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Deep cleaning - What to expect



Oct 25, 2014
My first deep cleaning appointment is coming up tomorrow morning and I'm getting increasingly nervous about it. Anyone here who can tell me what it's like (please no horror stories!)? I've never had a local anaesthetic before, or much dental work beyond basic cleaning, so I don't have much basis for comparison. Thanks!
Hi I had it done 16 years ago. It was just like a normal cleaning but with the injections first. The injections didn't hurt and I could eat fairly normally afterwards. You'll be fine. It won't be as bad as you expect ?
I've never had a deep cleaning, but can speak to the local anesthetic part as this was always my worst fear. I am TERRIFIED of needles. However, I can honestly say that, when done by a skilled dentist, dental injections do not hurt at all. There have been many times that I haven't felt a thing -- promise! At most, I feel a tiny little pinch and then nothing. Usually the dentist will even put a topical anesthetic (like oragel) on first so that you feel the injection even less. This is all coming from someone who, the last time she had to get a tetanus shot, spent 45 minutes freaking out before I let the nurse do it, but can now get dental injections with no problem at all.

The one thing to be aware of is that dental injections will take a bit longer than other 'shots' (like immunizations) that you are used to. The slower they are done, the less you will feel and the less sore the injection site will be after (don't want to freak you out here -- usually it just feels like I accidentally bit my cheek for a day or so)

After you are numb, you shouldn't feel anything. If you do, you should let the dentist know so that s/he can give your more anesthetic. You should not feel additional injections (in the same part of your mouth) because you are already numb.

Best of luck to you!
Thanks so much for writing back, both of you! I have been worrying about this the last few days, and just needed a little reassurance. Hearing it described as a normal cleaning with injections is helpful; I think the more I can look at this as a cleaning rather than as a procedure, the better I'll feel about it. The description of the injections was SO helpful. Knowing that having the needle stay in longer is normal is great, because this would have made me think something had gone wrong. It's also nice to hear that it's less painful than, say, a tetanus shot, which I'm a huge baby about. Thanks again!
Hi Lizd

Hope you are well.

like Fearful I have never had a deep cleaning but have had a good few Local Aneaesthetics and I would agree with everything Fearful has said above, if done correctly using numbing gel first the local anaesthetic delivery should be totally painless. Most dentists are very good at injecting very slowly and smoothly to make the whole process as comfortable as possible. I understand that the deep clean process is very similar to a normal cleaning.

Hope that this is of help.

Kind Regards
Sorry I just saw your post and may be too late BUT for my deep cleaning they didnt do shots, they had a new kind of numbing liquid something or other they applied to the gums around the teeth they were working on and it worked for 20 minutes per area, then they would reapply. They were trying to avoid shots for my first appt in 10 years unless absolutely necessary. The gel worked! Good luck to you. Sending strength your way!
Hi Lizd
I don't know if I'm too late and your appointment is over? But I thought I would throw in my 2 cents. I did have a deep cleaning once. Mine was done in 2 appointments, first the right side and then 2 weeks later the left side. they did mine that way so that my whole face wouldn't be numb and so I would not be too sore to eat after.

My shots were just a little bit stingy. nothing really bad. The cleaning itself was like any other cleaning except being numb so it didn't hurt at all. It did take longer than a regular cleaning so I was glad they split it up into 2 appointments.

Afterwards I was still numb for a couple of hours. There was a very little bit of soreness in the area of the shots afterward for a day or 2. nothing that advil couldn't handle. my teeth were sensitive to cold for a few days but it was not anything unbearable. I was also put on a low dose antibiotic. They gave me a prescription mouth wash to use too. I was able to eat normally.

Good luck, you will be fine.
Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement! I just got home from my appointment, and wanted to share my experience. I went in dreading this appointment as much as I did my first appointment last month. I felt sick and shaky, my heart was racing, and I spent a few minutes crying in the parking lot before I could work up the courage to walk into the office. Half of me really wanted to cancel the appointment, but I was afraid that if I waited, I'd build it up in my mind to the point where I wouldn't be able to have another dentist appointment.

My dentist is really friendly and has a very calm, soothing demeanor; I actually felt calmer when she called me in, compared to when I was waiting. When I got into the exam room, the first thing I noticed was that everything was already set up for the procedure, including the pillow and blanket I requested. It helped me a lot to see everything ready, and know that the worst part-the injection of the local-would be over soon, with minimal waiting. We talked briefly about what the cleaning would look and feel like, and then she let me get settled in the chair while she finished prepping. After drying my gums on the upper left side with a cotton swab (weird feeling!) she spread on the topical anaesthetic gel, then had me hold a q-tip of the gel in place for a few minutes. My expectations for the numbing gel were really low, as I didn't think it helped that much when I had my debridement done a few weeks ago, but I was happy to try anything to make the injections more comfortable. We waited a few minutes longer, to let the gel work, me getting more and more nervous in anticipation.

I very carefully didn't watch as the needle was prepared, and tried to keep busy getting my MP3 player and earphone ready. When she was ready, the dentist told me that she always closes her eyes for the shot-I love that she gets the needle fears!-so I shut my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing. Guys, I never felt the needle go in. I could feel a little pressure and oddness while the needle was in (it takes about a minute, because the slower the liquid is injected, the less you feel it) but the only time I felt anything close to pain was for two seconds when the needle was removed. For a few minutes afterwards, the injection site felt a little bruised, kind of like your arm does after a vaccine, only much less painful. I can't believe I was so terrified of this and it turned out to be so easy!

After my injection, we waited a few minutes, then she tested the area with the metal scraping tool we all know and love. I could feel the tool touch my gum line, but it didn't hurt. She said we should wait until I couldn't feel the tool at all though, so we waited another three or four minutes.

We started with a water pick, which I was familiar with from my debridement. The tool is noisy, and having had it used on me with only numbing gel, I can tell you it does hurt a little (not excruciating, just a more intense version of the metal scraper, minus the scraping noise). This time, I couldn't feel anything. I could hear her working, feel the pressure against my teeth, and be mildly annoyed at having my mouth open long-term, but there was no pain. At all. I just laid there and listened to an audio book, eyes closed, suctioning my mouth whenever I wanted to. Any time I moved or opened my eyes, my dentist asked if I was in any pain, if I needed a break, or if I needed to rinse m mouth. Wen I got tired of holding my mouth open, she got me a mouth block, which is a little rubber thing that you hold bite down on with the side of your mouth not being worked on. It set off my gag reflex for a second, but she moved it nearer to the front and that helped. Not having to think about holding my mouth open definitely made things more comfortable, and made the experience feel less like a dentist appointment.

Altogether, my appointment lasted two hours, including injections, questions before and after, and the actual work, which was then examined by a supervising dentist (I'm being treated at a dental school to keep costs low, so all work has to be okayed afterwards).

What you should know about a deep cleaning: in a lot of ways, it feels like a more comfortable version of a routine cleaning. We alternated between the water pick and the metal pick for most of the appointment, then did a quick two-step polishing a basically two rounds of brushing, one with a gritty paste, one with a normal paste. Unlike a normal hygiene appointment, I was numb throughout, so I didn't have to worry about anything hurting during the cleaning. Unlike a normal cleaning, there was some bleeding, as my gums are inflamed. This is normal for this procedure. I was surprised at how little blood there is. I never tasted it, which I'd been concerned about, and I could see only a tiny bit at the gum line when the procedure was done. I'm still numb on that side, so I can't say for sure how I'll feel in a few hours, but it doesn't look terribly swollen; definitely nowhere near as bad as it was when I had my first appointment. I've been told to do salt water rinses and to take ibuprofen throughout the day to help with any pain, and I took two ibuprofen before the procedure, hoping it might help. I'll update this as I know more, but really, this was no big deal. Yet again, I got myself worked up over nothing.
Yay lizd that's fabulous! So glad to hear you survived. Bet your teeth look beautiful and clean now ?
YAY lizd!!!!! AWESOME!!! You should be so proud of yourself....you stuck it out...and came out on the other side with a healthy, shiny smile!! Way to go!! Great explanation by the way!!
I went for my deep cleaning appointment and honestly it was not as bad as I thought! Yesterday morning I was completely off the scale scared - I will document the experience if others are interested.

I was shaking so much when I arrived for the appointment I couldn't even sit still in the waiting room. The dental assistant arrived to take me into the surgery where I met my Perio again. She has such a calm, reassuring manner and she let me put my coat and stuff in a box before I took my seat in the chair, which is incredibly comfortable I must say.

She asked about my worries and answered them all, then started by putting some numbing gel on the top and bottom right gums. I had been frightened that if I swallowed the gel, my throat would go numb, but she assured me that it might tingle for a few minutes but not go numb, and it didn't. She then started on the locals - top row first - and said the worst one would be the front centre as it would make my eyes water. Do you know what? It didn't - I hardly felt any of the jabs - just a slight prickly feeling on a couple of occasions. She then started the deep clean, initially by just showing me how it would feel. It honestly felt just like a regular scale and polish with additional 'hoovering up' and dragging sensations. Anyway, she worked round all the teeth on the right, and said there was masses of tartar and calculus below my gums - all hoovered away. The assistant all the time was suctioning both the yucky stuff, blood and water so none went down my throat. She had to be a bit careful far back as I have a terrible gag reflex and the perio couldn't give me any more local as she knew it would make me gag. So it did hurt a bit when she did the wisdom tooth and next molar but as these were the last two to be done, I persevered!

All the time, she was asking me if I was OK and giving me little rests. And then - it was over! Of course I was very numb for a couple of hours and fully expected to feel sore and tender but honestly I had a little bit of soreness - not even bad enough for a painkiller. Then I ate dinner as normal (although soft food just to be on the safe side).

This morning some of the gums did bleed when I used the interdental brushes but I guess this is to be expected when they have been disturbed.

I have my second appointment next week and am feeling much happier about going. No, it's not a pleasant experience, but nowhere as bad as I was imagining. So, if you are worrying about a deep clean, please don't. Honestly, I am the worst patient ever, anxious and shaking, even my mouth was shaking as she worked on it, and I managed to get through it.

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