How long should a dental cleaning take and why aren’t they sedating me?

I want to know why my dentist isn’t sedating me. My past 2 dental cleanings took almost 2 hours. The first time it took so long that my underarms were soaked and my shirt was wet. It was the craziest experience. My gums were bleeding and when the hygienist rinsed my mouth and told me to suck on that straw thing to dry my mouth, I almost gagged. So did she! I heard her make a gagging sound. At the end of the appointment she and the dentist told me I have gum disease so I have to floss more often and I need to go back more often to get my teeth cleaned. I’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of gum disease but what is taking so long with these cleanings? I only have 23 teeth, so what is the problem people? Last week I went back again and this 2nd appointment took almost 2 hours again. This time neither of us gagged. Maybe that’s improvement… Is the time involved normal? And with all of this bloody mess and my soaked underarms after the appointment why are they not sedating me? How long should a dental cleaning take? Thanks. Geoff

Geoff – Your concern about the length of your dental cleanings and your level of anxiety without sedation are understandable. And your dentist should provide you with the answers.

Average Time for a Dental Cleaning

A dental cleaning for a patient who has good oral health and maintains excellent oral hygiene at home takes about 30 to 40 minutes. The time can vary, depending on the condition of your teeth and the hygienist’s speed. Keep in mind that when you receive a dental cleaning, more is involved than just cleaning and polishing your teeth:

  • X-rays are taken.
  • Your hygienist will check the space between your teeth and gums for signs of periodontal (gum) disease.
  • Your dentist will also need to examine your teeth, gums, tongue, and other oral cavities to ensure they are healthy and disease free.

The “extras” are necessary to help you maintain good oral hygiene. And they naturally add more time to your dental visit. But let’s discuss what might be taking your appointment so long and why you aren’t being sedated.

What’s Taking So Long?

So what’s affecting the time it takes to clean your teeth? Several factors might be involved:

  • The condition of your teeth – A professional dental cleaning removes plaque, tartar, and stains from your teeth. The amount of plaque and tartar buildup is related to how often you brush and floss your teeth. The more you floss between your teeth, the less plaque and tartar there will be. Stains can develop from everyday eating and drinking, but if you smoke, or if you are a heavy coffee or tea drinker, your teeth will have more stains.
  • Periodontal (gum) disease – When the pocket, or space between each tooth and the surrounding gum tissue, is infected, the gum tissue pulls away from your teeth. Deep periodontal pockets need to be thoroughly cleaned to get rid of gum disease. This process, scaling and root planing, is a deeper cleaning than normal and takes more time. In cases of severe periodontal disease, a specialist (periodontist) might be needed.
  • Your anxiety level – It takes a little more time and patience to provide dental care for anxious patients. If your dentist and hygienist know you’re anxious, they will work at a slower pace to ensure your comfort and to take time to explain what’s being done throughout the dental procedure. Some dental professionals do this regardless of a patient’s anxiety level. Sedation can help make dental cleanings easier for you.

Why Aren’t You Being Sedated for Your Dental Cleanings?

Perhaps your dentist and hygienist haven’t noticed your sweaty armpits. Maybe it’s not that noticeable to them, or maybe they need to be more observant. Have you explained how nervous you’re getting with the lengthy dental cleaning appointments?

Your periodontal disease needs to be well controlled, so it’s time to let your hygienist and dentist know just how much the cleaning appointments are affecting you. Ask for sedation so you won’t start to dread your appointments—and possibly start skipping a few.

Your dentist should work with you to provide a level of sedation that matches your anxiety and the length of your dental appointments. If he or she isn’t responsive enough to your anxiety, it might be time to look for another sedation dentist.

This post is sponsored by Plano dentist Dr. Miranda Lacy.