Tips to Promote Tooth Extraction Healing and How to Avoid a Dry Socket
Tooth extractions are necessary when teeth are too damaged from decay or trauma and can’t be repaired.
Wisdom teeth removal is another form of tooth extraction. This procedure helps prevent discomfort and future complications from wisdom teeth.
In some instances, your dentist may also remove teeth if your mouth is too crowded. Such tooth extractions usually take place in preparation for orthodontic care to align teeth properly.
If you’re having a tooth extraction procedure, you must take the necessary precautions afterward. Aftercare will promote proper healing and prevent painful dry sockets.
The following are the dos and don’ts for aftercare, including what to eat after wisdom teeth removal and tooth extraction, and instances that require you to visit your dentist.
Precautions You Need to Take After Getting a Tooth Pulled
After the procedure, bite firmly on the gauze pad. Your dentist will place the gauze as it will reduce bleeding and allow for a blood clot to form in the socket.
Leave the gauze pad in for three or four hours following the procedure. Change the gauze pad if it becomes soaked with blood during this time.
Do not disturb the wound in any way. Avoid blowing your nose, spitting, or sucking on a straw. Any disturbance can cause bleeding, irritation, infection, and a dry socket from a dislodged blood clot.
Do not smoke. Smoking can cause complications as it increases blood pressure. Inhaling can also disturb the wound and dislodge the blood clot. The cigarette smoke can also irritate the wound and slow down the healing process.
Take your prescribed medication. Follow the directions of your dentist and pharmacist. If you suffer from allergies, it is recommended to take allergy medication to avoid sneezing which could cause complications during the healing period.
Avoid taking aspirin. Aspirin is a blood thinner and may cause more bleeding.
Relax for 24 hours following the tooth extraction. Limit your activity for the next few days. Avoid exerting yourself, lifting anything, and bending over.
Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes at a time. Do not apply pressure, but place the ice pack on the affected cheek and near the extraction area to help reduce the swelling.
Do not lie down entirely. Use pillows to stay inclined and to avoid prolonged bleeding.
Do not use mouthwash. This piece of advice can help you avoid complications as mouthwash can disturb the wound and blood clot.
After 24 hours, you may gently rinse your mouth. It is recommended that you use a mixture of 1 cup of warm water and ½ teaspoon of salt to rinse your mouth. Allow the water to drip out of your mouth—do not spit. Repeat two to three times a day.
You can also gently brush and floss, but be careful and avoid the extraction area.
What Foods You Should and Should Not Eat After a Tooth Extraction
For 24 hours after the extraction, avoid hot food and beverages, acidic and spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and alcohol.
Avoid small, hard foods that can disturb the wound during the healing process, such as seeds, nuts, popcorn, and rice.
Once the numbness disappears, you can eat soft foods. It is essential, however, to only use the opposite side of the mouth from the extraction. Soft foods include:
As always, it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids and water once the numbness subsides.
You can gradually eat solid foods as your extraction area heals. Eat a healthy diet that includes vitamin C to promote healing.
Without taking precautions, you may encounter one of the following complications after a tooth extraction.
Some patients have existing health conditions that may put them at high risk of developing a severe infection following tooth extraction.
It is therefore highly relevant that dentists be aware of all health conditions before treatment. In some cases, it might be necessary that you take antibiotics before and after the tooth extraction as a precaution.
Following tooth extraction, a blood clot forms typically in the tooth socket. Sometimes, however, the blood clot loosens and exposes the bone and nerve endings inside the cavity.
This severe complication is called a dry socket and can delay healing until a new blood clot forms.
How to Avoid Dry Sockets
To avoid a dry socket, follow these instructions in the 24 hours following tooth extraction:
- Do not spit or suck on candy or through a straw;
- Do not rinse your mouth;
- Do not floss or brush next to the extraction site; and,
- Do not smoke or use any tobacco products for 72 hours.
Visit your dentist immediately if you suspect you have a dry socket. Your dentist will likely cover the cavity with a protective dressing that will stay on for a few days while a new blood clot forms.
Healing After a Tooth Extraction
The initial healing phase of a tooth extraction usually takes about one to two weeks. During this time, the socket will start to close, and you will notice significant healing.
You may still notice an indentation in the jaw bone after three to four weeks. Bone tissue will be forming at this time, and the new tissue may still be too delicate to chew hard foods on that side.
By 24 weeks, the healing should be close to complete. After eight months, the new bone tissue should fill the tooth socket.
If you experience a dry socket, your healing time will be delayed by at least a few days until a new blood clot forms.
When to Visit Your Dentist
It’s normal to experience pain, swelling, and bleeding following tooth extraction. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, especially after more than four hours following the procedure, visit your dentist:
- Bleeding becomes more severe
- Signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge
- Nausea or vomiting
- A cough or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Severe pain
- Note that once the anesthesia wears off, you will experience tooth extraction pain. You will also experience pain when your pain medication wears off. If, however, you experience worsening pain in the days following your treatment, you should visit your dentist.
Tooth extractions are not pleasant, but you can avoid further pain and complications with these aftercare tips. Contact your dentist if you have any concerns or questions in preparation for your tooth extraction.
Dr. Hanan Taraf is an experienced dentist. Her first practice was in Morocco, where she was born and raised. In 2005, she came to Canada, studying at the Université de Montréal where she earned her Canadian DMD Degree, graduating in June of 2010. She’s never stopped learning, however; Dr. Taraf’s dedication to continuing education led her to take further studies so she could offer oral sedation to ensure even the most anxious patients are able to enjoy stress-free treatment. Dr. Taraf is also a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Mini Implant Residency with associate professor Dr. Mark Lin.