Post-Op Care for Tooth Extractions
After a tooth extraction, good post-operative care by the patient at home is crucial to a successful recovery. While the extraction procedure is simple and often very quick, it is still a major oral surgery, requiring attention and care to heal properly and avoid any unpleasant complications. The good news is that with the right post-op care, healing after a tooth extraction is relatively quick and recovery time should be minimal.
What To Expect
If you have been sedated during the procedure, you should plan on having a friend or family member drive you home. You’ll be sent home with complete instructions on how to take good care of the extraction site. We typically have you bite down on gauze, providing pressure to stop bleeding from the extraction, and will send you home with plenty more gauze to change out over the course of the day. This can be removed once the immediate bleeding stops. Following surgery, you can expect minor bleeding or “oozing” for the first two days. Swelling often takes a week or so to subside, with the worst occurring the second and third days after surgery. General pain and discomfort is expected, but should gradually improve over the course of five or seven days. You may also experience tightness and stiffness in your jaw.
It’s important to follow your post-visit instructions carefully. Not doing so can lead to a very painful condition called dry socket, in which the usual blood clot protecting the empty socket is disturbed or removed. This can leave bone and tissue exposed, causing great pain and slowing the healing process. To protect yourself from dry socket, avoid disturbing the blood clot. You can do that by avoiding any kind of smoking or tobacco use, avoiding the use of straws or any sucking motion in your mouth, waiting to brush and floss in the area until it’s completely healed, and avoiding rinsing or spitting too hard.
What Can I Eat?
For the first few days, you should stick to soft, cool foods that are neither hot nor cold. Soup at room temperature is good, and so are foods like pudding, cottage cheese, yogurt, applesauce and Jell-O. Stay away from carbonated, iced or hot beverages for several days. After three or four days, you can begin expanding your diet to other foods and temperatures, as long as they don’t cause you pain or discomfort.
In the first 24 hours after a tooth extraction, don’t rinse your mouth at all. After that, we recommend gentle rinsing with lukewarm salt water after eating or drinking , using a tilting motion instead of swishing. You can continue this for a week or two depending on how well you’re healing. You can start brushing gently in other areas of your mouth on the second day, too. It’s not a good idea to brush right around the extraction site for at least two weeks.
Depending on the patient and the surgery, you may be given prescription painkillers, or we may recommend using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications like Advil or Tylenol. Follow the instructions for any pain medications closely to avoid taking too much or not enough. You may also be prescribed a short course of antibiotics as a preventative measure. Using ice packs is always recommended to keep pain and swelling to a minimum. During the first 24 hours, use ice on the affected side of the jaw or face for 20 minutes at a time, taking at least 10 minutes off between rounds. After that, stop using ice and switch to gentle heat, like a warm wet towel or compress, to soothe the remaining pain and swelling.
Your MPDG dentist will schedule you a follow-up appointment to check on your progress in about two weeks after your tooth extraction. Be sure to bring any questions you have that may have come up during your recovery. And, if you have an increase in pain, swelling, bruising, start running a fever, or other complications before your follow-up visit, call your dentist and let them know right away. Infection and other complications after oral surgery are very rare, but if you’re worried, we’ll be happy to check up on you sooner and make sure everything’s all right.
What Are The Symptoms of Dry Socket?
If you’ve ever been around anyone who has had a tooth extracted, you have no doubt heard the phrase “dry socket”. The condition, also known as alveolar osteitis, sometimes happens when a patient has one of their permanent adult teeth extracted via dental procedure. It is the most common complication following a dental extraction.
If a tooth extraction is in your future, it’s important to be informed and aware of what a dry socket is, what the symptoms are, and what to do if the condition does occur.
The goal of any tooth extraction is to perform the surgery with minimal pain and discomfort. Once the tooth is removed, it’s expected that a blood clot will form at the extraction site. That clot works to protect the underlying bone and the nerves within the now-empty socket. The clot eventually helps the patient’s body form soft tissue over the tooth socket, and promotes growth of new bone beneath the soft tissue.
However, there are times when that blood clot fails to develop, or gets dislodged before the extraction site has a chance to heal properly, and that’s when dry socket can begin.
What is dry socket?
When that blood clot fails to protect the exposed bone and nerve endings left behind following an extraction, a dry socket begins to form. The socket becomes inflamed, and intense pain begins to develop typically within one to three days following the tooth extraction. That pain isn’t usually limited to just the socket, but also along the side of a patient’s face as the irritated nerves begin to react. As food debris and other irritants enter the socket, the pain typically grows.
Unfortunately, typical pain medications available over the counter are usually not capable of relieving the pain of a dry socket. If patients begin to suffer pain at the extraction site or are concerned dry socket may be developing, it is important to contact their MPDG dentist to determine if they need to come in and be seen.
What are the symptoms of dry socket?
There are multiple symptoms of a dry socket, and those include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Intense pain radiating from the extraction site within a few days following the removal of the tooth
- The loss of the blood clot in the empty socket, which can usually be confirmed visually and sometimes includes visible bone
- Pain that extends from the socket along the side of the face and possibly to the temple and around the side of the neck
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth, often accompanied by bad breath or an undesirable odor emanating from the mouth
How can you prevent dry socket?
It’s important to follow all your dentist’s instructions for home care after a tooth extraction. Patients are cautioned against several things that can lead to the blood clot either not forming well or becoming dislodged or broken up.
When you first resume eating and drinking, avoid the extraction site by chewing on the other side of your mouth, and stick to soft foods only. Staying hydrated is important after dental surgery, but avoid using straws or allowing liquid to slosh around the extraction site. Any kind of sucking or swishing movement in your mouth can dislodge the clot and lead to dry socket.
Avoid sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages while your mouth is healing, and most importantly, avoid any kind of tobacco use. Tobacco use is the main cause of dry socket, because it prevents good clotting and introduces bacteria into the mouth, along with slowing your body’s natural healing processes. The inhalation and exhalation of smoking a cigarette or other tobacco product, or chewing tobacco, also can disturb the blood clot and pull it out of place.
Follow the aftercare instructions for dental hygiene closely to help prevent dry socket. These include avoiding the area with toothbrush, floss or mouthwash for the first 48 hours after an extraction, and refraining from brushing for several days. Instead, you can rinse your mouth gently by tilting your head back and forth, using lukewarm saltwater or an antibacterial mouthwash. Be careful not to disturb the area until a good clot forms in the socket and your healing is well underway.
If you have any questions after a tooth extraction or concerns for your MPDG dentist to address, contact our offices anytime.
Why Should Wisdom Teeth be Removed?
Why should wisdom teeth be removed?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth furthest from the back and also your last set of adult teeth to come in. Most of the time there isn’t enough room for them to grow in all the way, causing the tooth to grow in abnormally or partially erupt, which can cause an infection if ignored.
Why do we even get wisdom teeth if we’re just going to take them out anyway? Early-on, men and women survived by chewing large amounts of raw foods, both plants and animal-based, so having that extra set of molars was really useful. Today, humans eat more cooked foods and have forks and knives to do all the cutting, so we have less need for our wisdom teeth.
What problems do wisdom teeth commonly cause?
How do you know the pain you are having is related to your wisdom teeth? If the discomfort is coming from the corner of your mouth there’s a good chance it’s your third molars. A panoramic film is used to determine if you have wisdom teeth and if they’re positioned correctly or if it’s time to get them removed. Over time, having your wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems such as:
- swollen gums
- jaw pain
- shifting or overlapping of other teeth
- difficulty opening your mouth
- frequent cavities, as the teeth are tough to clean
These are all signs that you need to remove your wisdom teeth.
In some cases you may not have to get your wisdom teeth removed as long as they are healthy, grow in completely, bite properly with their opposing teeth, and are able to be cleaned as part of your normal daily hygiene.
When do dentists recommend wisdom tooth extraction?
Most dentists will recommend getting your wisdom teeth out as soon as you can. Generally, the younger a patient is, the smoother the process. Waiting for the teeth to erupt is often a gamble, as problems the wisdom teeth create often require additional dental care. Most of us just don’t have the jaw space to keep our wisdom teeth, resulting in crowding which may need to be corrected with braces.
How are wisdom teeth extracted?
The most common way to get your wisdom teeth removed is through the use of a general anesthetic. You’ll be asleep for the procedure and it’s nice to not have to experience the process and just wake up with them out. Afterwards, many patients have some pain/discomfort for 3-4 days. After that your mouth will start to feel normal again. Want to learn more about what to expect during the wisdom tooth extraction process? Read our page about tooth extraction here.
Have regular checkups to monitor wisdom tooth growth.
It’s important to go to regular dental checkups, as you’ll start noticing your wisdom teeth coming in around your teenage years. Regular checkups with your dentist will allow you to keep an eye on your wisdom teeth as well as help you decide on when you should get your wisdom teeth removed.
Do you need to schedule an appointment to have a dentist examine your wisdom teeth, or schedule a consultation for a wisdom tooth extraction? Book an appointment with one of our dentists today.