After Tooth Extractions
There are a number of reasons that your dentist might recommend a tooth extraction. Some dental patients suffer from tooth decay; others need to remove teeth hindering orthodontic treatment, whereas various patients simply need wisdom teeth removal. While a tooth extraction can be a serious dental procedure, aftercare is just as critical as the procedure itself. As the dental patient, it is important to understand that pain and the risk of infection can be lessened with proper care.
Care immediately following surgery:
Continue to bite on gauze for 30 minutes after leaving the office. Keeping pressure will help a clot to form. After 30 minutes take out the piece of gauze and if you can see the extraction site check to see if it has stopped bleeding. If it hasn’t, then take out another clean piece of gauze and fold it and continue to bite for another 30 minutes. RELAX—avoid exercise for 24 hours. Leave the area alone. Try not to bite on that side or let your tongue irritate the site. Avoid smoking and no drinking through straws. The sucking action can dislodge the clot causing the area to be exposed. 24 hours from the time of extraction, a salt water rinse can be preformed to help keep the area clean, which will speed up the recovery process. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt with 8 oz of warm water. Gently swish around and then stand over the sink and let the solution gently fall out. Do Not Spit. Things to know:
- For discomfort, take whatever you normally take for a headache, Advil or Tylenol. Unless otherwise directed. DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN.
- Diet – Cold or lukewarm liquids for the first 4-6 hours. After that, any soft food can be eaten on the opposite side of the extraction site.
- Bleeding – It is normal for the saliva to be streaked with blood for a day. If, after biting on gauze, the site continues to bleed then take a tea bag and wet it a little and bite on the tea bag. The tannic acid in tea has a clotting effect.
- Swelling and Discolouration – Ice packs can be applied to the face during the first 4-6 hours only, alternating 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
- Stitches – If present, they will dissolve on their own within about 5 days or a little longer, unless otherwise told. Dr. Sumner will let you know if you have stitches present.
After your tooth has been extracted, healing will take some time. Within 3 to 14 days, your sutures should fall out or dissolve. For sutures that are non-resorbable, your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment to remove the stitches for you. Your tooth’s empty socket will gradually fill in with bone over time and smooth over with adjacent tissues.
Possible complications after a tooth extraction
Bleeding – Bleeding after a tooth extraction is entirely normal. A pinkish tinted saliva and subtle oozing is fairly common during the first 36 hours. If bleeding gets excessive, control it by using dampened gauze pads and biting down to keep pressure on the area. As an alternative to gauze pads, a moistened tea bag can be used, as the tannic acid helps blood vessels contract. Apply pressure to the gauze or tea bag by gently biting down for 30 minutes. Please remember that raised tempers, sitting upright, and exercise can all increase blood flow to the head, which can cause excess bleeding. Try to avoid these as much as possible. If your bleeding does not reduce after 48 hours, please call the practice.
Bone sequestra (dead tooth fragments) – Some patients have small sharp tooth fragments that were unable to be completely removed during surgery. During the recovery period, these dead bone fragments, or bone sequestra, slowly work themselves through the gums as a natural healing process. This can be a little painful until the sequestra are removed so please call our practice immediately if you notice any sharp fragments poking through the surgery site.
Dry socket – In the days that follow your tooth extraction, pain should gradually subside. Rarely, patients report that pain increases to a throbbing unbearable pain that shoots up towards the ear. Often this is a case of dry socket. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot becomes irritated and ousted before healing is complete. Food and debris can then get into the socket causing irritation. Tobacco users and women taking oral contraceptives are at a higher risk of getting dry socket. Dry socket is not an infection but does require a visit to our office. If you think you may be suffering from dry socket, please contact the practice immediately.
Lightheadedness – Because you may have been fasting prior to surgery, your blood sugar levels may be lower than normal. Until your body has had the chance to catch up and process some sugars, you should remember to stand up slowly when getting up from a relaxed position. For somewhat immediate relief, try eating something soft and sugary, stay in a relaxed position, and reduce the elevation of your head.
Numbness – Many patients report still feeling numb hours after their tooth extraction procedure. An extended lack of feeling around the mouth is normal and can last 10-12 hours after surgery.
Swelling – Swelling should subside almost entirely within 10 days after surgery. Immediately following your tooth extraction, apply an ice pack to the facial areas near the extraction. Continue using the ice in 15 minute intervals for the first 36 hours. After 36 hours, ice will no longer be beneficial in reducing swelling and moist heat should be used instead. To decrease swelling, apply a warm damp cloth to the sides of your face.
Trismus (difficulty opening and closing mouth) – If you experience a sore jaw and difficulty chewing or swallowing, do not be alarmed. Occasionally patients’ chewing muscles and jaw joints remain sore 3-5 days after surgery. This soreness can also make it difficult to open and close your mouth. Soreness should eventually subside.
If you have any worries, or are experiencing any complications not mentioned, please contact our practice immediately so that we may address your concerns.