Can you eat normal after deep cleaning?

Getting a deep cleaning at the dentist can leave your teeth feeling extra sensitive afterwards. This sensitivity may make eating normally a bit more difficult for a day or two. However, with some care and precautions, you should be able to get back to your regular diet pretty quickly.

What is a deep cleaning?

A deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, is a more extensive dental cleaning procedure that goes beyond a regular cleaning. It is used to treat more severe gum disease (periodontitis).

During a deep cleaning, the dental hygienist will:

  • Numb the teeth and gums
  • Use special dental instruments to scrape off tartar, plaque, and bacteria from below the gumline
  • Smooth rough spots on the tooth roots
  • Flush out the damaged tissue

This thorough cleaning helps treat gum disease and prevent further bone and tooth loss. However, it does disrupt the teeth and gums more than a regular cleaning.

Why does a deep cleaning make teeth sensitive?

A deep cleaning aims to remove bacteria and diseased tissue from places that are difficult to reach with normal brushing and flossing. Getting down below the gumline requires the dental hygienist to use scraping and suctioning to disturbed the roots of the teeth.

This disruption can make the tooth roots exposed and tender. Since the roots do not have a protective enamel coating like the crowns of the teeth, they contain many exposed nerves that can react to hot, cold, pressure, or chemicals.

Having the plaque and calculus deposits stripped off also eliminates some of the tooth’s insulation. This allows sensations to hit the root surface more directly.

Additionally, inflammation of the gums from the deep cleaning can make the nerves even more sensitive and reactive. The gums may remain swollen and irritated for several days after the procedure.

How long does sensitivity last after a deep cleaning?

It is normal to experience some sensitivity in your teeth for 1-2 weeks after a deep cleaning. For most people, the sensitivity is worst in the first 3 days as the gums and tooth roots heal.

Here is a general timeline of what to expect:

  • Day 1: The most sensitivity. Teeth are extra tender from the swelling and nerve exposure.
  • Days 2-4: Moderate to mild sensitivity that improves each day.
  • Days 5-7: Sensitivity starts subsiding more noticeably.
  • Days 8-14: Occasional sensitivity that continues to decrease over time.

In some cases, it may take a few weeks for sensitivity to resolve completely. Be sure to let your dentist know if sensitivity persists longer than 2-3 weeks.

Can you eat normally after a deep cleaning?

While your teeth are sensitive, you may need to modify your diet temporarily to avoid causing discomfort. However, you can generally resume normal eating within 3-4 days after a deep cleaning.

Here are some tips for easing back into your regular diet:

  • Day 1: Stick to soft, lukewarm foods. Avoid anything too hot, cold, crunchy, chewy, or acidic.
  • Days 2-3: Slowly reintroduce mildly warm or cool foods. Try gentle chewing with soft foods.
  • Day 4: Most people can resume a normal diet, but take care with very hot or cold items.
  • Beyond Day 4: Continue avoiding anything that causes pain. Otherwise eat normally.

Recommended foods for the first 3 days

Focus on foods that are soft, smooth, and neutral in temperature. Good options include:

  • Yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bananas
  • Soup
  • Pudding
  • Jell-O

Foods to avoid at first

Steer clear of anything that is:

  • Crunchy – chips, nuts, raw veggies
  • Chewy and tough – meat, bread
  • Very hot or very cold
  • Spicy
  • Acidic or sour – citrus, vinegar
  • Sweet – candy, chocolate

Tips for managing sensitivity after a cleaning

Here are some tips to help you deal with tooth sensitivity as your mouth recovers:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to soothe inflammation.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Brush gently and avoid whitening toothpastes.
  • Drink through a straw to minimize contact with sensitive surfaces.
  • Use desensitizing toothpaste or over-the-counter gels.
  • Give it time – sensitivity should steadily improve after the first few days.
  • See your dentist if sensitivity does not get better after 2-3 weeks.

When can you resume normal oral hygiene?

It’s important to keep your mouth as clean as possible after a deep cleaning to allow healing. But vigorous brushing and flossing right away can aggravate sensitivity.

Here are some oral hygiene guidelines following a deep cleaning:

  • Day 1: Rinse with warm salt water. Brush very gently.
  • Days 2-3: Brush carefully using a soft brush. Floss gently if able.
  • Day 4: Resume normal twice daily brushing and flossing if comfortable.
  • Beyond Day 4: Brush and floss normally, taking care around any lingering sensitive spots.

How soon can you drink alcohol after a deep cleaning?

Drinking alcohol right after a deep cleaning is not recommended, as it can slow healing and interact with numbing medication. However, you can likely enjoy an alcoholic drink in moderation within 2-3 days.

Here are some general guidelines on alcohol consumption after a deep cleaning:

  • Day 1: Avoid alcohol while your gums are numb and irritated.
  • Days 2-3: Refrain from alcohol or limit to one mild drink with food.
  • Day 4: Most people can have a moderate amount of alcohol, but avoid if you have lingering discomfort.
  • Beyond Day 4: Resume light drinking unless it causes pain.

If you regularly take medication, be sure to first check for any interactions with alcohol. And remember that alcohol can be dehydrating and impact oral healing.

Does a deep cleaning change your bite?

A deep cleaning focuses on removing plaque and tartar below the gumline. It does not change the occlusion or alignment of your bite. Any bite changes are likely temporary and related to inflammation or sensitivity.

Here’s what to expect regarding your bite after a deep cleaning:

  • Your bite may feel off for the first 1-2 days due to numbness and swelling.
  • Teeth sensitivity could make chewing uncomfortable at first.
  • As your mouth heals over the next week, your bite alignment should return to normal.
  • See your dentist if you still notice bite issues after 1-2 weeks of healing.

Rarely, some bite instability or discomfort with chewing can linger long-term after a deep cleaning. This is more likely if you already had problems with a misaligned bite before the procedure.

Risks and complications

While relatively safe, a deep cleaning still comes with some risks, including:

  • Tooth sensitivity – Very common. Usually resolves within 1-2 weeks.
  • Pain – Common for the first couple days. Control with over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Bleeding – Some minor bleeding may occur for the first few days after the cleaning.
  • Infection – Rare. See your dentist if you have fever, chills, swelling, or severe pain.
  • Dry socket – Rare complication that causes severe throbbing pain several days after the cleaning.
  • Damage to teeth or fillings – Rare. More likely if teeth are already cracked or weak.

Contact your dentist right away if you experience any severe or worsening dental symptoms after your deep cleaning.

Results and outlook

Some degree of post-cleaning sensitivity and irritation is expected. But you can help your mouth recover by:

  • Sticking to soft foods for 1-3 days
  • Using desensitizing toothpaste
  • Rinsing with warm saltwater
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication as needed

With proper care, sensitivity typically starts improving within 3-4 days and is gone within 1-2 weeks. You should be able to resume your normal diet and oral hygiene routine within 3-5 days.

While waiting for sensitivity to subside, be diligent about your follow-up care to support healing:

  • Take any prescribed antibiotics as directed to prevent infection
  • See your dentist as recommended for follow-up and monitoring
  • Quit smoking and improve oral hygiene to prevent further gum disease
  • Get regular professional cleanings to keep your mouth healthy

With consistent good oral care after your deep cleaning, your gums and teeth should remain much healthier.

When to see your dentist

Contact your dentist right away if you experience:

  • Severe throbbing pain that gets worse
  • Bleeding that does not subside after 2-3 days
  • Signs of infection like fever, chills, or swelling
  • Numbness lasting more than 8 hours
  • Damage to teeth, fillings, or crowns
  • No improvement in sensitivity after 2 weeks

See your dentist as scheduled for follow-up appointments to monitor your healing and gum health. Be sure to discuss any denture discomfort or issues with eating.

When to call a doctor

Contact your physician right away if you experience:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Severe swelling of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Hives, rash, or signs of an allergic reaction
  • Fever over 100 F that persists more than 24 hours

These can be signs of a medical emergency, such as a severe infection or allergic reaction that requires prompt medical care.


Here are some key points about returning to normal eating after a deep cleaning:

  • Some sensitivity and tenderness is expected for 1-2 weeks afterwards.
  • Stick to soft, mild temperature foods for the first 3 days.
  • Most people can resume a normal diet after 3-4 days.
  • Use saltwater rinses, pain medication, and desensitizing toothpaste for relief.
  • Sensitivity should steadily improve. Contact your dentist if it persists longer than 2 weeks.
  • See your dentist right away for any severe dental symptoms or signs of infection.
  • Good oral hygiene and follow-up care helps support healing.

While it may take a little time for your mouth to recover, a deep cleaning is an important treatment to get your gums healthy and prevent further dental problems down the road.

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