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Dental Surgery
After Tooth Extraction

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After Tooth Extraction

A dentist might recommend a tooth extraction for a variety of reasons. Patients can suffer decay, need a tooth removed because it stands in the way of orthodontic treatment or need a painful wisdom tooth removed. A tooth extraction is a serious procedure, and aftercare is crucial to a successful outcome. It is essential that dental patients understand how proper care can lessen pain and reduce the risk of infection.

Take these steps immediately after surgery:

  • Bite down to apply pressure on the gauze that your dentist puts over the surgical area. If the gauze becomes dry, dampen it with tap water. It is best to maintain consistent pressure for 45 to 60 minutes until bleeding lessens and eventually stops and anytime it starts again. Change to fresh gauze as often as necessary.
  • Keep the head elevated and reduce the level of activity as much as possible in the hours immediately following a procedure.
  • After 48 hours, rinse the mouth with warm salt water every hour or two. Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol because it can be painful and can cause irritation to the wound.
  • Maintain a clean mouth by brushing the rest of the oral cavity as usual, but avoid any stitches. In general, it is not a good idea to touch the surgical area in any way.
  • Control any swelling with ice packs placed on the face in the area near the extraction site.
  • Use prescribed medicines as directions. If there is any unusual swelling or itching, contact the dentist or go to an emergency room. It could be a reaction to the medication or another complication. Consume only soft foods, and eat foods high in protein to keep up strength and aid in healing.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water and other fluids. Avoid using a straw for at least 5 to 7 days.
  • Tobacco users must refrain from smoking for three to four days because smoking increases the risk of a painful dry socket and a dangerous infection.
Healing after an extraction can often take a while. Sutures usually fall out or dissolve after three to 14 days. Those that are not absorbable must be removed during a follow-up appointment. The empty socket left behind where the tooth once was will fill in with bone eventually and smooth over.

Some Possible Tooth Extraction Complications

  • Bleeding: Some bleeding following tooth extraction is completely normal. It is also common to see pink-tinted saliva and experience minor oozing during the first 36 hours or so following an extraction. If bleeding becomes excessive, it can usually be controlled by biting down on a dampened gauze sponge pad to apply pressure. A moistened tea bag makes a good alternative because the tannic acid in tea helps constrict blood vessels. Apply pressure for at least 30 minutes. Keep in mind that getting upset, sitting up and exercising increase blood flow to the extraction site and can lead to bleeding, so these activities should be avoided. Bleeding that does not decrease significantly after 48 hours means a call to the dental office is a smart idea.
  • Dead tooth fragments: Called bone sequestra, these small tooth fragments that happen in some patients are the result of tooth material that is not removed completely during the extraction. While recovering, dead bone fragments can work through the gums as part of the normal healing process. This is painful until these bits are removed, so please contact the dental office immediately if this occurs so the pieces can be dealt with appropriately.
  • Dry socket: Pain should subside gradually after a tooth extraction. In a few cases, however, patients report an increase in pain that rises to the level of throbbing and eventually unbearable pain that can be felt up toward the ear. This is often a dry socket, something that happens when the natural blood clot is irritated and moves on before the healing process is complete. Food and debris can cause this irritation, as can tobacco use and the use of oral contraceptives in women. A dry socket isn’t as serious as an infection, but a visit to the dental office is required. Taking immediate action is essential.
  • Lightheadedness: Blood sugar levels can be lower than normal following an extraction because of the fasting that is required prior to surgery. It is important to stand up and sit up slowly until your metabolic processes return to normal, especially if you don’t or can’t eat immediately after surgery. For quick relief, stay relaxed, lower the elevation of your head and eat something soft and sugary. Numbness: Some patients still feel numb for 10 to 12 hours after surgery. This extended lack of natural feeling around the mouth is normal and not a cause for concern. Swelling: After 10 days or so, all swelling should have subsided. Immediately after a tooth extraction, an ice pack applied to the face near the extraction area can reduce swelling. After 36 hours, however, ice is unlikely to help with swelling and moist heat -- like from a warm, damp cloth -- should be used instead.
  • Difficulty opening and closing the mouth: Called trismus, this is not a cause for alarm. A sore jaw and some difficulty swallowing and chewing is normal. This soreness of the chewing muscles and jaw can last for 3 to 5 days. It can make it hard to open and close the mouth, but it should go away.
If there is concern or other complications, contacting the practice so they can be addressed is a good idea.

If you need a tooth extraction, or have any questions, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS.