There are several reasons why you may require a tooth extraction, such as tooth decay, damaged teeth, crowded teeth, or infection. While tooth extractions are extremely common dental procedures, getting a tooth removed can understandably cause a certain level of anxiety and worry.
To help you prepare for the recovery process, we’ve compiled some tooth extraction aftercare instructions and tips to promote healthy healing. We’ve also included potential side effects that may occur if proper aftercare is neglected, so you’ll know exactly what to expect and how to take care of your extraction site.
What to Expect During Your Tooth Extraction Healing Process
The entire tooth extraction healing process can vary by person, depending on various factors that may include medical history and underlying medical conditions, medications, etc., all of which should be thoroughly discussed with your Dakota Dental team prior to scheduling your extraction. In most cases, the healing process can take about two weeks.
In order to recover from a tooth extraction, your body creates a blood clot within the socket, which covers the exposed nerves and bone, slows the bleeding, and allows your body to heal. Your main aftercare goal is to care for that blood clot as best as you can, which in turn can help minimize the healing process’s time. If the blood clot disappears before your wound heals, you’ll be at risk of infection and painful dry socket.
To best ensure the blood clot remains in place until your extraction site has healed, follow these after-tooth-extraction care instructions:
- Continue biting gently on gauze for about 4-5 hours after extraction. Some dentists may encourage you to use gauze until bleeding has stopped. Be sure to change the gauze before it becomes soaked, often every 30-60 minutes. If you’re experiencing any severe bleeding, call your Dakota Dental team immediately for treatment, as you may have an infection, etc.
- Rest and take it easy for at least the first 24-48 hours after your tooth extraction. Your body needs time and energy to heal. Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities.
- Take pain medication as directed or prescribed by your dentist to manage discomfort. Your dentist may recommend taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to address any pain and swelling.
- Use an icepack to manage swelling, if needed. Wrap the ice pack in a thin towel to protect your skin and place the icepack on the affected area for up to 10 minutes at a time.
- Avoid lying flat, as it can encourage more bleeding. Try propping your head up with some pillows or rest in a recliner.
- Stick to soft foods only (e.g. pudding, soup, ice cream, applesauce, etc.) for the first 24-48 hours. While you’re healing, chew on the opposite side of your extraction site. As you begin to heal, you can slowly introduce other foods. It’s a good idea to start with foods that you can easily mash with your mouth or cut with a fork to ensure you don’t disturb the extraction site. Until it’s healed, avoid any hard or crunchy foods (i.e. chips, crackers, etc.) that have sharp edges that could cause damage to your healing wound.
- Avoid sipping, using a straw, and aggressively spitting, as these cause changes in pressure within your mouth, which can dislodge the blood clot.
- Avoid smoking, as it can impact the healing process, according to WebMD.
- Keep up with your dental hygiene. Be sure to brush and floss as you would but avoid the extraction site area.
- After the initial 24 hours, gently rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater, as directed by your dental team, can help to expedite the healing process and keep the area clean of food debris, etc. We recommend a ½ teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm
Potential Tooth Extraction Side Effects
While some tooth extraction pain, discomfort, and swelling are expected and normal after extraction, especially after the anesthetics wear off, be sure to immediately let your dental care team know if any pain, bleeding, or swelling gets worse or excessive. While not as common, there are some other potential side effects that can occur after a tooth extraction:
Infection—Occasionally, if the wound isn’t healing properly—possibly due to underlying causes—or if the proper tooth extraction aftercare directions aren’t followed, your extraction site may become infected. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact Dakota Dental immediately, and we’ll assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment, such as antibiotics, etc.:
- Discharge from extraction site
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Excessive pain and/or swelling
- Excessive bleeding or continuous bleeding
Teeth Shifting—After a tooth’s extracted, there’s a gap remaining in your mouth, which can encourage other teeth to shift positions over time to fill in the newly added space, possibly affecting jaw positioning and chewing habits. Before extraction, you can expect your Dakota Dental team to discuss an after-tooth-extraction treatment plan and options, which usually involves replacing the removed tooth with an implant, bridge, etc.
Dry Socket—When a blood clot becomes dislodged during the healing process, it leaves your extraction site open, exposing nerves and bone. According to Medical News Today, “Dentists are not certain what causes dry socket, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing it,” such as smoking, chewing tobacco, gum or tooth infections, oral contraceptives or estrogen replacement therapy, poor dental hygiene, and not following instructions for tooth extraction aftercare, and typical dry socket treatment usually involve your dentist flushing the extraction site with saline solution, packing site with medicated dressings, and prescribing pain medications.
Dental Cavitation—Sometimes, in the removal process, the extraction site doesn’t heal properly, often due to improper cleaning of the extraction site or not sufficiently removing the periodontal ligaments (i.e. the strong tissue surrounding the jaw that attaches our teeth). These leftover ligaments and improper cleaning of site can inhibit the tooth extraction healing process, creating a literal hole in the jaw bone. These pockets or holes that form can cause recurring discomfort and affect your ability to heal. Your Dakota Dental team can help diagnose cavitation and deliver the proper treatment plan, which can include debridement, surgical removal of cavitation pocket, or ozone treatment with bone grafting, depending on your unique situation and needs.
Dakota Dental Offers Comprehensive Dentistry Services You Can Rely On
At Dakota Dental, we understand that most patients don’t look forward to going to the dentist, especially for procedures like tooth extractions. Because of this, we strive to make your dental visits as positive of an experience as possible; with every tooth extraction we perform, we believe in a complete dental extraction philosophy where we take whatever time is needed to ensure your extraction site is properly cleaned to ensure healthy healing.
For more information on our cavitation services, tooth extractions, and other dental services, contact us today, or get started by scheduling an appointment where a member of our dental team can assess your oral health concerns and discuss treatment options that are best for achieving your dental goals.