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After Periodontal Surgery

Recovery following Periodontal or Gum Surgery can be challenging.  However, any discomfort, swelling, or any other less-than-desired complication can be minimized, even avoided by following these instructions on post-surgical care.


ACTIVITY:  After leaving the office, relax for the remainder of the day. Avoid strenuous activities for several days. Use an additional pillow (or keep your head elevated) when sleeping.

SWELLING:  Some swelling may be present the day after the surgery and may peak at 48-72 hours after surgery. Sip ice water, iced tea, frozen yogurt, milkshakes, or similar cold liquids and keep the surgical area cold for the remainder of the day after surgery.  DO NOT use a straw, as suction can start bleeding.  Swelling after surgeries can be minimized by placing an ice pack over the operated area on the outside of the face on and off at 10-20 minute intervals for the first 24 hours after surgery, then a warm towel/heat pad 10-20 minute intervals for 48-72 hours or until swelling completely goes away. Rinsing with Chlorhexidine (twice a day) starting the day after surgery is very important for healing, reducing swelling, discomfort, and bleeding.

BLEEDING:  There should be minimal bleeding after the surgery is completed.  There may be a pink discoloration of your saliva for several hours; frank bleeding (bright red) is not to be expected.  Should bleeding occur, place a moistened tea bag (not herbal tea) over the area and hold it for 15 minutes; let rest for 15 minutes, then repeat for a second time only. It may take several minutes before the bleeding stops.  If there is no change in the amount of bleeding call the office immediately.

SUTURES:  Sutures (“stitches”) are placed to hold the gingival tissues in the proper position for ideal healing.  If sutures (“stitches”) were placed, your doctor will usually want you to return so that they can be fully removed once sufficient healing has occurred.  Do not disturb the sutures with your tongue, toothbrush or in any other manner since displacement will impair healing.  If you notice that a suture has come out or come loose, notify your doctor during regular office hours.

EATING:  It is necessary to maintain a relatively healthy diet throughout the course of healing. Solid foods may be eaten as long as they may be done so comfortably. If not, soft foods should be eaten. Avoid spicy, salty and excessively hot foods. Avoid chips, nuts and anything that could be lodged in the operated site(s). Please refrain from drinking alcoholic beverage during the first 4-5 days following surgery. Taking a tablet of multivitamins a day is recommended. Chewing should be done predominately on the side opposite the surgical site.  It is may be necessary to stick to liquids for the first day, if chewing is uncomfortable.

SMOKING:  Please refrain from smoking for 7 days or longer after surgery.  Tobacco use interferes with the healing.

EXERCISE:  Avoid any aerobic activity for at least 5 days; e.g., jogging, tennis, racket ball, or anything strenuous. Take it easy.

CARE OF THE DRESSING:  If a dressing has been placed over the surgical site, try to stay away from it the first few days.  The dressing is primarily for comfort.  If the dressing should become loose or fall off, and there is no increase in the level of discomfort, it is ok to leave it off.

ORAL HYGIENE:  It is important to maintain a normal level of oral hygiene in the non-operated areas by brushing and flossing. Do NOT perform any oral hygiene regiment on the site(s) operated until your periodontist instructs you to do so.

MEDICATIONS:  Please follow the instructions on the bottle for any medications prescribed.  If any adverse reaction to those medications should arise, such as nausea, itching, swelling, or any allergic symptoms, please contact our office immediately and discontinue all medication immediately.

Generally, we prescribe four medications for our periodontal surgery patients:

  • ANTIBIOTICS - when prescribed, take them as directed until ALL ARE GONE, as long as there are no adverse reactions.
  • IBUPROFEN (Advil) - is a non-narcotic, anti-inflammatory pain killer.  This medicine will help prevent swelling along with reducing pain.  I recommend that 600-800 mg is taken either prior to surgery or prior to the local anesthetic wearing off. Be sure to have some food in your stomach when taking this medicine – it can upset stomachs.  This is your “baseline” pain medication. 
  • ACETAMINOPHEN with HYDROCODONE (Vicodin) - is a narcotic pain reliever and can be taken in addition to the Ibuprofen, if there is still discomfort.  Since acetaminophen with hydrocodone can cause drowsiness, it is best taken before bedtime, if needed.
  • CHLORHEXIDENE mouthrinse - This is an antibacterial and antiseptic mouthrinse that should be used the day AFTER surgery. This mouthrinse will keep the surgical area clean while it healing.  Rinse twice daily for 30 seconds and then do not rinse or eat for one hour.

WHAT NOT TO DO:  For the next several days, do NOT spit, smoke, rinse hard, drink through a straw, create a “sucking” action in your mouth, use a commercial mouthwash, drink carbonated soda, or use an oral irrigating device.


​If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office.  We are more than happy to assist you and make sure you are making a comfortable recovery.

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