What to Do After a Tooth Extraction
What to expect following an extraction
After an extraction you may notice some slight bleeding on and off for at least a day. Your face and the extraction area in the mouth may swell up for a few days after too. It is normal to experience some pain and discomfort, particularly when biting on the teeth next to the pulled tooth. Once a tooth is removed there is a hole left in the gums which can take a couple weeks to close over. Depending on the type of extraction your dentist may suture this hole closed. Having a tooth extracted leaves a wound in your mouth where the tooth once was, it is important to keep this area clean.
After the extraction
It is important to not rinse your mouth for 24 hours following an extraction, and you should also avoid touching the extraction site (socket) with your tongue, fingers, or any implement. While a little bleeding is expected, any excessive bleeding can be controlled by placing gauze over the area and biting firmly for around 20-30 minutes. It is best to avoid lying down until the bleeding has settled, and you should avoid exercise for 1-2 days. If you have any pain or discomfort taking pain relief medication regularly should help this.
After day 1
Once 24 hours after your extraction has passed you should start rinsing with warm salty water. To make this mouth rinse, dissolve half a teaspoon of salt into half a cup of warm water. Take a mouthful of the concoction and hold it in your mouth over the extraction site for at least a minute, do this three times a day. You can swirl it gently in your mouth but avoid being too vigorous. Salt water is antimicrobial, and will help keep the socket clean and aid with pain and healing. It is best to use warm water as warming the extraction site helps it heal. If you are having trouble holding the mouth rinse over the extraction site, try tilting your head to that side.
You can start brushing your teeth twice a day again now but be very mindful of the extraction site. It is best to stick to a soft diet and keep on top of pain relief until your pain settles. You can stop the saltwater rinses once it no longer hurts to brush the extraction site. Everyone has different pain tolerances and recover from treatment at different rates, so it is hard to say when you can resume normal activity. However, if your pain persists for more than a week it is recommend you contact your dentist for further advice.
Your dentist may have warned you about the risk of dry socket following an extraction. Normally a blood clot forms to protect the bone and nerves when a tooth is removed. Dry socket occurs in 5% of cases whether the clot either is dislodged or dissolves. When this happens, the bone and nerves become exposed causing severe pain. The pain is intense and can last from several days to a whole week, and usually occurs around three days following an extraction.
A certain amount of pain is expected following an extraction, but it should be diminishing each day. If your pain is becoming worse a couple days after surgery, and is no longer manageable with pain medication, you should contact your dentist. Other signs of dry socket include pain that radiates to your eye, temple, neck, or ear, or being woken in the night due to pain. Dry socket can usually be managed by your dentist to help with pain and continue the healing process.
To avoid dry socket, make sure to keep on top of the saltwater rinses and avoid fiddling with the extraction site. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided while recovering from an extraction. Both cause dryness in the mouth which can compromise the protective blood clot, and the suction action of smoking can dislodge the clot entirely. For the same reason you should also avoid using straws when drinking.
You will want to stick to soft foods for the first through days following an extraction, and it is important to eat on the other side of your mouth away from the extraction site. High calorie high protein intake is the best choice to help you feel better and heal faster. Some good examples are yogurt, eggs, mashed potatoes, and milkshakes/smoothies.
Your solid food intake may be limited while you heal, so you should compensate for this by increasing your fluid intake. Keep hydrated, and make sure to drink at least 5-6 glasses of water daily (remember not to use a straw though).
While healing, it is recommended that you stick to light activities. Strenuous activities and exercise can result in pain and bleeding.