Tooth Extraction After-Care
Having a tooth removed can be a stressful for most people. While the procedure itself should be painless, thanks to successful use of local anesthetic, the days (and sometimes weeks) following the extraction can be pretty uncomfortable. Knowing how to care for an extraction site is an essential part to managing that discomfort well.
In this week’s blog, we will explain the things you need to know if you or a loved one are facing a tooth extraction.
What is the Healing Process for a Tooth Extraction?
When we remove a tooth from its place in the jawbone, the result is an empty socket where the tooth’s roots used to be. The tooth extraction causes bleeding and acute inflammation, which includes swelling, redness, and pain. The bleeding is a good thing, though. As the blood fills the socket, it forms a clot that protects the underlying jawbone. Many of the after-care instructions aim to preserve this clot in the socket during the first week after a tooth extraction.
Over the next two to three weeks, the gum tissues surrounding the extraction socket begin to grow together in order to cover the socket. The gum healing is essential to sealing the underlying socket from any bacteria present in the mouth. Once the gums close over the socket, the risk for infection is minimal.
Over the following six to eight months, the underlying jawbone slowly grows inward into the socket, filling in the empty space left by the missing tooth roots. Your dentist can monitor this healing through dental x-rays. In some cases, we can promote bone growth through the use of grafting materials placed into the socket immediately following a tooth extraction.
What Should I Expect after a Tooth Extraction?
We believe that having the correct expectations is vital to managing extraction after-care well. When you know to expect certain things, you do not panic and assume something is wrong.
It is normal for the extraction site to bleed relatively heavily for the first day. When you leave the office, you will have gauze to bite on, which will absorb any blood and aid in clot formation. The more active you are, the more bleeding you should expect.
Some people will experience minor oozing of blood for up to forty-eight hours following an extraction. Any bleeding that lasts for longer than forty-eight hours requires a follow-up visit with the treating doctor.
The extraction procedure will cause pain, and many people have compounded pain from an existing dental infection. The extraction is the first step in the healing process, and it is normal to experience moderate pain for up to ten days. Most people experience moderate-to-severe pain in the first two days, which they manage with pain relieving medication. The severity of the pain should slowly diminish over the first week.
The more difficult a tooth extraction is, the more pain you can expect afterward.
A “Hole” in Your Gums
It takes time for the gum tissues to grow together over the socket, and in the meantime, you will feel an actual hole in your mouth. It is important to leave it alone and not be exploring it with your tongue, fingers or any type of instrument. The more you mess with it, the more slowly it will heal.
We know that it can be annoying to have small food particles being caught in the socket. Do not attempt to remove anything with fingers or tools. If it does not come out with a gentle mouthrinse, just leave it. Your gums will not heal over a foreign body. It will come out on its own eventually.
What are the Most Important Steps to Take Following a Tooth Extraction?
You can minimize the risk for post-operative complications following a tooth extraction and enjoy less discomfort by taking these steps.
1. Follow your doctor’s specific post-operative instructions.
Your treating doctor knows the details of your tooth’s condition prior to extraction and the difficulty of the extraction procedure itself. This means that he or she is the best one to recommend specific steps to help you heal most quickly. Your doctor may recommend something that you did not do following a prior tooth extraction. Follow the instructions to the letter. They are custom-made for your unique situation.
2. Strictly avoid four things: straws, smoking, soda, and alcohol.
The most common and most painful complication following a tooth extraction is a condition commonly called “dry socket”. In this condition, the clot that should be in the socket is missing, exposing the underlying bone to the oral environment. We know that a few habits greatly increase the risk for dry socket.
Smoking and drinking through straws create a suction in the mouth that can pull the clot out of the socket. Carbonated drinks and alcohol can chemically dissolve the clot. Avoid all of these things to protect and preserve the clot in the socket.
3. Take medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them on the schedule stated on the instructions, and take until they are all gone. These instructions are not recommendations. They are a prescription to fight infection. When you do not follow the instructions properly, you risk the return of infection, increased post-op pain, and delayed healing.
4. Stay ahead of the pain.
It is easier to prevent pain from ever starting than to relieve it after it begins. Your doctor will recommend a schedule of pain relieving medications, even if they are simply over-the-counter pills like Advil and Tylenol. It is important to take these on the recommended schedule for the first two to three days to stay ahead of the pain.
What Can I Do to Promote Fast Healing and Minimize Pain?
Your overall health has a large impact on how well and how quickly you heal from any procedure, including a tooth extraction. Follow these recommendations to help maintain a healthy immune system, which will enable you to heal as quickly as possible.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
What you eat matters! We know that it is tempting to stick to an ice cream and popsicles diet after a tooth extraction. Unfortunately, that diet will not help you heal. In fact, it will slow down the healing process. Eat a healthy diet that is balanced in proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Sugar actually feeds inflammation. In order to promote healthy healing, we have to fight inflammation, and one of the best ways to do that is by avoiding sugar. This includes simple carbohydrates, like chips, bread, and sweets. Avoid high sugar beverages, like sodas and sports drinks. By cutting back on your sugar intake, you can reduce inflammation and heal more quickly.
Drink Plenty of Water (and Nothing Else)
Hydration is also important to the healing process. Drinks that have caffeine, alcohol, or high sugar content actually dehydrate you. You should drink as much plain water as possible. Dehydration is a condition that makes it much more difficult to fight inflammation in the body. Support your immune system by staying well hydrated.
Get a Little Sunshine
A little time in the sun each day also promotes a healthy immune system. Vitamin D is a vitamin we receive through exposure to sunshine, and it boosts our ability to fight inflammation and infection. We do mean “a little”, though. You do not need more than fifteen to twenty minutes of direct sun exposure to obtain a healthy amount of vitamin D.
More Questions about Tooth Extraction After-Care?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location to schedule a visit with one of our dental experts. We can answer any question you have about tooth extractions and the follow-up care they require.