For adults, tooth extraction happens for a number of different reasons. Some of the most common reasons for tooth extraction include:
- Extensive tooth decay or infection
- Periodontal disease
- Preparation for orthodontics
- Crowded teeth
- Injury or trauma to the tooth that results in a necrotic tooth
- Emergency tooth extraction
Whether you plan a tooth extraction or you are facing an emergency tooth extraction, tooth extraction aftercare is important. Follow these eight dos and don’ts to promote safe and proper healing.
Tooth extraction aftercare: the first 24 hours
In the first 24 hours of tooth extraction aftercare, the key is to rest and treat swelling and pain before they get out of control.
Here are some commonly asked questions for the first 24 hours after a tooth extraction. While these are general guidelines, always follow the more specific guidance your dentist provides, as these suggestions may change slightly depending on your exact condition and risk factors.
How do I take care of the extraction site?
Do: Apply gauze and gentle pressure
After your extraction is complete, your dentist will pack the extraction site with gauze. They will have you apply gentle pressure to the wound. This stops the bleeding and allows a clot to form over the extraction site.
In some cases, biting on a cold teabag can also help stop the bleeding. Black tea has tannins that help with clotting.
Apply gauze for at least one hour after your tooth extraction, changing it every half hour (or more if bleeding is heavy). The longer you apply pressure, the better, so apply gauze for longer if you can manage it.
Don’t: Mess with the extraction site
Resist the urge to continually check your extraction site.
Applying even, gentle pressure to the wound helps ensure proper clotting. If you remove the gauze and peek too often, the wound may not clot as quickly.
Can I drink fluids?
Do: Drink plenty of water
Many patients are understandably nervous about putting anything in their mouth after tooth extraction. Staying hydrated helps your body to heal.
Drink plenty of water in small sips as you rest throughout the day.
Don’t: Use a straw
An extracted tooth leaves a hole in the gum. In the first 24 hours, your body will rush to create a clot to seal the extraction site, blocking bacteria and giving the gum time to heal. Anything that creates suction can dislodge the clot, potentially resulting in dry sockets. For this reason, do not use straws at any point during the first 24 hours.
Any suction in the first three to four days can dislodge the clot, so no straws, no smoking, no gum, and no hard candy.
How do I manage pain and decrease risk of infection?
Many patients worry that the pain of tooth extraction will be difficult to manage or that the extraction site will become infected. Some tooth extractions may involve cutting into the gums, which can increase the chance of infection. There are ways to minimize both the pain and the risk of infection.
Do: Use a multi-pronged approach
Your dentist may prescribe prescription painkillers or antibiotics for at least the first days after the extraction. Take all medications as prescribed. In some cases, you can taper off pain medications after the first 24 hours and switch to anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.
Swelling in the first 24 hours can also cause pain. Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the face for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off for the first 24 hours to minimize swelling. Frozen peas or corn can also be used as icepacks.
Don’t: Ignore your doctor’s instructions
You may be tempted to ignore your doctor’s instructions, especially if you are not in pain or you don’t feel like you need antibiotics.
This is a bad idea for tooth extraction aftercare.
Pain can sneak up after the anesthetic wears off, and infection is easier to prevent than to treat. Follow directions and always finish all courses of antibiotics, if prescribed.
How much activity is too much?
Do: Rest completely for 24 hours
Tooth extraction can be major surgery, especially if the teeth are impacted. It is best to rest completely for the first 24 hours after your procedure. Load up on books, queue up some movies, and relax on the couch or in bed for a full 24 hours afterwards.
Don’t: Overdo it for the next 24
With busy lives and families, patients sometimes hop up off the couch after their required 24-hour rest period and resume their normal activity levels.
This can cause an increase in pain and perhaps even bleeding. Ease back into your normal activity levels over a week’s time.
Tooth extraction aftercare: the next 24 hours
In the 48 hours after your tooth extraction, your swelling decreases, pain becomes more manageable, and you can gradually begin to increase activity levels. Here are more dos and don’ts for this time period.
Again, always follow your dentist’s guidance.
How do I clean my mouth?
Do: Practice good dental hygiene
After 24 hours have passed, gently swish the mouth with salt water to clean the extraction site. Do not use any suction to do this. You can return to brushing the teeth surrounding the extraction site, but go slowly and carefully.
Don’t: Brush vigorously
Brushing and flossing are a crucial part of good oral hygiene, but too much of a good thing can dislodge the clot and send you back to square one.
Be gentle with yourself, not only for the first 48 hours but for the days following until the extraction site is completely healed. If you’re unsure, ask your dentist or give their clinic a call in the days following the procedure.
What can I eat?
Do: Focus on soft foods first
In the days following tooth extraction, soft or liquid foods are best.
As your pain decreases and the numbness wears off, focus on soups, smoothies, and soft vegetables or cereals, gradually increasing textures as the week wears on.
Don’t: Chew anything in the first 48 hours
Residual numbness from the extraction can make chewing dangerous. Opening and closing the jaw too wide can also cause the clot to dislodge.
Also avoid spicy or overly hot food, for obvious reasons. Continue to avoid hard or chewy snacks, such as hard candies or pretzels.
Tooth extraction aftercare: the rest of the week
As the week following tooth extraction continues, you will begin to feel better and gradually return to your normal activities. Take this time to make some permanent changes as you continue caring for your extraction site.
When can I return to normal activity?
Do: Quit smoking and gradually increase activity levels
Smoking is a no-no in the days following tooth extraction, so why not make this a permanent change? If you can make it past the first three days, keep going. Replace the urge to smoke with a walk around the block. Your whole body will be grateful.
Don’t: Ignore warning signs
If you are experiencing chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, redness in the extraction site, or an increase in pain any time after your tooth extraction, call your dentist immediately.
If you need a weekend dentist in the Phoenix area to schedule your extraction (or an emergency dentist for an unscheduled one!), get in touch with AZ Dentist today!