You work hard to ensure your smile stays beautiful. However, there are circumstances when removing a tooth is the only option due to decay, damage, or overcrowding of adult teeth. At Smile Hilliard, our caring and experienced dentists are here to help you through the tooth extraction process.
But what happens after you leave our office and head home? There are certain steps you should take after a tooth extraction to help ease your recovery and reduce the chances of developing any serious complications. As there are different types of extractions that range from low-risk to those needing to be treated by an oral surgeon, the information given below is generally for the low risk, single-tooth extractions. So, check out this list of aftercare guidelines and tips to manage any pain and prevent infection.
Clotting and Healing Immediately After an Extraction
After a tooth extraction, there are several steps you’ll want to take to ensure the healing process starts off on the right path.
First, it is important to know that bleeding and drainage from the socket is completely normal. You’ll want to keep gauze packed in the wound for the first hour or so. If you need to change it a few times during that period, that’s okay. And you may notice pink or bloody saliva, which is completely normal.
Second, it is very important that you avoid chewing on the wound, drinking through a straw, or smoking for the first three days. These activities can prevent clotting and cause the healing process to take longer. They can also cause the clots to be damaged or dislodge, triggering a condition called dry socket, which can be very painful.
We may also suggest you have someone else drive you home after your tooth extraction appointment. Some of the numbness and the pain can be highly distracting, which makes it incredibly important to make transportation arrangements to ensure your overall safety once you’ve left our office.
As you might expect, pain is a pretty common occurrence after having a tooth extraction. Our team of dental experts recommend that you use a combination of over-the-counter ibuprofen and acetaminophen in an alternating fashion to help ease the discomfort for the first few days or so after your procedure. In some cases, we might also recommend another type of medication based on your individual health history.
Make sure you begin taking this medication prior to the numbness wearing off. While you might feel okay for the first few hours after the procedure, there’s a good chance that you won’t once enough time has passed. Being proactive in this regard can often mean the difference between mild discomfort and greater pain.
Those experiencing facial swelling can use an ice pack externally in ten to fifteen minute intervals. Most people find this to be sufficient to help get the inflammation down to a manageable level while their body heals.
Furthermore, make sure to get plenty of rest. On that first day, you’ll want to prop your head on a pillow for an extended period of time as you adjust to the symptoms and start to heal. From there, you can begin to do more daily activities within one to three days or as you begin to feel up to it.
Resuming Normal Activities the Day After Your Procedure
On the day after your tooth extraction procedure, you should feel well enough to resume ordinary activities. At that time, you should be fine to brush and floss as normal, making sure to avoid the healing area if possible.
During this time, try to stick to soft foods to reduce the chances of slowing your healing. Examples include gelatin, pudding, ice cream, scrambled eggs, or mashed potatoes. Soups and broths without any chunks of meat or vegetables that would require chewing are also excellent options.
As you start to feel better, you can begin to resume your normal diet. However, be sure to limit those hard or crunchy foods that might cause irritation or further injury to the socket until it is completely healed.
Time of Healing & Symptoms to Watch For
For most of our patients, the entire time of healing can take anywhere from a couple days to 2-3 weeks. This generally just depends on the individual and how well their body is handling the process.
There are a few symptoms to watch out for that can indicate a serious health problem after your tooth extraction. These include:
- Excessive discharge
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever or chills
- Redness and swelling that doesn’t start to diminish after a couple days
- Extreme pain that affects your daily routine
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
If you experience any of the items on this list, please call our office immediately. If it is after hours, consult your regular physician or an emergency medical professional.
What is Dry Socket?
If you experience extreme discomfort after the first day, then you might have what is referred to as dry socket. This is when the protective clot around the wound is loose or dislodged and exposes the bone underneath.
What causes this? Often, not following the protocols we’ve outlined in this list are the major contributors to dry socket. Smoking, eating hard foods, or generally trying to do too much too soon can all lead to dry socket.
The biggest risk with dry socket is infection or further damage. If you believe you’re experiencing this issue, it is important to contact our office immediately. Our dentists will do an evaluation and determine if there is any infection and whether antibiotics are necessary. We’ll also clean the wound of any debris or food particles.
Wrap Up: Complete Tooth Extraction Aftercare Instructions
While healing after a tooth extraction does take a bit of time, most of our patients are completely back to resuming normal activities within a few days to a week. When that happens, it is time to schedule a follow-up appointment with your dentist.
At that appointment, we’ll discuss your tooth replacement options. Further evaluation may be needed to ensure there’s no shifting of the remaining teeth in your mouth or other issues that need to be addressed.
Are you ready to learn how Smile Hilliard can help you keep your pearly whites looking healthy and dazzling? Please get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment with our skilled team of dentists.