While the concept of tooth extraction may sound scary, it’s a painless removal of a tooth, along with its roots, with minimal impact to the gums and tooth socket surrounding it. Usually, the wound heals without any problems, as long as proper aftercare is attended to and patients can go about their lives normally with minor adjustments. Every dental surgeon will provide their patient with a list of post-surgery instructions to help the wound heal quickly and without infection or incident. It’s important to take heed when recovering from this minor but important dental procedure to ensure that the extraction area stays clean and safe from anything that may delay healing.
- Severe decay: Some teeth simply cannot be saved. If a tooth is damaged enough, to the pulp, and the inner nerve is infected, a root canal may be attempted. However, if a root canal is not successful and further antibiotics cannot clear the infection, the whole tooth must be removed to prevent it from spreading further.
- Crowding: Situations arise where people who are seeking orthodontia (or braces) may need to remove one or more teeth to make room to straighten and move teeth around to achieve a proper bite. Other times, a tooth may be impacted, most commonly with wisdom teeth. It’s important to extract these teeth that are preventing alignment, and especially those that could potentially threaten good alignment if they grow in fully.
- Potential infection: Periodontal disease is a serious form of infection to the gum tissue surrounding teeth. Sometimes, severe cases may cause teeth to loosen and, in turn, be extracted from that area of gum tissue to be treated with bone and skin grafting. Other times, those dealing with larger health issues such as cancer and are seeking chemotherapy, or an organ transplant will need to extract infected teeth to prevent any possible infection due to a compromised immune system.
- Stock up on ice packs: Your oral surgeon may supply you with a small ice pack upon your procedure, but it’s a good idea to prepare some icepacks of your own at home before your visit. If you’re particularly sensitive and tend to swell easily, your ice packs will be your best friends the first few days following the extraction. Not all extractions will cause major swelling, but if you are dealing with cheek retractions, there will be swelling mostly two to three days after your visit. The first day is the most important time to ice your face! Be sure to apply your ice packs on for 15 minutes, and off for 15 minutes for 1-2 hour periods at a time. Any icing beyond the first day is not as effective has icing on day one, so make sure you are prepared.
- Let the wound clot: This is a very important step in the first day of recovery after your extraction. It’s important to firmly bite down on the gauze roll provided to you by your dentist right after your procedure. Try to keep direct pressure on the wound for at least an hour after the procedure to help stop any bleeding that may occur. While it’s good to bite down on the gauze, do not chew on it. Change the gauze about every half hour to 45 minutes depending on the amount of bleeding coming from the wound. Be careful with dry gauze as it can dislodge a forming clot that is useful to help stop bleeding and for the wound to begin healing.
- Rest: While this procedure is not serious, it’s important to rest after your extraction. Not only will it take some time for your anesthesia to wear off, but your body will be busy tending to a new wound. Be sure to elevate your head while resting! Try to avoid bending down for long periods of time or putting yourself in any positions that may cause pressure on your head. Refrain from any strenuous activity or exercise for at least the first 24 hours after your extraction. Make sure you are taking your pain medications as prescribed to help reduce any residual pain after anesthesia has worn off.
- Clean your mouth: While voiding the extraction site, be sure you are still keeping the rest of your mouth clean by brushing and flossing the rest of your teeth during the following days after your procedure. Our mouths can quickly become overgrown with bacteria which could prove dangerous when dealing with an open wound. Rinse your mouth with a mixture of 8 ounces of warm water (not hot) and 1/2 tsp of salt after the first 24 hours has passed. Avoid forcefully spitting until after day 2 to keep the clot formed in the wound.
- Eat carefully: Stick to soft foods like soup, yogurt, applesauce, ice cream and anything else that doesn’t involve any sharp or crunchy ends until the extraction site is healed. Make sure you chew on the other side of your mouth during this time to prevent disrupting the wound or pushing any food into the healing clot, which can quickly cause an infection.
- No smoking: This is the most commonly broken rule of healing after dental surgery and often causes “dry sockets” after surgery. Stay away from smoking of any kind and using straws for at least the first 48 hours after the procedure to prevent any complications. Eliminate any kind of pressure being caused in your mouth by sucking or blowing maneuvers.
- Skipping medication: If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics after your procedure before to take them fully until you finish your prescribed dose. Also, do not over-use painkillers that were prescribed for pain only. If pain persists after 2 or 3 days, contact your oral surgeon immediately.
- No aspirin: Blood-thinning medications should not be taken (unless advised by a doctor) after surgery to prevent further bleeding. Ibuprofen is preferred for any other needs. Consult with your doctor if you have any further questions about medications you may or may not take.
- No touching: Your tongue will naturally want to explore the new void in your mouth where your tooth once was, but you have to resist the urge at all costs. Not only can this introduce bacteria to the healing wound site, but it can dislodge the clot that is helping the extraction site heal.