Dental cleanings are one of those things in life. You don’t necessarily want them to be long, but you know that quick probably isn’t good either. In this article, we’ll answer how long does a dental cleaning take. We’ll talk about whats a reasonable amount of time to get a good job done without keeping you more than you bargained for. We’ll also talk about what they feel like, if you should expect pain after, and how to relieve pain after dental cleaning, if any.

How Long Does a Dental Cleaning Take

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You know what, for once a dental question is pretty straightforward. So to answer “how long does a dental cleaning take,” guess what? I’ll give you a straight forward answer.

A professional dental cleaning takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. The time range spans from a dental cleaning of already pristine teeth to a more complex situation.

The appointment generally will also include an examination and x-rays as needed during that time. The time range I gave you also depends on the number of concerns and treatments to discuss with your dentist at the exam. Oh, and in case you’re wondering about cost, we don’t discuss that here. But you can learn more about it in this article.

What is a Dental Cleaning

For the actual dental cleaning, I can simplify the process for you into three steps. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Step 1: Scaling: The teeth are thoroughly cleaned using instruments known as scalers and curettes. The teeth are cleaned of debris, calculus, and plaque from the gum line of your teeth and between your teeth. The scalers may be hand instruments or they may be ultrasonic power scalers. Either option is acceptable for a modern cleaning. Most patients with good oral hygiene generally do not require an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque. Utilizing hand instruments helps to reduce the spread of airborne pathogens if the ultrasonic isn’t necessarily needed.
  • Step 2: Flossing: The teeth are thoroughly flossed to remove any remaining plaque between the teeth. Flossing after scaling also helps to confirm any areas which need additional cleaning with the scalers prior to completing the appointment.
  • Step 3: Polishing: The final step is polishing. The dentist or dental hygienist uses a polishing paste with a prophy disk that polishes any residual stains or film from the teeth.

Are Dental Cleanings Comfortable?

The majority of patients find that dental cleanings are very comfortable. Some patients even find dental cleanings relaxing similar to the concept of a massage.

However, there are some patients with a history of dental phobia or very sensitive teeth that may be uncomfortable. For these patients, the dental cleaning may be sensitive, or may be a matter of creating discomfort from anxiety.

For patients with comfort concerns during their cleaning, laughing gas or dental sedation can be offered to make the experience significantly more comfortable for them. Often with time, a patient’s sensitivity and anxiety during dental cleanings subsides. And many no longer require sedation for future dental cleanings.

Will I have Pain After a Dental Cleaning?

Typically no. Pain after a dental cleaning usually is not a concern. However, there are some normal sensations that you should be aware on the first day or two after.

A dental cleaning removes plaque and calculus that were covering the teeth prior to the cleaning. The removal of the plaque and calculus, on enamel generally has little feeling. However, for patients with gum recession, more of the roots are exposed.

The roots contain more nerve sensations than the enamel does. Therefore, people with exposed roots may notice their teeth are a little sensitive the first few days after cleaning, particularly to cold air and water. The reason is two-fold.

The surface of the root is cleaned and no longer blocked by the calculus. Thus, more sensation is transmitting. And also the mechanical removal of calculus can create a minor bruise of the tooth for a day or two.


Another sensation you may feel after a dental cleaning is a soreness of the gums. When the teeth are cleaned, plaque is removed from along the gumline. The plaque was created inflammation previously. Often by removing the plaque the inflamed gums become irritated for a day or two. Ultimately the patient feels minor soreness around the gums of the teeth which eventually heals stronger than if the teeth were not cleaned.

How to Relieve Pain After Dental Cleaning

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After a dental cleaning, I wouldn’t say there is pain, per se. However, there is often minor tenderness and sensitivity of the gums and teeth for a day or two. Here’s some things you can do to support your cause for how to relieve pain after dental cleaning:

  • Try Toothpaste for Sensitive teeth: If your teeth are sensitive to cold air or water, try a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. You will find several options and brands. The key to know is that the primary ingredient for sensitive teeth is potassium nitrate or stannous fluoride.
  • Warm Salt-Water Rinses: Salt water rinses help soothe and heal your gum tissue after your cleaning. You may utilize salt water rinses 3-4 times per day. Add a tablespoon of salt to 8 oz of warm water and bingo you have a salt water rinse.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: The key to allowing your teeth and gums to heal is avoid irritating them. Try using a softer toothbrush and brush gently in the areas concern.
  • Ibuprofen: If you are having mild to moderate soreness after a cleaning, ibuprofen is an excellent medication to help manage the pain and inflammation for a couple days.