Tooth Extraction is a minor surgical procedure. Therefore, it is natural that temporary changes will occur in the mouth afterward. You’ll be functioning normally within just a few days. In the meantime, you should follow a few simple rules to help promote healing, prevent complications, and make yourself more comfortable.
AT THE DENTIST’S OFFICE
Anesthetics. The length of time you experience numbness varies depending on the type of anesthetic you’ve received. While your mouth is numb, you’ll want to be careful not to bite your cheek, lip, or tongue. The numbness should subside within a few hours.
Healing. Your dentist will place a gauze pack on the extraction site to limit bleeding and confine the blood while clotting takes place. This gauze pack should be left in place for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the dentist’s office. Do not chew on the pack.
There may be some bleeding or oozing after the pack is removed. If so, follow this procedure.
- Fold a piece of clean gauze into a pad thick enough to bite on. Dampen the pad and place directly on the extraction site.
- Apply moderate pressure by closing the teeth firmly over the pad. Maintain this pressure for about 30 minutes. If the pad becomes soaked, replace it with a clean one as necessary.
- Do not suck on the extraction site.
- A slight amount of blood may leak at the extraction site until a clot forms. However, if heavy bleeding continues, call your dentist. (Remember, though, that a lot of saliva and a little blood can look like a lot of bleeding.)
The Blood Clot
After an extraction, a blood clot forms in the tooth socket. This clot is an important part of the normal healing process. You should therefore avoid activities that might disturb the clot. Here’s how to protect it:
- Do not smoke, or rinse your mouth vigorously, or drink through a straw for 24 hours. These activities create suction in the mouth, which could dislodge the clot and delay healing.
- Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day. You should, however, brush and floss your other teeth thoroughly. Gently rinse your mouth afterward.
- Limit strenuous activity for 24 hours after the extraction. This will reduce bleeding and help the blood clot form.
Swelling and Pain
After a tooth is removed, you may have some discomfort and notice some swelling. You can help reduce swelling and pain by applying cold compresses to the face. An ice bag or cold, moist cloth can be used periodically. The dentist may give you specific instructions on how long and how often to use a cold compress. The dentist may also give you a plastic bag of ice to use on your way home from the office.
Your dentist may prescribe medication to control pain and prevent infection. Use only as directed. If the medication prescribed does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. If you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or fever call your dentist immediately. He or she will give you exact instructions on how to care for your problem.
After the extraction, drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods. Avoid alcoholic beverages and hot liquids. Begin eating solid foods the next day or as soon as you can chew comfortably. For about two days, try to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site. If you are troubled by nausea and vomiting, call your dentist for advice.
The day after the extraction, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water (half teaspoon of salt in 8 oz. glass of warm water). Gentle rinsing after meals is important to keep food particles out the extraction site. Avoid using a mouth rinse or mouthwash during this early healing period.
It is important to continue to floss your teeth and brush thoroughly at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. The tongue should also be brushed. This will help eliminate the bad breath and unpleasant taste common after an extraction.