What should you do after a tooth extraction?

Know what to expect after a tooth extraction.

Getting a tooth pulled can often seem like a harrowing experience. After all, a lot of people would prefer to avoid the dentist if possible. However, if a tooth is in a condition in which extraction is the best course of action – to prevent infection, pain and further decay – then going to the dentist is certainly the best decision you can make. Extracting wisdom teeth, too, is a necessary, natural surgery.

In the days leading up to a tooth extraction, you'll speak with your dentist on what to expect and any precautions you should take. After, you'll have a few marching orders to ensure you're doing everything in your power to properly heal the affected area and protect against the risk of infection.

Here are several things you should keep in mind if you get one or more teeth pulled:

Rest and take medication

Your dentist team will prescribe medication to help with the pain immediately following the procedure. This prescription may last several days or weeks, and can be adjusted or re-upped under the guidance of your dentist. The key thing is that you stick to the schedule on the prescription and follow additional steps on your path to full recovery.

Those include plenty of rest, especially in the first 24 hours, as you may still be a little groggy or impaired from anaesthesia. Take a few days off work, if possible, or try to schedule your extraction later in the week so you can spend time during the weekend recovering.

Avoid intense physical activity or any sort of movement that could dislodge the blood clot forming in your socket. That clot will help the healing process and prevent continual bleeding, which is important in the first hours post-extraction.

Eat only soft foods, or drink liquids

Eventually you'll need to eat and drink something. Just be sure that you're forgoing hard, crunchy or chewy foods that require moderate or excessive pulling or grinding of your teeth. Additionally, physical foods that break into pieces can become lodged in your socket, disrupting healing and causing more problems with infection.

Instead, try yoghurt, soups, puddings or smoothies (without seeds). You can also try to get calories from liquids, whether that's broth or liquefied foods.

Sleep with your head slightly elevated

Avoid falling asleep entirely prostrate. Lying completely flat will impact blood flow and potentially slow down the clotting and healing process. Prop up your head with a few pillows so you're mouth is inclined and saliva and blood don't pool.

Be careful with brushing and flossing

You likely won't need to floss as usual in the first few days after an extraction, especially if you're only drinking liquids. Flossing too aggressively near the impact area can cause unnecessary inflammation.

You should still gently brush your teeth, though, with special care given to the extraction area. Brush around the socket and don't forcefully spit out toothpaste or water. As mentioned before, any sort of sudden, impactful movement or suction can negatively affect the socket.

Don't rinse out your mouth

While gargling salt water several days after an extraction may be permissible, and help with keeping the area clean, avoid doing so immediately after the procedure. Rinsing out your mouth and spitting into the sink can prevent necessary clots from forming, stalling the healing process.

Use gauze or clean cotton if bleeding persists

Though bleeding is likely to wane in the hours and days post-extraction, you may encounter more blood than expected when removing existing gauze or after eating. You can gently replace the gauze to stanch the bleeding, but be careful each time you remove it, as you don't want it to crust and stick to your teeth or gums.

Use ice sparingly

Because the tissue around and beneath the gums has been surgically manipulated during the procedure, it will need time to recover. Using an ice pack can be useful in short increments, like 15 minutes at a time. Keeping ice on the area for longer than that may cause further tissue damage.

Be on the lookout for signs of a dry socket

A dry socket can be painful and send you right back to the dentist. The hole, or socket, left behind from the tooth extraction is essentially an open wound. Food debris that gets lodged in this socket may cause inflammation or infection because the nerve endings and jaw bone are unprotected and at easy risk of being damaged.

Follow the steps above to avoid getting a dry socket, so you can heal faster and avoid as much discomfort as possible.

For more information on tooth extractions, or to speak with a team member at City Dentists, call 04 978 4964 or book an appointment online.