commonly used during dental cleanings. Although they efficiently remove plaque and tartar, the vibrations can cause inflammation in the gums and jaw joints, worsening before they get better. Pain often intensifies in the hours following the cleaning as the tissues respond to the irritation.
7 Ways to Relieve Pain After Teeth Cleaning
#1. Cold Compresses
Applying a cold compress to the outside of your face is one simple natural remedy that can relieve pain and inflammation after teeth cleaning. The cold temperature helps to constrict blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the area. That, in turn, decreases swelling, pressure, and discomfort.
To use this method:
- Fill a small resealable bag with ice and wrap it in a thin towel.
- Apply the covered ice pack gently to the affected side of your face.
- Avoid direct contact between the ice and the skin.
- Keep the compress in place for 10-15 minutes at a time, then remove it for 10 minutes to allow circulation. You can repeat this on and off as needed for the first 24-48 hours after dental cleaning.
The cooling effect of the ice pack helps numb nerve endings, making the area feel less tender. The cold also slows cellular metabolism, reducing inflammation. With less swelling, there is less pressure on nerve fibers, lowering postoperative sensitivity. Just be careful not to freeze the skin.
Cold compresses offer a drug-free way to manage swelling and discomfort after a teeth cleaning. Use a covered cold pack on the sore areas a few times a day, along with medicine if needed. The cold therapy works with the body’s natural healing mechanisms to alleviate pain. With a little cold and patience, your mouth should start feeling better within a couple of days.
#2. Soothing Pain with Salt Water Rinses
Saltwater rinses can be an effective natural remedy for reducing pain and inflammation after a dental cleaning. The salt helps draw out fluid, cleanse the area, and reduce swelling of the gums. To make a saltwater mouth rinse, mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt into one cup of warm water. Make sure the salt is fully dissolved.
After a dental cleaning:
- Swish the salt water rinse around the affected areas of your mouth for 30-60 seconds 2-3 times a day.
- Try to avoid excessive swallowing of the rinse. The saltwater will help flush out bacteria and food debris while also soothing inflamed tissues.
- Be careful not to swish too vigorously, which could further irritate the gums.
Salt water rinses are generally very safe, with few side effects. In some cases, people experience irritation from the salt. Make sure to use a very mild saltwater solution. You can adjust the amount of salt to find the optimal concentration for your needs. Don’t overdo the salt water rinses – 1-3 times daily is usually sufficient to get the benefits.
Along with salt water, proper oral hygiene is important after a dental cleaning. Gently brush your teeth, taking care of sore areas. Use dental products designed for sensitive teeth if needed. Saltwater rinses can be continued for several days after the procedure until your gums and teeth return to normal. They provide a simple, natural way to keep your mouth clean while promoting healing.
#3. Clove Oil
Clove oil can help numb pain after a dental cleaning due to its active ingredient, eugenol, which acts as a natural anesthetic and analgesic. Eugenol decreases sensitivity to pain by blocking pain receptors in the mouth and gums.
To use clove oil for dental pain relief, add 2-3 drops of clove oil to one tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil. The olive/coconut oil helps dilute the clove oil so it does not irritate the gums. Dip a cotton swab into the diluted clove oil and gently apply it to painful areas in the mouth. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse. The numbing effect should set in within minutes and last for up to an hour. Reapply as needed for pain relief.
Be careful not to swallow the clove oil, as ingesting undiluted clove oil can cause liver and kidney damage. Clove oil should not be used daily for more than a week. See your dentist if symptoms persist beyond a few days. While clove oil can temporarily reduce dental pain and sensitivity, it does not treat the underlying causes.
#4. Soothing Pain with Green Tea Bags
Green tea contains plant compounds called catechins with natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The tannins in black tea also help constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling.
To use green tea bags to soothe pain after a dental cleaning:
- Brew a cup of green or black tea and let the tea bag cool to room temperature.
- Hold the tea bag against the sore area of your gums for 5-10 minutes. Reheat and reapply as needed.
- The compounds in the tea will help reduce inflammation, drawing out fluid buildup and soothing irritated gums.
- You can continue using cool green tea bags a few times daily until the pain and swelling have subsided.
Applying a green tea bag is an easy natural remedy that can provide anti-inflammatory relief without any chemicals or numbing agents. Along with good oral hygiene, it can help speed the healing of the gums after a cleaning.
#5. OTC Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve discomfort after a dental cleaning. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce inflammation and block pain signals. Acetaminophen works by elevating the pain threshold in the brain. Both are effective options for managing dental pain.
It’s important to closely follow the dosage instructions on the medication bottle when taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Stay within the recommended dose, which is usually 400-800 mg every 4-6 hours for ibuprofen and 325-650 mg every 4-6 hours for acetaminophen. Taking too much can lead to potential overdose and liver damage. The lowest effective dose should be used.
If pain is not improving after a few doses of over-the-counter medication or normal brushing and eating remain difficult, contact your dentist for additional options to manage sensitivity and soreness after a cleaning.
#6. Topical Anesthetics for Pain Relief
Topical oral anesthetics like benzocaine (Orajel) can provide temporary numbness and pain relief when applied directly to the gums.
- Benzocaine is an over-the-counter topical anesthetic that works by blocking pain signals at the nerve endings in the gums and mouth. When applied directly to sore or irritated areas of the gums, it can numb discomfort caused by dental cleanings and other procedures.
- Orajel is a common benzocaine gel brand that comes in various strengths. It is rubbed directly onto the gums and takes effect within a few minutes. The numbing effect allows patients to go about their normal oral hygiene without pain in the short term.
- Benzocaine gels are available without a prescription and can be used for gum pain after dental cleanings. Follow the dosage instructions carefully and avoid swallowing the medication. The numbing effect usually lasts for 15-30 minutes. Reapply as needed, but avoid excessive use.
Remember topical anesthetics only provide temporary relief and are generally safe if used as directed. That can make oral hygiene easier while the gums heal after cleaning. Just be careful not to numb the gums so much that you accidentally bite or irritate the area further. See your dentist if the pain persists beyond a few days.
#7. Prescription Pain Medications
For more severe dental pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter medications, your dentist may prescribe a higher dose of ibuprofen. The prescription-strength ibuprofen typically comes in doses of 400-800 mg, compared to 200-400 mg formulations found over-the-counter.
Prescription ibuprofen can provide more powerful pain relief by reducing inflammation and blocking pain signals in the body more effectively. It may be an option if your post-cleaning dental pain is making it difficult to carry out your normal daily activities.
Some factors your dentist may consider before prescribing high-dose ibuprofen include your medical history, any other medications you are taking, underlying health conditions, and risk of side effects. Provide your complete health information to allow your dentist to determine if prescription ibuprofen is appropriate for your situation.
If prescribed, follow the dosage instructions closely and do not exceed the recommended amount without consulting your dentist. Only use the prescription ibuprofen for the short-term duration advised by your dentist to manage dental pain after a cleaning. Contact your dentist if symptoms do not improve within the expected timeframe.
Adjusting Your Oral Hygiene Routine
After a teeth cleaning, it’s important to adjust your oral hygiene routine to help your mouth heal quickly and prevent further irritation and damage. Here are some tips:
- Brush gently for the first few days after your cleaning, avoiding the areas that are most sore or inflamed. Brushing too vigorously right away can disturb the gums and slow healing.
- Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush gently without irritating your gums. Soft bristles are less likely to cause trauma to sensitive gums. A toothbrush labeled “extra soft” is ideal in the days following a cleaning.
- Use toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth that contain ingredients like strontium chloride or potassium nitrate. These ingredients help block pain signals and reduce sensitivity. Avoid whitening toothpastes or pastes with baking soda, as these can cause discomfort.
Adjusting your oral hygiene routine with a soft brush and sensitivity toothpaste will help your mouth heal quickly while keeping your teeth clean. Within a few days, you should be able to resume your normal brushing routine.
When to Seek Dental Care After a Teeth Cleaning
It’s normal to experience some discomfort for 1-2 days after a professional dental cleaning. However, you should contact your dentist right away if certain symptoms develop:
- Pain that persists for more than 3-4 days: Lingering pain beyond a few days is not normal. Significant or worsening pain may indicate complications like infection or trauma to the teeth, gums, or jaw joints.
- Fever, chills, or swelling: These could be signs of a developing dental infection like gingivitis or abscessed tooth. Infections should be treated promptly with antibiotics to prevent spreading.
- Inadequate relief from over-the-counter medications: If OTC pain relievers are not touching the pain, you may need prescription medication for a few days. Seek dental advice.
Additionally, even if you feel fine after cleaning, following up with your dentist and hygienist every 3-4 months is important. Tartar and plaque will start rebuilding quickly, putting you at higher risk of cavities, gum disease, and the need for more extensive dental work. Stay on top of your oral health with regular professional cleanings and daily care.
Addressing post-cleaning discomfort is about immediate relief and fostering a long-term commitment to oral health. Understanding the causes of discomfort and implementing the suggested tips and remedies can help individuals easily navigate this temporary phase. Strategies include:
- Rinsing with salt water.
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Adopting gentle oral hygiene practices.
Maintaining oral health is an ongoing process, and these tips are valuable tools for a more comfortable dental experience. Attention to your body’s signals and seeking professional dental advice is crucial if pain persists or worsens. Regular dental check-ups are also crucial for preventing oral issues and addressing concerns. Individuals can enjoy a healthier, pain-free smile by proactively embracing consistent oral hygiene practices.
Beth is Cloudmineinc’s senior health editor and a certified personal trainer. She has over 10 years experience as a science journalist and is the author of two books. She deadlifts over 315 lbs.