Tooth extractions are common for many reasons. Teeth might be overcrowded and a removal is needed for alignment. Or, a tooth may be damaged by injury, infection, or decay. Whatever your reason for the procedure, caring for your mouth and extraction site after you’ve had a tooth — or multiple teeth — removed can help speed recovery and prevent further complications.
The initial recovery period is typically just a few days, but may take longer to fully heal. Make sure you follow all care instructions provided by your dentist after tooth extraction. Here are some other tips to help with tooth extraction post care.
1. Manage Bleeding
Tooth extraction aftercare begins with controlling bleeding from your surgery. Bleeding is very common when a tooth is extracted — even if you get stitches. Bite gently, but firmly, on the gauze provided by your dentist in place for 3–4 hours following the extraction. The pressure will absorb any drainage and help promote clot formation, which will work like a scab to stop the bleeding. Change your gauze as necessary and avoid rinsing your mouth, drinking through a straw, and smoking for 24 to 72 hours following extraction.
Keep your fingers and tongue away from the surgical area to avoid dislodging the blood clot. If you have excessive bleeding, continue to apply firm pressure with gauze or a moist/humidified tea bag until the bleeding stops. You may see red saliva for up to 24 hours, but if bleeding does not completely subside, call your dentist.
2. Reduce Pain and Swelling
Some pain and swelling, and even light bruising, is a normal part of the healing process after tooth extraction. For the first 24 hours, apply an ice pack to the side of your face in 10–20-minute intervals. If your jaw becomes stiff, you can apply warm, moist heat to relax the muscles beginning on day two of your recovery.
You will also likely be prescribed painkillers after your tooth extraction. Begin taking medication before the numbness of your surgery wears off to get ahead of any discomfort. Some medications may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or upset stomach, so make sure to get lots of rest and avoid driving. Ask your dentist if there are any other over-the-counter medications they recommend for recovery. If you are also prescribed an antibiotic, make sure to take as directed until it is all gone — even if pain and swelling has gone away.
3. Take it Easy!
Medication is not the only reason to make sure you get plenty of rest as part of your post tooth extraction care regimen. You will also heal much faster! When laying down, keep your head slightly elevated with pillows to help minimize bleeding and always get up slowly. Plan for limited physical activity for the first 72 hours.
4. Keep Your Extraction Site Clean
Avoid rising, 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. Rinse your mouth gently to avoid dislodging the blood clot, and follow any other special instructions your dentist gives you.
You may brush and floss the non-surgical areas of your mouth on the day of your surgery. Brush gently and without toothpaste, avoiding the open socket/site of the extraction for the first 72 hours. Regular brushing and flossing will help remove plaque and prevent infection.
5. Modify Your Diet
Because you may have difficulty opening your mouth and to avoid the surgery site while it heals, eat soft, healthy foods and drink plenty of water (without a straw!) for the first day or two post surgery. You may also want to avoid any extreme hot, cold, or spicy foods that could irritate the socket.
Soup, yogurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs are just a few good menu options for your recovery. You can gradually add solid foods and resume your normal diet as you recover, but you may still want to steer clear of really hard foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn, candy, etc. until you are fully healed.
Avoid drinking hot liquids as they may increase swelling. You should also limit alcohol as it can slow healing, interfere with medication, and hinder your sleep — which is important for recovery!
6. Don't Smoke
Smoking may break down the blood clot. This could irritate the tooth socket, increase pain in the extraction area, delay healing, and even cause more bleeding and/or infection.
7. Follow Up with Your Doctor
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.
Remember that it is common for speech difficulties, increased saliva, residual bleeding, and mild pain, bruising, and swelling to follow a tooth extraction. The initial healing period for new bone and gum tissue to grow into the gap can take about 1 to 3 weeks.
Potential Complications and Signs to Look Out For
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
Have additional questions? Reach out to one of our dentists to get even more info on how to care for your tooth extraction site.