If you have periodontal disease (gum disease), your dentist probably prescribed a deep cleaning. Aftercare following your “scaling and root planing” appointment is an important part of how well your mouth heals following this soft tissue therapy. In fact, your deep cleaning aftercare will really be what makes or breaks the success of your periodontal treatment.
What should you be prepared for, have on hand, and keep in mind following your deep cleaning? How long does the recovery take?
It’s completely normal to have some soreness or tooth sensitivity following a deep cleaning, especially if there was a lot of heavy tartar buildup. Think of it like having an infected wound cleaned out on your arm or leg; the tenderness doesn’t mean anything is wrong, it just means your body is on its way to healing itself. Your dentist will give you specific aftercare directions to make sure your soft gum tissue recovers the way they’re supposed to and to help reduce any discomfort.
Most people will see a significant difference in their oral health within a couple of weeks of their deep teeth cleaning. Aftercare instructions usually only last about 7-10 days; after that, you can get back to a traditional oral hygiene routine (but maybe with one or two extra tools to reach down inside those periodontal pockets.)
The first day or two after your deep cleaning will call for a modified home care and oral hygiene routine. Even within the first few hours after your scaling and root planing there are some specific, very important directions to follow.
Thankfully, the better you stick to your home care instructions, the better your recovery usually is. Because you’ve taken the initial steps to combat your gum disease, paying attention to these aftercare directions is extremely important. The last thing you want is a relapse in infection!
Be sure to do the following and have everything you need on hand before your scheduled appointment:
It’s extremely common for people to instinctively bite or chew on their lips and cheeks whenever their mouth is numb. It can cause a really nasty sore. It’s just your body’s way of trying to figure out what that funny feeling is. So, stay hyper-aware of accidentally biting on your lips or cheeks right after your deep cleaning.
The anesthetic will typically start to wear off within 2-3 hours, but for some people, it could last a little longer. And normally only one side of your mouth is numb, so it’s easy to tell if you’re chomping down on something when you shouldn’t be. This is typically a bigger problem in small children who have just had dental work completed.
If you’re worried that you’re going to be hungry right after your appointment, you really don’t want to eat until the anesthetic wears off. Because otherwise, you’ll risk biting your lip, cheek, or even cutting your tongue with your teeth.
In those scenarios, the better thing to do is to have a smaller meal a little while before your appointment. That is unless your dentist tells you otherwise (like if you’re getting sedation or something.) High-protein foods will help you feel fuller, longer. Just don’t eat too much in case you run the risk of feeling a little nauseous.
Maybe you haven’t had a meal in hours and you’re starving. Can you eat after a deep cleaning if your mouth is still numb? If you do so very cautiously and only eat food that doesn’t require a lot of chewing. Think as soft as possible, like yogurt, pudding, Jell-O, grits, soft cooked rice or anything you can swallow without having to chew. That can at least tide you over until the anesthetic wears off and it’s safe to chew firmer textures. A protein shake, smoothie, or milkshake are other great options. And who doesn’t like a milkshake?! It's also normal for your teeth to be sensitive to cold and hot foods after your deep cleaning procedure.
Dissolve about one teaspoon of table salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm tap water. Make sure you’re leaning over the sink so that you don’t dribble on yourself (since your mouth is numb) and rinse with one mouthful of the solution at a time until you’ve made it through the entire glass.
You can repeat this as needed, but most people won’t need to after day two or three.
Right after your deep cleaning, you’ll need to make sure no plaque or buildup starts to accumulate between your teeth or under your gums. That means it’s time to get out your electric toothbrush, floss, or better yet—a water flosser—and get to work. You have a completely blank slate to work with, so now is as great as ever to focus on improving your oral health.
Even though your gums may be a little sore while you’re brushing and flossing, you still need to clean them. Dental plaque can start to calcify within a matter of hours, so it’s essential that you disrupt any new biofilm that’s accumulating throughout your mouth.
Everybody’s mouth is different. You might have a rotated premolar that needs to be cleaned differently than other teeth in your mouth. Or maybe there’s a 7mm periodontal pocket around one of your top back teeth that you can only clean with a water flosser.
It might be that your hygienist placed medication down inside your periodontal pockets that need to go totally undisturbed for a set amount of time.
Whatever it is, always follow your personal dentist’s and dental hygienist’s recommendations for your mouth! Including follow-up visits and medications or prescribe antibiotics that you need to take to prevent infection.
Most deep cleaning appointments take two visits to complete, with one side of your mouth being treated at a time. After you’ve completed the entire process, your dentist will probably want to see you back within 2-4 weeks for a follow-up. At that appointment, your hygienist will usually go back and perform a light cleaning if there’s any new buildup, polish off surface stain, and re-record the depth of your periodontal pockets. At this point, your dental team will be able to tell if your body is healing properly or if there are specific areas of concern that require additional intervention.
Is it normal for your gums to bleed after a deep cleaning? Yes. Because your hygienist has removed that barrier of bacteria that was against your gum tissues and interfering with the healing process. As your immune system sends antibodies to those spaces, you’ll likely experience some spotty bleeding. Even if you don’t see the bleeding, you might taste it.
Your gums might even bleed when you brush or floss for a couple of weeks. Healthy gums don’t bleed, but unhealthy ones will. It can take 10-14 days for your gum tissues to finally be healthy enough that they aren’t irritated by a toothbrush, floss, or even eating.
It is completely normal to have a sore mouth after a deep cleaning. One, you had an injection where the local anesthetic was administered. Two, your teeth are probably a little bit in shock from having the thick bacterial “cover” removed from them.
Periodontal therapy (periodontal scaling or deep cleaning) is one of the only treatments available for someone with gum disease. By removing all of that bad bacteria under your gums, your body can finally start to heal. But completing a scaling and root planing won’t heal your mouth all by itself. You’ll have a specific deep cleaning aftercare routine to follow. The better you stick to it, the faster your mouth will heal and the better results you’ll see!
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