Tooth Extraction Aftercare • Recovery & Healing
A tooth extraction causes a trauma in the jaw bone that may take from a dew days to several weeks for full healing. Tooth extraction recovery time depends on the difficulty of the extraction and on proper tooth extraction aftercare.
Follow carefully your dentist’s instructions to speed tooth extraction healing and avoid complications.
The Tooth Extraction Healing process
The blood clot that forms in the extraction socket is very important for the healing process. Be careful to avoid anything that will disturb its formation or will dissolve or dislodge it later.
Immediately after teeth are extracted, blood flowing from the alveolar bone and gingiva begin to clot. The clot functions by preventing debris, food and other irritants from entering the tooth extraction site. It also protects the underlying bone from the bacteria and finally acts as a supporting system in which granulation tissue develops.
The tooth extraction area is usually healing quickly, depending of course on the level of damage to soft or hard tissues. Some discomfort and pain are expected for some hours after tooth extraction.
Swelling, jaw stiffness and tooth extraction pain generally last no more than a couple of days after the procedure. Full healing of a simple tooth extraction is expected in one to two weeks.
After a surgical tooth extraction, the gum area will heal after three to four weeks. The jawbone, if affected, might take three to six months to be restructured.
Tooth Extraction After Care
Proper care after the tooth extraction is important for quick healing. You should follow carefully the instructions that your dentist or oral surgeon will give you before you leave from the dental office.
Generally, these post-operative tooth extraction after care instructions will include:
- Avoid lying down immediately after the extraction to reduce bleeding. If you lie down, use extra pillows to keep your head at an elevated position.
- Protect the wound. Keep any source of irritation and/or infection away of the wound. Chew on the opposite side of the mouth for 24 hours. Eat soft foods. Avoid to press your tongue on the area of the wound. Do not put your fingers in the mouth just to check the wound. Wash well your hands before changing the gauze.
- Do not suck through a straw or spit.Spitting or sucking through a straw can cause bleeding and may dislodge the blood clot causing a dry socket problem. Proper formation of the blood clot is the more important thing to care after tooth extraction in order to prevent dry socket.
- Minimize physical activity for the first three to five days. Strenuous exercise may promote bleeding.
- No Smoking. It is better to stop smoking at least for some days, as it may promote bleeding and delay tooth extraction healing.
- Brushing. Good oral hygiene is important for the healing process. Immediately after the extraction, avoid brushing the teeth next to the extraction area. Resume normal brushing and flossing from the next day, but be careful and gentle until the extraction wound is fully healed.
- Rinsing. Avoid rinsing for 24 hours following the procedure. Rinsing can disturb the formation of a blood clot which is essential for proper tooth extraction wound healing. If your dentist recommends it, after the second day, you may rinse the mouth gently with warm salt water or mild antiseptic rinses.
- Bleeding. A little bleeding after tooth extraction is normal. Usually bleeding will not last beyond the first one or two days.
After the tooth extraction, the dentist will put a rolled up gauze pad over the empty tooth socket. The gauze pad must be kept firmly in place, by biting or with finger pressure, for about 45 minutes, to allow the blood to clot. Do not lie down, try to keep your head at an elevated position.
- If the bleeding continues, the gauze pad has to be replaced with a clean one. The pad must be wet so that it does not adhere to the blood clot and take it out when removed. If bleeding persists, keep changing the gauze pad regularly. A tea bag may be used instead of a gauze pad. Tea contains tannic acid , a styptic, which may help to form a blood clot and reduce the bleeding.
- If the bleeding after a tooth extraction is severe or continues beyond the second day, it is advised to contact your dentist.
- Pain. A mild pain after tooth extraction is normal.A simple extraction rarely causes much pain after the procedure. Surgical tooth extractions are usually more painful.
The level and duration of pain after a tooth extraction depends on the difficulty of the extraction.
- Most of the post-surgical pain disappears after a couple of days. An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug may be enough to relieve the tooth extraction pain. If the pain is more intense, the dentist or oral surgeon can prescribe a prescription pain medication for a few days.
- Swelling. Some swelling is normal following surgical procedures in the mouth. The more difficult the extraction has been, the more likely swelling will occur. After 2-3 days, the swelling should start to subside. Ice packs or cold towels can be used to help reduce facial swelling. The ice packs should be applied to the outside of the mouth over the extraction area, for 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes off.
- Muscle stiffness - Difficulty in opening mouth. Facial swelling and muscle stiffness may cause difficulty in opening the mouth. Jaw muscles may become stiff from holding the mouth open during surgery. Jaw pain after tooth extraction is also frequent. Jaw muscles can be relaxed by massaging them gently and by applying moist warm compresses.
- Diet. Liquid and soft, warm (but not hot) foods are recommended for the first 24 hours. Hot foods may dissolve the blood clot. Hard or sticky foods and alcohol should be avoided. Do not chew on the extraction’s side, to keep food away of the open tooth socket. Gradually, as the healing proceeds, return to normal diet.
- Antibiotics. If there is increased risk of infection, the dentist will prescribe antibiotic medication.
Follow your dentist’s instructions to speed tooth extraction healing and avoid complications.
Contact your dentist if bleeding is heavy, continues for more than 24 hours or if you experience nausea, fever, chills or severe pain after tooth extraction.
The cost of replacing extracted teeth can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.