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Gum Infection After Dental Cleaning, Possible or No?

It is highly unlikely for you to get a gum infection after a dental cleaning but it could potentially happen because infections can happen at any time. Infections are agnostic and can even affect healthy teeth that didn't get a cleaning.


Calculus build up on teeth
Calculus build up on teeth

Gum infections after dental cleanings are unlikely

The two reasons gum infections immediately after a dental cleaning are unlikely:

  • Preventive procedure. The official name for a cleaning is dental prophylaxis which means it is a preventative procedure.

  • Treats mild gum infections. Teeth cleanings are the first line of treatment for mild gum inflammation, bleeding, and gingivitis.


Dental cleaning is a PREVENTIVE procedure

Firstly, cleaning your teeth is considered a preventive procedure meaning that it is meant to prevent gum problems. That is one major reason why we say it is unlikely for you to develop a gum infection afterwards because it is meant to decrease the risk of it occurring.


How cleanings decrease risk of gum infections:

  • Removes food, plaque, and tartar. When food, plaque, or tartar is left on the enamel, it will cause gum inflammation thus resulting in gingivitis. Removing these foreign bodies will help reduce the amount of inflammation.

  • Reduces gum inflammation and bleeding. If you haven't been to the dentist in a while, you may notice your gums bleeding more easily. However, after you get your teeth cleaned, the bleeding and inflammation will subside within a few days. That is proof that this is a preventive procedure meant to reduce risk of gum issues.


before and after dental cleaning
before and after dental cleaning

In summary, the purpose of cleaning your teeth is to help prevent and avoid gum infections. As a matter of fact, if you don't do it your risk for developing an infection with the gums only increases.


Teeth cleanings TREAT mild gum infections

A major reason we say that gum infections are unlikely after cleanings is that dental cleanings are used to treat mild gum infections. Yes, it is the treatment of choice used to get rid of minor infections with your gums.


Types of gum infections it can cure:

  • Swelling from stuck food. If food gets lodged into the gums it can swell up and start bleeding incessantly.

  • Mild gingivitis. The beginning or very mild form of gum disease can be adequately treated with a regular cleaning. However, when left untreated it can become more severe and may require a deep cleaning instead.


mild gum infection
mild gum infection

Ultimately it is unlikely to cause an infection since it is used to cure infections. Otherwise it wouldn't make a lot of sense would it?


How the gums can get infected after a cleaning

There are two reason which we can think of for when the gums get infected after the cleaning:

  • Coincidence. Infections can happen at any time even to healthy teeth. It may have just been a pure coincidence that it occurred shortly after your dental visit.

  • Incorrect treatment. If you were told that you needed a deep cleaning but you insisted on getting a routine one.


Pure coincidence

Gum infections, tooth infections, and abscesses in general can occur at a moment's notice. It can happen to sick teeth and also healthy teeth. It doesn't care what your condition is, it can afflict your mouth at any point in time.


Therefore you could've just been unlucky and it was a pure coincidence that your gums happen to get infected right after getting a cleaning. It was of no fault of yours nor was it your dentist's fault.


Blame your bad luck if you wish.


Incorrect treatment

One potential way that the gum infection could've happened after the cleaning is if you actually needed a deep teeth cleaning. However, for whatever reason you opted to get a regular or routine dental cleaning instead.


severe gum bleeding needing deep cleaning
severe gum bleeding needing deep cleaning

The consequence of getting the wrong treatment for your gum condition may result in a gum infection.


How it happens:

  • Routine cleaning will only clean above the gum line while a deep cleaning can clean below it.

  • When there is tartar and plaque below the gums and you don't clean them off, it can eventually get infected, resulting in swelling and bleeding.


Therefore, if your dentist recommended a deeper cleaning of your teeth because you need it, please do get it! Improper treatment isn't helpful at all for your health and will only lead to more problems.


What's my next step?

Regardless of why your gingiva got infected shortly after the prophylactic procedure, you need to return to your dentist. Further treatment will be required to properly get rid of this new infection.


Potential treatment:

  • Scaling and root planing. If the normal cleaning was inadequate, you may need a deeper cleaning which is called scaling and root planing. This time your dentist will remove plaque and tartar from below your gums.

  • Gingival curettage. When the gums are inflamed, the gums itself may need to be scaled. This action cleans the gums rather than the tooth surface.

  • Antibiotic rinse. Your dentist may prescribe you chlorhexidine, which is an antibacterial rinse to help the gums heal faster.


Typically after this additional treatment, you should notice an improvement within the next few days. It may take up to a week for the symptoms to completely resolve and go back to normal.


In the meantime, please do stay on top of your oral hygiene so that the gums don't get re-infected a second time.


Verdict

It's not very likely for you to develop a gum infection shortly after a dental cleaning. The procedure itself is supposed to prevent that from happening. It is also commonly used as the primary treatment to get rid of mild gum infections.


Overall, cleaning your teeth is meant to reduce your risk of infection and potentially prevent it.


Nonetheless, anything is possible in life so it may have just been a coincidence that your gingiva happened to get infected. Alternatively you may have needed a deep cleaning of your teeth but you opted for a routine one and that may have triggered it as well.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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