Tooth extraction is a very common course of action to treat a range of dental concerns, including decayed, damaged, or overcrowded teeth. Though the details of your tooth removal procedure may differ depending on your dental needs and the complexity of your treatment plan, proactively caring for the extraction site and your overall oral health after the procedure is essential to quick healing and a reduced risk of complications.
Why is Tooth Removal Aftercare Important?
Aftercare will begin at your dentist’s office immediately following your tooth extraction procedure. Following removal, your dentist will place gauze at the extraction site to control bleeding and help with blood clotting. The formation of a blood clot in the space where your removed tooth once sat is an extremely important first step in the healing process.
A blood clot at the extraction site protects the bone and nerve endings that would otherwise be exposed. Proper formation of a blood clot also protects against one of the most common, entirely preventable tooth removal complications – dry socket. This occurs when the blood clot becomes dislodged from the socket, thus exposing the bone and nerve endings that sat below the extracted tooth.
Dry socket can cause severe pain, fever, and may require further treatment. Following the aftercare tips shared below will help you protect the socket and make sure that healing takes place in the way that it should. Ultimately, proper tooth extraction aftercare promotes faster recovery and minimizes the amount of discomfort and pain felt after your procedure. Though your dental team will act as a resource for you to optimize comfort and healing following your tooth extraction, below are 9 tips that will guide you as you care for your extraction wound.
9 Tips For a Speedy Recovery After Tooth Extraction or Wisdom Teeth Removal
- Apply Pressure to the Extraction Site — As mentioned above, an important step of tooth extraction aftercare involves promoting clotting. The gauze placed over the removal site should be kept in place long enough for heavy bleeding to stop, at least a few hours. Alternatively, a moistened tea bag can be used to help with clotting since the tannic acid in tea facilitates the contraction of the blood vessels.
- Proactive Protection of the Extraction Site — Part of proper aftercare practices involves protecting the blood clot that acts as a layer of protection for exposed bone and nerve endings in the treated socket. Limiting talking, eating, and drinking for the first few hours following extraction will aid in this process. Spitting and drinking through a straw should be avoided for the first three days to avoid accidentally dislodging or dissolving the blood clot.
- Minimize Pain — As the anesthetic wears off, feeling some pain is to be expected. Your dentist may suggest over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to minimize post-procedure discomfort. Taking these as directed will help you to stay ahead of the pain in the first few days after your tooth removal.
- Reduce Swelling — In the hours and days immediately following your tooth extraction, swelling may occur around the tooth socket. This is completely normal. Applying a cold compress to your cheek or jawline for the first 24 to 48 hours after your tooth removal can help to minimize the swelling, bruising, and discomfort that might occur. Try applying the ice pack for 10 minutes, removing it for 5, then repeating as needed.
- Prioritize Rest — Another important tip involves rest! Rest up for at least the 24 hours following your tooth extraction. While many routine activities can be resumed after this time, taking it easy and avoiding overly-strenuous activities or exercise for at least the first 7 days can help you continue to protect the extraction site and speed up healing. Exercising too soon after your tooth extraction may lead to additional bleeding. When resting, elevate your head, positioning it to a higher level than the rest of your body. This will help to reduce swelling and bleeding.
- Stay Hydrated — Drinking plenty of fluids is another tip that will keep you feeling comfortable and aid in the recovery process. However, it’s important to remember that drinking through a straw should be avoided in the days after an extraction, as the suctioning involved can disturb the blood clot, removing it from its place in the tooth socket. For the first 24-48 hours following surgery, also avoid consuming hot or caffeinated liquids.
- Eat Soft Foods Only — Sticking to a soft diet is important in the week after your procedure. Hard, hot, sticky, or chewy foods may irritate the healing gums and/or affect the formed blood clot. Opt for foods like soups, mashed potatoes, pudding, yogurt, or ice cream. Over the next three days, you may gradually reintroduce solid foods, though continuing to avoid anything that is overly hard, hot, or spicy while your wound is still healing. Stay away from foods like popcorn, peanuts, or chips that may puncture the healing socket or disturb the clotted wound.
- Stay Away From Alcohol and Tobacco — Alcohol and tobacco use may delay healing if consumed in the first 7 days following your tooth extraction. It’s important to avoid consuming either of these substances to protect the wound and facilitate faster recovery.
- Practice Good Oral Hygiene —While positive oral hygiene remains an essential part of your overall oral health and gum healing, it’s important to practice these habits carefully. When brushing your teeth, do so gently with a soft-bristled manual toothbrush, remaining extra attentive when brushing around the extraction site. In the first few days post-procedure, brushing too close to the extraction site should be avoided altogether. You may gently rinse your mouth 24 hours after surgery with a saltwater rinse but resist the urge to rinse vigorously for at least 7 days.
When To Contact Your Dentist
While each of the above tips will help in the healing process, as with any oral surgery procedure, the possibility for complications does exist. For tooth extraction, the healing process typically requires 1-2 weeks. Immediately following the removal of your tooth, it’s normal to experience some pain, bleeding, and swelling. Over the next couple of days after your procedure, these symptoms should subside, with the pain and swelling significantly improving. It’s important to be aware of potential side effects and when these symptoms require a follow up with your dentist. If you experience any of the following, call your dentist for further instruction.
- Pain and swelling that gets continuously worse
- Severe pain that worsens over time
- Continued bleeding
- High fever
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abnormal drainage from the tooth socket
At Champions Dental, our team goes above and beyond to make tooth extraction as seamless and comfortable as possible. If you require a tooth removal or wisdom tooth extraction, contact Champions Dental today to discuss your options and schedule a consultation.