Within our lifetime most of us have, or will, experience one or more tooth extraction(s). Extractions are not always due to tooth decay or an unhealthy mouth. Often, dentists and oral surgeons extract one or more teeth (e.g., "wisdom teeth) to treat crowding, and/or if necessary for the proper placement of braces into a patient's mouth. After extraction a blood clot begins to form which covers and protects the extraction site. Meanwhile, it will take 3-4 weeks for your gum tissue to heal completely, and anywhere from 3-6 months for bone. However, the pain should subside within 48 hours.
In general, most extractions are routine, short-term dental procedures. However, all extractions require proper home care for optimal healing. Immediately after your procedure, the dental assistant will give you postoperative directions, answer any questions you may have, and guide you through each step. As a dental assistant, it is our job to make sure you are well-informed, and comfortable before leaving our office. You will want to follow all post-op instructions to make sure your healing process is quick and without incident. Following the tips below will encourage blood clot formation, prevent it from becoming dislodged or worse a painful dry socket:
- Begin taking your prescribed painkillers (with soft foods) before the numbness wears off.
- REST. Do not go to work, exercise, or take part in any strenuous activity for at least 12 to 24 hours.
- Sleep with your head propped up with pillows the first night after surgery.
- If the numbness hasn't worn off 6 hours after your procedure (unless otherwise indicated) call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately. If you're able to return to their office within 24 hours, he or she may administer steroids into the nerve area, which may reduce swelling and hasten your recovery.
- To prevent swelling and pain, place ice/packs to the face for the first two days.
- To reduce pain and swelling, place HEAT (such as a warm cloth) on the third day.
- Control bleeding by biting down on dry gauze pads. Frequently change gauze pads (every hour to half hour as needed).
- EAT soft foods (e.g., soups, pudding, mashed potatoes, ice cream, apple sauce, and scrambled eggs) for the first 48 hours. Avoid spicy food and soda.
- DRINK plenty of fluids (preferably water).
- Gently brush your teeth but AVOID the extraction/surgical site for at least 3 days.
- NEVER operate any motor vehicle or hazardous equipment while under the influence of medication.
- NEVER smoke immediately after an extraction! It will induce swelling and pain.
- Refrain from smoking for as long as possible after an extraction.
- Smoking delays the healing process and the sucking motion may dislodge the blood clot. It's just not a good idea all around.
- Do not rinse for the first 24 hours.
- After this time period has passed, you can gently rinse with warm water and salt, or if prescribed, a chlorhexidine mouthwash (e.g., Peridex).
- Do not forcibly spit out mouth rinse, drink through straws, or blow your nose (if you can help it) as these actions could dislodge the blood clot.
- Do not eat or drink hot foods and beverages until the numbness wear off, otherwise you may burn yourself without realizing it.
- Avoid drinking alcohol for 24 hours as it could delay healing.
- Do not poke or touch the extraction site (keep fingers and tongue away from the socket).