“ I would like to know which method of plaque and tartar removal you would recommend for someone with recessed gums; regular or ultrasonic? Is it true that the ultrasonic one is less painful?”
I think it is safe to say that ultrasonic tartar removal has crossed the line into conventional dentistry. The “conventional” hand held scalers are starting to be replaced in dentists offices with ultrasonic equipment countrywide. Before ultrasonic scalers, hand held scalers used to be the only solution for removing tartar. These scalers can only removal larger groupings of tartar, however, and these scalers were also ineffective at smoothing down the surfaces of the roots and the bottom of the tooth. This of course lead to quicker formation of tartar deposits. The gums could also, on occasion, be hurt by the scaler as well, which can lead to gum infections and swelling of the gums.
During an ultrasonic procedure, the ultrasounds gently resonate the tartar off without harm to the enamel, as it is much harder than the tartar attached to it. Even very tiny amounts of tartar can be removed, and the gums and the tooth root itself can also be treated, without the risk of scratching the gums.
Ultrasonic treatment of this sort can result in sensitivity, as the treatment involves resonating otherwise sensitive areas, and you may experience temporary gum recession, but this too, should subside in a few hours, at most a day. Each patient reacts differently to pain and sensitivity, and while something may feel painful to one patient may be completely negligible for another; some people feel a little bit of a cold sensation, while others feel nothing at all, some people can undergo the treatment without any anaesthesia, while others would cringe at the very thought of doing such a thing.
In most cases a dental hygienist is perfectly capable of handling a cleaning with an ultrasonic scaler, but some cases require the skill of a practicing dentist, particularly if they are more severe. The dentist may give you anaesthetic, which has both benefits and setbacks; benefits are that the procedure will be entirely painless but the setback is that you will need to come back, as anaesthetizing all of your teeth at once would be nothing short of malpractice.
Besides these techniques it is also possible to use an AirBrush salt based polish as a tartar remover, as salt gets into every little crack of your teeth, and is also a natural tooth whitening agent.