Getting teeth cleaned

For many years, I had a nice lady clean my teeth. She always seemed so gentle with the cleaning. Then she retired. It seemed as if her replacement was always trying to pry my teeth out with her tools.

Then one day my dentist retired & I found a new one. Over the past 15 or so years, he has had a few different dental hygienists. Each of them always worked as if trying to pry my teeth out. Over the years I have asked others about their experiences in other dental offices. It seemed this was the new style of teeth cleaning.

Well, the other day I had my teeth cleaned. The regular lady was out on medical leave. There was a substitute. She was extremely gentle. Reminded me of the lady I had cleaning my teeth many years ago.

Now I’m wondering – did she do a thorough job? Is it standard practice these days for patients to feel as if their teeth are being pried out? Is it possible to be so gentle and still do as through of a job?

I am not a dentist… but my father and brother both are.

I’ve had teeth cleaned by various hygenists in Dad’s office (which my brother is now a part of), as well as my brother, who cleaned my teeth the last time – about a month or two ago – when I was visiting for the weekend.

One hygenist flossed my teeth like she was trying to reach my toes through my gums. Others have been much gentler.

Usually, the “pry the teeth out” feeling comes from using a scaler – I’ve had mine done both with a manual scaler (to us non-dentists, it might be thought of as a hooked pointy torture device in unskilled or uncaring hands), as well as with an ultrasonic scaler, a more elaborate device. How much it seems to pull and pry depends on how much buildup of calculus (no, not the math kind – the tartar kind) you have on your teeth.

Anyways, I totally trust my brother to do a thorough job. He cleaned my teeth the last time, and I think he had the gentlest touch of any of them, including my dad (but don’t tell Dad I said so!) So I don’t think the gentler feel necessarily means that a bad job was done.

About 15 years ago, I went to a dentist (who did not have a hygienist) and, after every cleaning, my mouth would ache for days. She also sent me to a periodontist who was eager to perform $1,500 worth of work.

Then I changed dentists and had cleanings by hygienists who were extremely gentle. The dentist did NOT think I needed $1,500 in periodontal work. Then I got lax, didn’t go for a while, which made me not go for a lot longer (I am a serious dental-phobic), and when I finally went back, they wanted to schedule me for the “scrape down under the gums” deep cleaning. YIPES!

I’d changed jobs at this point, and that dentist was too far away, so I changed again. More gentle hygienists. No pain. I started flossing religiously. Now everyone is happy with my “pockets” and there is no more discussion of periodontal work.

So, no…the fact that you don’t feel pain does not mean you’re not getting an effective cleaning.

But do keep up with the flossing.

Last month I had a deep gum cleaning done. I am happy to report that my gums got swabbed with an anesthetic beforehand. The anesthetic tastes bad, but since I have very sensitive teeth and gums, it was a good trade-off for me. The hygienist was as gentle as he could be, but he did have to put some muscle into removing some of the more stubborn deposits.

When having my teeth cleaned in the US (both by military and civilian dentists or dental hygienists), I felt like I was being tortured. Last year, I had my teeth cleaned in South Korea at a place in Bucheon (close to Seoul). The dental hygienist was very professional, gentle, and made sure I knew what was happening every step of the procedure. On top of that, it’s far cheaper in Korea for the cleaning!