Let’s start here: everyone knows and agrees that smoking is not good for your health. Even as a smoker you cannot avoid this knowledge. What many people don’t know is how challenging it is to quit smoking or otherwise change that habit. There is a good reason for this. Smoking is highly addictive, with some researchers comparing it to addiction to cocaine or heroin. So even if you know the dangers and have the best intentions, we get that it can be really hard to simply stop. Take this time as an opportunity to quit, but if you do continue know that smoking after tooth extraction brings with it additional challenges that are important to know before your procedure.
What are the major dangers of smoking after tooth extraction?
The major danger of smoking after tooth extraction is also the most painful one: dry sockets. When a tooth is extracted, the underlying nerves are exposed. In the 24 hours after extraction, these nerves are covered and protected by a blood clot that forms automatically.
If this clot is dislodged before the extraction wound heals (or does not form in the first place), the result is dry sockets. Signs of dry sockets include:
- Extreme pain in the days after extraction
- Radiating pain felt in the ears, eyes, neck, and head
- Bone that is visible in the wound
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
The defining characteristic of dry sockets is pain that some patients compare to childbirth.
To be fair, dry sockets can occur even in non-smokers. The clot may become dislodged by a bit of food or a toothbrush, too.
Regardless of the cause, the loss of the blood clot delays the healing process and could also lead to a dangerous infection if bacteria enters the extraction site.
Further, smoking in general inhibits the body’s healing response, so it may take a bit longer to heal from your extraction, even if you do not smoke directly after surgery.
When can I smoke after tooth extraction?
Although it is difficult to give precise times for tooth extraction smoking, there are some general guidelines. A clot will typically form in the first 24 hours after extraction; if you can avoid smoking for at least that long, it’s a good start but longer is always better.
The clot will gradually dissolve as the extraction wound heals. By the time your stitches come out, the clot will typically be gone and smoking will be safer at that point. Most extraction wounds heal within seven to ten days.
The short answer is this: the longer you can avoid smoking after extraction, the better!
Smoking after tooth extraction: 6 more dos and don’ts
If smoking after tooth extraction is inevitable for you, here are three more dos (and three don’ts) to make it as safe as it can possibly be.
Do #1: Talk to your dentist before your extraction
Your dentist should be aware that you are a smoker before they proceed with your extraction. It’s important that they are aware of all factors that could impact the healing process.
Your dentist may also have some ideas about how to smoke safely (or suggest different approaches overall), or they may send you home with ideas about how to protect the clot after extraction if you know you will smoke.
Do #2: Consider other alternatives
There are alternatives to smoking that will be safer after tooth extraction.
Patches, gums tucked into your cheek, and gummies may be better choices. None of these come with the sucking action of smoking which is the biggest risk for a dry socket.
Do #3: Think of this as a smoking time out
Maybe you are not ready to quit smoking (and studies suggest that if you’re not ready quitting is less likely to work).
Instead of thinking about quitting, consider this a break from smoking. Keep reading to get some tips to make that easier.
And now the don’ts:
Don’t #1: Don’t replace traditional smoking with vaping
The potentially harmful action shared by traditional smoking, vaping, and e-cigarettes – suction – is why you should avoid them after extraction.
Vaping after tooth extraction (and e-cigs) has the same suction of traditional smoking that can cause the clot to dislodge. This suction is the same reason you should stay away from straws during healing, too.
Don’t #2: Don’t try to hide your smoking from your dentist
You may think that it’s not relevant, or you may be trying to avoid another lecture about smoking. We understand that, too. There is a way to talk to your dentist to let them know without receiving another lecture.
Consider this, “I just want to let you know that I am a smoker, and I would like some ideas about how to manage that as safely as possible after my extraction.” They need to know to provide the very best care they can.
Don’t #3: Don’t ignore other postoperative care directions
If you are going to smoke, it is even more crucial that you follow your dentist’s instructions for caring for your blood clot.
These include oral hygiene, foods to avoid (and those that are good to eat), and how to gradually ease back into your routine.
Resources to quit smoking
Quitting smoking is hard, but if you’re ready, here are some places to start:
- Ten tips for quitting smoking
- Follow the START method
- Get some support
- Tailor your plan: If you are a woman, a veteran, a teen, a Spanish-speaker, or a smoker over 60, find tailored plans and support for you
Smoking after extraction takes a fairly common dental procedure and complicates things a bit. At AZ Dentist, your overall health is of paramount importance, but we understand quitting is hard. Our compassionate dentists in Phoenix are here to guide you through the whole procedure, from start to finish.
Get in touch today to discuss all of your options for a safer extraction.