Tooth extractions are surgical procedures that naturally result in changes occurring in your mouth afterward. While you're getting back to normal, you should follow a few guidelines to help promote healing, prevent complications, and make yourself more comfortable.
The length of time you experience numbness varies, depending on the type of anesthetic you've received. While your mouth is numb, you'll want to be careful not to bite your cheek, lip or tongue. The numbness should subside within a few hours. If it doesn't subside, contact your dentist.
Your dentist will place a gauze pack on the area being operated on to limit bleeding and confine the blood while clotting takes place. This gauze pack should be left in place for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the dentist's office. Do not chew on the pack. There may be some bleeding or oozing after the pack is removed. If so, follow this procedure:
- Fold a piece of clean gauze into a pad thick enough to bite on. Dampen the pad and place it directly on the affected area.
- Apply moderate pressure by closing the teeth firmly over the pad. Maintain this pressure for about 30 minutes. If the pad becomes soaked with blood, replace it with a clean one as necessary.
- Do not suck on the affected area.
- A slight amount of blood may leak from the affected area until a clot forms. However, if heavy bleeding continues, call your dentist. Remember, though, that a lot of saliva and a little blood can look like a lot of bleeding.
The Blood Clot
After an extraction, a blood clot forms in the in the tooth socket. This clot is an important part of the normal healing process. You should therefore avoid activities that might disturb the clot. Here's how to protect it:
- Do not smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously, or drink through a straw for 24 hours. These activities create suction in the mouth which could dislodge the clot and delay healing.
- Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day. You should, however, brush and floss your other teeth thoroughly. Gently rinse your mouth afterward.
- Limit strenuous activity for 24 hours after the operation. This will reduce bleeding and help the clot to form.
- If you have sutures (stitches) that require removal, your dentist will instruct you on when to return.
- Occasionally, a dry socket occurs when the blood clot breaks down earlier than normal. A dressing may be placed in the socket to protect it until the socket heals.
Your dentist may prescribe medication to control pain and prevent infection. Use it only as directed. If the medication prescribed does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. If you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever, call your dentist immediately. He will give you exact instructions on how to care for your problem.
Swelling and Pain
After an extraction, you may have some discomfort and notice some swelling. You can help reduce swelling and pain by applying cold compresses to the face. An ice bag or cold, moist cloth can be used periodically. The dentist may give you specific instructions on how long and how often to use a cold compress. The dentist may also give you a plastic bag of ice to use on your way home from the office.
Drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods after an extraction. Avoid alcoholic beverages and hot liquids. Begin eating solid foods the next day or as soon as you can chew comfortably. For about two days, try to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site. If you are experience nausea and vomiting, call your dentist for advice.
The day after the extraction, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water (half a teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm water). Rinsing after meals is important to keep food particles out of the affected area, but remember not to rinse your mouth vigorously. Avoid using a mouthrinse or mouthwash during this early healing period.
It's important to continue to brush thoroughly twice a day using an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste, and floss or clean in between your teeth with interdental cleaners, daily. The tongue should also be brushed. This will help eliminate the bad breath and unpleasant taste that is common after an operation. Always use a soft-bristled brush so that you do not injure the tissues in your mouth. Following an extraction, avoid cleaning the teeth next to affected area. Remember that you have just had surgery. Be kind to yourself.