Scaling and root planing aftercare: Tips for recovery time

Following your scaling and root planing cary procedure, you will quickly begin to notice that your gums are less swollen, red, and prone to bleeding, which is a sign that they have returned to a healthy state.

Although you will experience several positive changes, during your recovery period you may also experience some complications. There are several things you can do to help minimize any symptoms you may be experiencing following your scaling and root planing procedure.

Why Might You Need Scaling And Root Planing?

Why Might You Need Scaling And Root Planing


Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums, which are the tissues that surround the teeth and tether them to the bones beneath.  Gum disease is caused by an accumulation of plaque, which occurs naturally in everyone’s mouth.  With regular professional dental care and daily oral hygiene, plaque can usually be managed effectively.  If it is not periodically removed, however, plaque builds up and hardens, turning into tartar.  Tartar is much more difficult to remove and requires professional cleaning with specialized dental hygiene tools. If tartar accumulation is significant, it may become trapped in the area between the tooth and the gumline, leading to inflammation of the gum tissue and, gradually, to periodontal disease.  When periodontal disease is present, the gums, which normally fit snugly around the teeth, begin to loosen.  As the gums loosen, they form pockets that can become filled with more tartar and bacteria, which can lead to further infection. If periodontal disease is left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and possibly to eventual bone loss, as well as a host of other possible problems.  Dental scaling and root planing combine to provide an effective treatment for periodontal disease.  Deeply cleaning and polishing all surfaces of the teeth, including those below the gumline and on the roots, allows the gum tissue to adhere to the teeth as it is supposed to.

At its  mildest, gum disease is known as gingivitis and can cause the gums to bleed easily, swell, and turn red and inflamed.  At this stage, gum disease can be treated relatively easily, both at home and at the dentist’s office.  If left untreated, however, gum disease may advance to periodontitis, which can destroy the tissue and bone that support your teeth.  As periodontitis advances, this bone and tissue loss worsens, which can lead to the loss of teeth.  There are many different treatments that can restore bone and gum tissues, and these range in complexity based on the stage of gum disease.  Most patients seeking treatment for periodontitis will, at some stage in their treatment, require a dental scaling and root planing procedure, which serves as a deep cleaning for the teeth.  Dental scaling and root planing remove tartar from below the gumline, including the roots of the teeth, which keeps bacterial growth in check and allows healthy gum tissue to adhere to the teeth.

The Scaling And Root Planing Procedure

The Scaling And Root Planing Procedure


The aftercare will depend on the extend of the procedure. When you have your teeth professionally cleaned the dentist or hygienist will use a hand held instrument to scrape the hardened plaque off of the surface of your teeth. If they must proceed below the gum line it is often called deep cleaning. A local anesthetic will be used to neutralize any discomfort you will experience with your gums. Root planing goes deeper yet. The objective is to smooth the surface of the teeth and roots, remove the plaque, and make it difficult to immediately adhere to the enamel again.

Aftercare tips

Aftercare tips


Here, we will review what you may experience after receiving scaling and root planing as well as how best to keep up your freshly cleaned teeth and gums!

Discomfort And Appearance

You may have some irritation and inflamation for a few days following your treatment. This is normal and should subside as you heal. If you feel that you need it, over the counter pain medication can be taken.

As the inflamation calms down, you will likely notice more spacing between your teeth. This is a good thing! It means that the plaque that was caught between them is gone and you are well on your way to a healthier smile!

Bleeding And Tooth Sensitivity

For two or three days, you will likely have some bleeding during brushing which should deminish with each brushing. Sensitivity could be a little intense, especially temperature sensitivity. Your dentist may give you a toothpaste specifically for sensitivity which should help. Depending on the severity of your case, you may also be prescribed an antibiotic mouthwash and it is important and beneficial to use it as directed.

Minimizing Irritation

Minimizing Irritation


For a few days following your treatment, avoid hard and crunchy foods. Your gums are tender and crunchy food grinding into them will not feel good. Stick to softer foods those few days while you heal.

Your nutrition and dietary needs following oral surgery can depend on multiple factors including your health before the procedure, the procedure you are undergoing, oral function impact and expected recovery. A liquid or soft foods diet is commonly required for a few days or longer following oral surgery. It is recommended to choose nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein. These types of foods provide vitamins and nutrients required for your mouth to heal.

These types of procedures frequently require patients to stick to soft foods and avoid biting or chewing with the tooth or area for a period of time.

The following list includes some examples of soft food items which can be consumed following oral surgery. Immediately following treatment, your mouth and jaw can be quite sore. Focus on consuming a variety of nutritious foods which don’t require chewing.

  • Hearty vegetable soups (cream of asparagus, lentil, minestrone, split pea)
  • Juices (cranberry, apple, grape)
  • Herbal Tea
  • Jell-O
  • Sorbet and yogurt (soft or frozen)
  • Pudding or custard
  • Soft, ripe fruits (banana, papaya, berries, canned peaches or pears)
  • Applesauce
  • Popsicles
  • Ice cream or milkshakes
  • Fresh cooked vegetables (carrots, squash, green beans, spinach and other greens)
  • Fruit smoothies or protein shakes
  • Oatmeal or cream of wheat (make with milk in order to boost nutrition)
  • Eggs (scrambled, soft boiled or egg salad )
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rice, couscous, quinoa or bulgur
  • Tofu
  • Pasta and noodles (plain, buttered or with sauce )
  • Fish (soft white fish, sole, trout or salmon)
  • Soft cheeses
  • Cottage cheese
  • Meatloaf
  • Tortillas (soften by microwaving or steaming)
  • Soft-cooked, shredded chicken and meat
  • Baked or canned fruit (apples or peaches)
  • Peanut or alternative nut butter
  • Chicken or tuna salad
  • Refried or mashed canned beans
  • Avocado
  • Pancakes
  • Soft bread
  • Hummus

The temperature of food and beverage, both hot and cold, is also important to consider. As an example, consuming hot drinks while healing can irritate gum tissue and complicate the recovery process. Focus on consuming items that are warm instead of piping hot. In addition, it’s best to stick to colder foods, such as yogurt, until your oral surgeon allows you to expand your dietary options.

It is important to avoid the following foods for the first week following surgery as they can cause pain and delayed healing:

  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus juices
  • Foods that are difficult to chew (steak and deli meats)
  • Crunchy foods (popcorn, pretzels and potato chips)
  • Crusty breads, bagels, cookies

On the day of surgery, it is recommended to start with clear fluids (juices, broth, tea and Jell-O). As the recovery progresses, you can slowly introduce more substantial foods.

Oral Hygiene After Scaling And Root Planing

Oral Hygiene After Scaling And Root Planing


Your gum tissue is very likely to be tender so brushing with care is important. Being gentle but thorough will help you keep your teeth and gums healthy as they continue to heal from treatment. Using a warm salt water solution to rinse your mouth can feel nice and help reduce swelling. You can do this as often as you like for a couple of weeks. If you cannot manage salt water, ask your dentist for an antibacterial mouthwash if you were not already provided one.

Following through with recommended scaling and root planing can greatly reduce your risk of further infection and stop gum recession which could lead to bone and tooth loss. Once you have had your deep cleaning, be sure to maintain your recommended recare schedule so you do not fall back into periodontal disease. You may be visiting your dentists three to four time per year instead of the typical two, but prevention is easier and less costly than treatment. Don’t let your efforts go unchecked!