Patient Instructions: After Tooth Extraction

Tooth extraction is commonly recommended if a tooth has been severely damaged by decay, trauma, or infection. Another common reason that oral surgeons perform tooth extractions is to prepare for orthodontics. Whether you are undergoing traditional braces or an Invisalign treatment, removing teeth can often be necessary to correct crowding.

While having a tooth extracted may sound daunting, the procedure is quite common and can often be performed quickly and easily with little discomfort. And while it is normal to experience some soreness and swelling after the procedure, you can do a few things to help speed up your recovery.

Control the Bleeding

The first step in caring for your mouth after a tooth extraction is to control any bleeding that may occur. To do this, simply bite down on a piece of gauze placed directly over the extraction site and hold it firmly for 30 minutes. Change the gauze every 30-45 minutes until the bleeding stops. It is common to have blood-tinged saliva for 24 hours. Another method is to use a tea bag. The tannic acid in black or green tea can help to constrict blood vessels and reduce bleeding. Simply moisten the tea bag in hot water and after it has cooled, place the tea bag directly over the extraction site and bite down for 30 minutes.

Reduce Swelling

Use an ice pack to help keep swelling down. Make sure to wrap the ice packs in a thin towel so that you don’t burn your skin.

  • Apply the ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, and then remove them for 20 minutes
  • Repeat this process as often as possible during the first 48 hours after your extraction
  • After 72 hours, you can start using a warm compress to help reduce swelling
  • To make a warm compress, simply soak a clean washcloth in hot water or a heating pad on medium temperature and apply it to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time.

Manage The Pain

In most cases, you will only experience mild pain after having a tooth extracted. However, your oral surgeon may prescribe you pain medication to help manage any discomfort. In general, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen are typically all that are needed. (Note: If you are prescribed pain medications, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking the medication.)

Get Some Rest

Because your body will be focusing on recovering from the extraction, it is important to get plenty of rest to give it the best possible chance at healing. Try to avoid strenuous activity and limit your time spent standing or sitting upright. Sleeping with your head elevated will help reduce bleeding and swelling and promote healing.

Eating and Drinking

For the first few days after your extraction, it is best to stick to softer foods. Avoid anything hot, including hot liquids. Do not eat acidic or spicy foods as these can irritate your gums. Foods such as mashed potatoes, applesauce, oatmeal, soup broths, and smoothies are good options. Once your bleeding has stopped, you can start incorporating more solid foods into your diet.

Things you should not eat until your extraction site is healed:

  • Chips
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Spicy Foods
  • Chewy Foods

Avoid Smoking

Smoking can cause a lot of problems after having a tooth extracted, and it can slow down the healing process and lead to infection. If you must smoke, wait at least 24 hours after your extraction.

Rinse with Salt Water

Starting the day after your extraction, you should rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day. This will help to keep the area clean and help prevent an infection. Simply mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of water, and use it to rinse your mouth for 30 seconds at a time. Do this after each meal and before bed.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

You should brush your teeth as usual but avoid the extraction site. Brushing too hard or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too stiff can irritate your gums and disrupt the healing process. Instead, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a gentle circular motion.

Possible Complications

  • Trismus is a condition that causes your mouth to feel stiff and makes it difficult to open wide. This is caused by the inflammation of your masseter muscle and can make it difficult to eat or drink. Trismus usually goes away on its own within a few days.
  • Dry socket occurs when the blood clot that forms at the extraction site gets dislodged. This can lead to pain and an increased risk of infection. If you think you may have a dry socket, contact us immediately. Do not drink from a straw until after your extraction is healed to reduce the risk.
  • It is normal for your gums to be sore and inflamed after having a tooth extracted, but if your symptoms get worse instead of better this may be a sign of infection. Contact us immediately if you experience increased pain and swelling at the extraction site or develop a fever. Infection is rare after having a tooth extracted, but it can happen if the extraction site isn’t properly cared for.
  • Numbness can occur after surgery when a nerve is bruised or injured. If you are experiencing  numbness for more than 24 hours, please call the office for an appointment to be evaluated. The majority of cases involving numbness are temporary and resolve over time.
  • Sinus Opening can occur after extraction of an upper back tooth. You may experience airflow into the sinus or liquids entering the sinus when you drink or rinse. The vast majority of sinus openings close with time. Until otherwise instructed do not blow your nose. Call the office for a postoperative appointment to evaluate the sinus opening.

Making It A Success

Your recovery process after a tooth extraction is crucial in ensuring the success of your procedure. By following these tips, you will reduce your risk of complications while helping to promote healing and avoid infection. Above all else, it is vital that you follow these instructions we give you to ensure a speedy and healthy recovery.

If you have any questions or concerns after your surgery, contact AZ Max Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons at (480) 830-5866.

Dr. Austin providing instructions to a patient after a tooth is removed.