Tooth extractions have a myriad of cases, and your dentist may decide that it is the best treatment for you. You may have a decayed tooth, a tooth that needs to be removed for orthodontic treatment, or a sore wisdom tooth. Having a tooth removed is not a small procedure, and the aftercare that you give it will be instrumental in the success of the surgery. Following the steps that your dentist gives you will greatly reduce the risk of infection.
Take these steps immediately after surgery:
- Your dentist will give you gauze over the area where your tooth was, and you should bite down onto it, even if it becomes dry – just dampen it with a bit of tap water. You will need to maintain this constant pressure for up to an hour until the bleeding stops. Any time that it starts to bleed, you will need to apply new gauze until it stops
- Keep your head elevated as much as possible, and restrict your activity
- 48 hours after the surgery, you should rinse out your mouth with warm salt water every hour. No mouthwash that contains alcohol should be used, as it will cause irritation
- When you brush your teeth you should brush the cavity too, but not too hard, and making sure to avoid the stitches. Never touch the gap with your fingers or tongue
- Ice packs on the face near the surgery point will help to control any swelling
- You can continue to use your already prescribed medications as normal, but if you feel any unusual swelling or itching that didn’t happen before, you should contact your dentist or visit an emergency room, as it may be a reaction or a complication
- Soft foods that are high in protein are the best choice, as is a lot of water and other fluids – just don’t use a straw for the first week
- Smoking must be avoided for the first four days as it will dry out the socket, and could lead to a very dangerous type of infection
It can take a while for an extraction site to heal up properly, even though the sutures themselves will dissolve or fall out by a fortnight after the surgery. Some of them will not be absorbed into your body, and will be removed at a following appointment. Over time, the socket that is now empty will fill with bone and heal over.
Some Possible Tooth Extraction Complications
- Bleeding: bleeding straight after an extraction is normal, and it is also likely that you will see your saliva tinged with pink for the next couple of days. However, if the bleeding becomes excessive or repetitive, you can bite down on slightly damp gauze and apply consistent pressure. Another good alternative is a moist tea bag, because the tea contains tannic acid which constricts the blood vessels. You will need to apply pressure for at least half an hour. Exercising, getting upset, and sitting up will increase blood flow, so avoid these activities. If you are still experiencing bleeding after 48 hours of the surgery, you should contact your dentist
- Dead tooth fragments: sometimes little bits of the tooth that was removed can get left behind, or other fragments of bone that have already died are not removed. These pieces will try to make their way through your gums to the surface which can be very painful, so you should contact your dentist if you think this is happening
- Dry socket: if pain starts to increase rather than decrease over time, it could be due to a dry socket. This can be caused by food or debris knocking the natural healing clot over the wound away, but can also be triggered by smoking and the oral contraceptive pill. A dry socket is not the same as an infection, but your dentist will need to help you, and you should contact them immediately
- Light headedness: because you have to fast leading up to the surgery for the extraction, it is quite common for a patient’s blood sugar levels to be a little lower than normal after the surgery. That means that you will need to stand up and sit down much slower than normal so that your metabolic processes have time to catch up with you, particularly if you can’t – or won’t – eat immediately after the surgery. If you need quick relief, then you should remain calm, lower your head slightly, and eat something very soft and sugary
- Numbness: due to the anaesthetic used, a patient could still feel numb even twelve hours after the surgery has been finished. This is a totally normal side effect, and should not cause you any concern – if anything, it’s a benefit!
- Swelling: all of the swelling you experience should disappear after around ten days, and this can be helped by placing an ice pack to your face as soon as the extraction has been carried out. Ice will no longer be able to help 36 hours after the surgery has been completed, however, and so you will need to use moist heat such as a damp warm cloth instead
- Difficulty with moving your jaw: this is called trismus, and is completely normal. Lasting up to five days, it may make it slightly more difficult for you to eat and drink, but it will go away
If you have any concerns or questions about complications of dental extraction, call Dr. Woods at (619) 640-5100.