Tooth extractions are a dental necessity for many patients. While we will do everything in our power to avoid tooth removal, there are times when it’s the only viable option to improve your dental health.
We may recommend an extraction if:
- The tooth is impacted and causes significant pain or discomfort (third molar extractions are common)
- Overcrowding can only be solved with a tooth removal
- Significant trauma to the tooth occurs
- Gum disease leads to a severely loose tooth
- Decay has led to the loss of tooth structure to the point that even a root canal cannot help
Proper post-operative care following the extraction can help your gums heal without any major complications in the process. We recommend that all of our patients read through and follow the post-op instructions below.
Post-Operative Instructions for Tooth Extractions
If you want to have an incident-free tooth removal, there are things that you need to do once you leave our office.
What to Do Immediately After the Extraction
Immediately, you need to avoid:
- Using straws as they can cause your tooth to lose its blood clot, leading to serious pain
- Spitting. Instead, use a tissue to wipe your mouth
- Smoking or drinking alcohol can delay gum healing
- Touching the surgical area with your tongue or fingers
- Blowing your nose (if you had upper teeth extracted)
If your procedure required us to place sutures (it’s common), you can be confident that we used dissolvable sutures. Unless we mention otherwise, you can expect the sutures to dissolve in just 4-10 days.
In the event that the sutures do not come out on their own or they’re not dissolvable, you’ll need to come back to our office to have them removed.
If You Were Sedated or Under General Anesthesia
Anesthesia or sedation is only necessary for a small percentage of tooth extractions, but when it is, you’ll want to be sure that:
- An adult is available to help you for the rest of the day
- You have some time off after the extraction
If You Experience Swelling
Swelling after a tooth extraction is common and often not a cause for concern. You’ve undergone a major dental procedure, and your body is reacting in the most natural way possible.
Some patients have mild swelling, and others have more intense swelling.
You can expect the swelling to last 48 hours before it begins to subside. You may have swelling at the site of the extraction for 4 to 5 days before it goes down. In addition, you may also have some bruising that presents a few days after the removal.
We recommend that you follow the steps below to minimize swelling and bruising:
- Apply an ice pack to the area for 15 minutes and remove for 10 minutes before applying again. Don’t forget to place a towel over the ice pack and to avoid direct contact on the skin.
- Apply ice before bed to help lower the swelling before you go to bed. Be cautious not to sleep with the ice pack applied to your face.
- Elevate your head above your heart, which is easy to do with pillows. If you keep your head higher than your heart to help reduce swelling.
- After the first two days of using ice, you can use a heated towel to encourage the swelling to go down. You can put the towel under hot water to heat it prior to application, or use a heating pad if you have one.
If you have severe swelling or it’s not improving after the third day, be sure to call our office. We’ll examine you to ensure that your extraction site is healing properly and that there’s no sign of an infection.
If You Experience Bleeding
It’s very common to experience some bleeding after a surgical tooth extraction. Most patients will find that the bleeding subsides relatively quickly - usually within 1-2 hours after the surgery.
You may notice some oozing, and that’s perfectly normal. Oozing can last several hours.
If you’re experiencing bleeding:
- Make sure that you’re keeping the gauze on the extraction site for about 35 minutes and that you’re biting down to apply some pressure.
- After 35 minutes, remove the gauze and replace it with a fresh, clean one if you are still bleeding. Make sure that the gauze is sitting directly on the surgical site. You may need to apply more pressure to stop the bleeding. We’ll provide gauze to take home with you.
- If the extraction site is still bleeding after three rounds of gauze, try using a tea bag. The tannic acid in the tea bag can help with clotting and stopping the bleeding.
- If you’re still bleeding at this point, call our office.
It’s normal to experience some bleeding after an extraction, but if you have any concerns, call our office or seek medical attention.
What to Eat While Recovering
After an extraction, it’s important to eat the right foods so that you can avoid complications and discomfort. The extraction site will be very tender and vulnerable at first. For this reason, it’s important to eat soft foods, such as:
- Ice cream
- Cool or lukewarm mashed potatoes
- Cottage cheese
- Lukewarm soup
- Scrambled eggs
Wait until the local anesthetic has worn off before you try eating anything. Most patients crave ice cream and cool water on the first day. The cooler temperature can help ease swelling and discomfort.
For the first week or two after surgery:
- Avoid drinking through a straw
- Avoid eating crunchy foods like nuts, popcorn or chips
We also recommend avoiding carbonated beverages for at least a few days after the surgery. Make sure that you’re eating nourishing foods and staying hydrated. Drinking water and eating healthy foods will help make the healing process as smooth as possible.
Again, it’s important to avoid:
- Drinking alcohol
How to Care for Your Oral Health While Healing From an Extraction
Extractions can complicate your oral hygiene routine, but it’s important to continue taking care of your teeth and gums as you heal.
Give your body a rest for the first 24 hours. You can start rinsing with warm salt water after the first day, but it is crucial to be gentle. Continue with these gentle rinses after each meal for the first week.
Note: Avoid using any mouth rinses that contain alcohol for a week or two.
Make sure that you also continue to brush your teeth. Be as gentle as possible and avoid the surgical site.
Be very careful when spitting or rinsing after brushing your teeth. If you’re too forceful, you could dislodge the clot and increase the risk of dry socket.
Be as gentle as possible until your mouth has had more time to heal.
If you find that food is getting lodged in the socket, don’t use a toothbrush or Waterpik to remove it. When you come in for your follow-up appointment, we’ll help you rinse and give you instructions to follow.
Take Medications as Directed
Following an extraction, we may prescribe one or more medications. These medications will help fight or prevent infection and help make the healing process a little more comfortable.
It’s important to take your medications as directed.
- Pain Medication: During the first 24 hours, we may recommend taking pain medication every 4-6 hours. After the first day, you may take these meds as needed or as otherwise directed.
- Antibiotics: If we prescribe antibiotics, make sure that you finish the bottle. If you stop taking antibiotics too early, you put yourself at risk of infection and other complications.
If these medications are causing severe side effects, like diarrhea or nausea, please contact our office to schedule an appointment and look for alternative solutions.
Ease Back into Activity
After a tooth extraction, it’s important to give your body adequate time to heal before you get back into your exercise routine.
If you’re taking narcotic pain medication, wait until you have finished your prescription before resuming your normal activities. If you’re still not feeling up to it, give your body more time to rest and recover.
When resuming recreational activities or exercise, go easy at first. Gradually increase your activity level over the next several days until you’re back to your normal routine. We do ask that you refrain from any heavy lifting for a few days.
The key most important thing is that you avoid loosening the blood clot that forms in the root’s socket at all costs. Strenuous activity can increase blood flow, causing the clot to dislodge and leading to significant pain.
Allowing your mouth to heal for a week or so will allow you to ease back into most of your normal activities. In just two weeks, you should be back to eating and doing the activities that you love.
Extractions don’t have to be a painful experience. Following the post-operative instructions above will make healing as comfortable as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns about your extraction, please contact our office. We’ll be happy to help and, hopefully, put your mind at ease.