Fact or Fiction?
You may have heard this before or even wondered yourself, but never knew for sure if it was true: do dental cleanings remove enamel? First of all, let’s look at some reasons people might believe this:
- After a dental cleaning your teeth may feel different, as if something is missing.
- After a dental cleaning your teeth may feel more sensitive to hot and cold, liquids and food.
- During the cleaning you heard “scraping” sounds and maybe felt small pieces coming off.
This myth originates because we all believe what we experience. However it can be much like the story of the blind men who “looked” at the elephant. One believed an elephant was like a tree because of his thick legs, another believed an elephant was like a snake because of his trunk. Sometimes what a patient “feels” from their side of the chair is not really what is happening from the hygienist’s/dentist’s side of the chair.
What Does a Dental Cleaning Entail?
Let’s take a look at what is really taking place during your dental cleaning:
- Your teeth feel different because plaque and calculus have been removed making your tongue feel that “something is missing”. Indeed something is missing but it’s not your enamel.
- Your teeth may feel more sensitive because the plaque and calculus that have covered areas of your teeth are now removed and exposes those areas to hot, cold, liquids and food. It is not because enamel is missing, it is because plaque and calculus are missing. You can be assured the sensitivity will go away.
- That scraping sound is just the hygienist using an instrument to remove plaque and calculus from your teeth. The pieces you may feel coming off are large deposits of calculus, which is plaque that has hardened and adhered to your teeth. The hygienist is not scraping the enamel from your teeth. Enamel is very hard, harder than the instruments being used and he/she is trained and skilled at using those instruments so as not to damage your teeth or your mouth in any way.
What To Do With Sensitive Teeth
If your teeth become sensitive after your cleaning, there are a few options. First of all, let your dentist and/or hygienist know! They want to keep you as comfortable as possible during all procedures and may not know that you are more sensitive. Some offices use warmed water in their dental chairs to try to keep cold sensitivity to a minimum, but not all, so let them know if you are having problems.
For sensitivity that bothers you outside of the dental office, here are some things to try:
- Over-The-Counter: For hot and cold sensitivity at home, try using a toothpaste made just for that purpose.
- Prescription: For more stubborn areas or sensitivity that just won’t go away, most dental offices carry or can give a written prescription for a tooth paste that is 5% Sodium Fluoride. Ask your dentist for recommendations. **Be sure to keep prescription dose fluoride away from children. Never allow a child to use this toothpaste either. This percentage of fluoride is hazardous to their health and consuming it can be fatal for young children.**
- Dental Procedures: Sensitivity near the gum line can be caused by receding gums, which causes the root to become exposed. A fluoride varnish can be placed over your teeth by your dentist or hygienist to help with sensitivity.
- Sometimes sensitivity can also be a result of the normal “wear and tear” on your teeth. Teeth flex with every bite and can cause “abfractions” which is just a sliver of tooth that chips out at the gum line. It’s not a cavity, nor does it need to be filled, but they can be filled for cosmetic reasons and if they are causing sensitivity.
Since it’s hard to tell where sensitivity comes from, it’s best to just consult your dentist. They don’t know you are having problems unless you tell them!