Guide to Tooth Extractions and Recovery: What to Expect

Whether you’re facing a tooth extraction or seeking information for a loved one, understanding the procedure and what to expect during the healing process is crucial for a smooth procedure.

Thinking of having a tooth pulled can create dental anxiety but in reality, tooth extractions are common procedures performed due to various reasons.

You may need a tooth extraction if you’re suffering from severe tooth decay, infections, overcrowding teeth, or if you need your wisdom teeth removed.

Because tooth removal leaves an open wound in the mouth, it is extremely important that you follow your prescribed after-care instructions to help with a speedy recovery and prevent further complications.

On this page

How to Prepare for a Tooth Extraction?

What to Avoid Before a Tooth Extraction

What Happens During a Tooth Extraction

Tooth Extraction Recovery Time

Tooth Extraction After-Care & Post-Extraction Checkup

Potential Complications and Risks

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How to Prepare for a Tooth Extraction?

Preparing for a tooth extraction involves both mental readiness and practical considerations such as some important dos and don’ts before a tooth extraction procedure.

  • Schedule a Consultation: Before your extraction appointment, schedule a consultation with your dentist. This will allow you to ask questions and address concerns, as well as provide your dentist with your oral medical history in case there are any medical conditions, current medications, or allergies.
  • Arrange Transportation: If your procedure is a surgical extraction, which includes anesthesia, you may experience some drowsiness after the extraction. It’s essential to arrange for transportation to and from the dental office.
  • Follow Pre-Operative Instructions: Your dentist will provide you with specific pre-operative instructions, these often include fasting, taking medications as directed, and staying hydrated.
  • Plan for recovery: Stock up with soft foods such as soups, yogurt, and applesauce, which won’t irritate the wounds. You may also want to have ice packs and over-the-counter pain relief medications ready for swelling and discomfort.

What to Avoid Before a Tooth Extraction

  • Don’t Eat or Drink Before Anesthesia: Eating or drinking before receiving anesthesia can increase the risk of complications during extraction. Typically, you should avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 6-8 hours before the extraction.
  • Don’t Smoke or Chew Tobacco: Avoid tobacco for at least 24 hours before extraction appointment. Smoking can interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of complications, such as infections.
  • Don’t Discontinue Medications Without Consulting Your Dentist: Some medications such as blood thinners or anticoagulants may need to be adjusted before the extraction to minimize bleeding. Your dentist will provide guidance on how to manage medications.
  • Don’t Stress: Stress can make the experience more challenging for you and your dental team.

What Happens During a Tooth Extraction?

The tooth extraction process will start with anesthesia or some form of sedation. Depending on the complexity of the extraction, you may receive local anesthesia (which only numbs a section of your mouth) or full anesthetic sedation (which will put you to sleep entirely).

Once anesthesia has taken effect, the dentist or oral surgeon will begin the extraction. For a simple extraction, specialized instruments will be used to loosen the tooth from its socket. The dentist will then gently rock the tooth back and forth until it can be lifted out of the socket.

For a surgical extraction, the dentist or oral surgeon may need to make an incision in the gum tissue to access the tooth. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove bone tissue or section the tooth into smaller pieces for easier removal. The dentist will then carefully extract the tooth, preserving surrounding tissues and minimizing trauma.

Immediately after the procedure, the dentist or oral surgeon will apply gauze to control bleeding, make sure to avoid rinsing, spitting or using a straw for the first 24 hours to prevent dislodging the blood clot.

Tooth Extractions Recovery Time

After your tooth extraction, it’s important to focus on post-operative care to heal and minimize discomfort. Your dentist will give you a post-extraction aftercare instructions, which often include:

Area of CareInstructions and Recommendations
Immediate Post-Extraction Care
  • Biting down gently on the gauze pad will help you control bleeding and encourage blood clot formation.
  • Avoid touching or poking the wound with your tongue, fingers or any objects to prevent dislodging the blood clot, which is crucial for healing.
  • Don’t smoke as it may break down the blood clot. This could irritate the tooth socket, increase pain in the extraction area, delay healing, and create infections.
Managing Discomfort
  • Take prescribed medications (if any) as directed.
  • Using intervals, apply ice packs to your face in the area of extraction to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Eating and Drinking
  • Stick to soft foods and liquids for the first 24-48 hours to avoid irritation.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated (without a straw!).
  • Avoid hot, spicy and acidic foods and beverages.
  • Extremely hot or cold liquids may increase swelling.
  • You should also limit alcohol as it can slow the healing process.
Oral Hygiene
  • Avoid rinsing, spitting, using a straw, and smoking for the first 24 to 72 hours after your tooth extraction.
  • After the first day, you may begin rinsing a few times a day with a warm saltwater solution, but check with your dentist first.

To maintain oral hygiene, continue to brush your teeth gently while avoiding the extraction site.

Rest and Recovery
  • Avoid any major physical activity to allow your body to heal.
  • Elevate your head while resting to reduce swelling and promote drainage.

Follow-Up Care and Post-Extraction Checkup

Your dentist or oral surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your healing progress and remove any stitches if necessary. Here's what to expect during your post-extraction checkup:

  • Healing Assessment: Your dentist or oral surgeon will examine the extraction site to assess the healing progress and ensure that no complications have arisen.
  • Stitch Removal: If you received stitches after the extraction, your dentist may remove them during the follow-up appointment, depending on the type of stitches used and the healing progress.
  • Further Instructions: Your dentist will provide you with any additional instructions or recommendations for ongoing care to promote optimal healing and maintain oral health.

Once you are fully healed, we can start to help you plan for replacement options such as dentures or implants. This will help prevent your remaining teeth from shifting and ensure you have a smile you love.

Potential Complications and Signs to Look Out For

Remember that it is common for speech difficulties, increased saliva, residual bleeding, and mild pain, bruising, and swelling to follow a tooth extraction. However, it’s important to look out for any complications.

Call your dentist if bleeding or pain is severe after six to eight hours following the procedure. If you have any of the following unusual symptoms, it could be a sign of infection or something more serious. Contact your dentist immediately if you experience:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excessive, redness, swelling, or discharge from the extraction site
  • Cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain
  • Pain that worsens the day after extraction
  • Pain that doesn’t get better three days or more after surgery
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Itching or rash after taking medication

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