Tips for Recovering from a Tooth Extraction
Preparing for a tooth extraction? No need to worry. Here are some helpful aftercare tips to ensure a smooth recovery.
Common Reasons for Tooth Extraction
There are many reasons why dentists will recommend the removal of a tooth such as impacted wisdom teeth or crowding.
In the case of wisdom teeth, your dentist will recommend extraction if they are not growing in straight. This can cause discomfort as well as interfere with the overall health of your mouth. Crooked teeth can force the rest of your teeth to shift, causing discomfort, bite problems, and even affect the appearance of your smile.
Other reasons for extraction may include excessive tooth decay, an abscessed or infected tooth, and crowding. In some cases, the removal of one or more teeth may be necessary in preparation for braces to make room for the rest of the teeth to move into place.
The Tooth Extraction Procedure
Your dentist will schedule your extraction ahead of time and ensure that you feel comfortable during your appointment. Depending on the nature and length of the procedure, the dentist will provide numbing anesthetic to prevent any discomfort. They can also provide other forms of sedation depending on your anxiety level.
Stronger sedation is often recommended if you will be having more than one tooth removed or, as in the case of impacted wisdom teeth, the tooth is trapped in the jaw bone. Sedation can range from being completely conscious to fully asleep. The dentist will discuss your options to make sure the proper arrangements are made prior to and during your appointment.
In a basic extraction, the tooth is rocked using an elevator and removed with dental forceps. For molars and impacted teeth, surgical extraction is required. Surgical extraction begins with an incision in the gums following anesthetic. Your dentist will remove gum and bone tissues covering the tooth and use forceps to remove the tooth. Because this is more complex, they will likely recommend general anesthetic to keep you completely comfortable.
The extraction will leave a “socket” that will be packed with gauze to help slow any bleeding. In more severe cases, stitches will be used to seal the incision. The sutures used will dissolve within 10 to 14 days.
Aftercare Following a Tooth Extraction
Healing following an extraction can take from seven to 10 days depending on the severity of the procedure i.e., if stitches were required, and if the tooth was above or below the gumline. The most important step following extraction is to ensure you the blood clot that forms naturally in the socket is kept in place. If dislodged too soon, it will create a dry socket which is very uncomfortable and can lead to infection.
To keep the healing time to a minimum, follow these steps:
- Take prescribed painkillers following your dentist’s instructions
- Do not remove the gauze pad until at least three to four hours after the extraction
- Apply a bag of frozen peas to the jaw on the affected area in 10 minutes intervals.
Although it might feel good, refrain from keeping it on for longer than 10 minutes at a time or it may cause damage to the tissue.
- Depending on the procedure, you may need to take time off work or school following the extraction
- Limit physical activity for a couple of days
- Do not smoke
- Do not lay flat, and prop your head up with pillows when resting or sleeping
- Avoid the extraction area when brushing or flossing
- Do not rinse, use a straw or spit for 24 hours to avoid dislodging the blood clot
Rinsing after a Tooth Extraction
Rinse your mouth with warm water and salt after 24 hours. Boil one cup of water and add a level teaspoon of salt. Allow the water to cool to a warm temperature and then hold the water in your mouth for one minute, swish it around gently, and let the water trickle out of your mouth instead of spitting. It’s messy, yes, but it will be less uncomfortable.
Soft Food Diet
You will have to (and probably want to) avoid solid food for a week during the healing process. Ideal foods include:
- Blended soups
- Scrambled eggs
- Mashed foods such as bananas, potatoes, avocado, etc.
Smoothies are an excellent option as long as you DON’T drink them with a straw!
Pain Management after a Tooth Extraction
It is hard to avoid discomfort and soreness following an extraction. You will most likely have some swelling and even slight bruising on your face. Your dentist will prescribe painkillers to help manage the discomfort and may suggest certain over-the-counter medications. The good news is you can expect to see the discomfort subside and within two to three days you will feel much better!
All should go well as long as you follow the aftercare steps properly. However, if you experience any of the following issues, call your dentist immediately:
- Fresh or continued bleeding after 24 hours
- Pain that is not managed with the prescribed medication
- Abnormal swelling
Your dentist will want to see you as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of infection or manage infection before it progresses.
All in all, you should be fine within a week. You will see new tissue grow at the extraction site and discomfort will disappear.