Tooth Extraction – Recovery Basics
It’s probably putting it mildly that very few of us look forward to a tooth extraction. That’s unless things get really bad and we really need one. And then, it can’t come soon enough. So, we at The Bondi Dentists wanted to offer a bit of an aftercare manual for those that have to go through this process.
First of all, what is tooth extraction? Basically, it’s completely removing a tooth. We might need this if our teeth become too crowded or if a tooth is badly broken or decayed. When this is the case, a dental surgeon or dentist will perform the extraction in the office, providing aftercare instructions to speed and smooth the healing process.
In the office, the area around the tooth is treated with powerful anaesthetics. Then, using a series of instruments, the dental surgeon will loosen and eventually remove the tooth. Finally, gauze is placed over the extraction site to aid clotting and control bleeding.
Here’s a bit more about how to care for your mouth and the timeline for healing:
Immediately after an extraction, a patient might experience some degree of pain and swelling. The extent of the reaction can vary depending on several factors, including the number of teeth removed, which tooth, and the length of the root. This can also have an influence on the healing time. A cold compress can be helpful in the hours after the process. Most patients find that pain reduces significantly after three days.
The most important aspect of healing is allowing a blood clot to form in the socket. This helps to seal the extraction site and prevent dry socket and other painful complications. The most critical healing phase after a procedure is in the first 48 hours. For the first 24 hours, low level bleeding is common. By the end of 48 hours, if the site has been well-cared for, a clot will often have formed. If bleeding continues after 24 hours, it’s recommended for the patient to seek additional treatment.
A few tips from The Bondi Dentists for the first 48 hours of aftercare:
- Leave the gauze in place for the first few hours after the procedure. Afterwards, change as necessary.
- Don’t rinse while you’re clotting! Don’t swish, gargle, or rinse at all until the clot has formed effectively.
- Don’t create suction or pressure! Keys here: Avoid using straws, as they create suction in the mouth and can dislodge the clot. Don’t spit, sneeze, or blow your nose either, if it can be at all avoided.
- Make sure to get plenty of rest, and elevate your head in the process. Lying your head flat can allow blood to pool and slow the clotting process.
- Use cold compresses for 10 – 20 minutes at a time and take over the counter pain relievers as necessary to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Avoid smoking especially in the first couple of days after the extraction, and throughout the entire healing process if possible.
- Make sure to take all medications prescribed by the dentist according to the recommended schedule and complete the course of treatment.
Aftercare for Days 3–10
By this time, a clot should be formed, but it’s still important to be gentle and careful with the extraction site. Try to stick to soft foods that don’t require much chewing. Applesauce, yogurt, and soups, are excellent choices, while crunchy or chewy foods like seeds, chips, toast should be avoided at all costs. When chewing or brushing avoid the extraction site entirely. Rinse the mouth with a warm saline rinse, such as warm water with a pinch of salt. Alternately, the dentist may prescribe a medicated mouthwash for aftercare during this period. Remember to avoid rinsing altogether until a clot is formed.
If multiple teeth are removed, the dentist is more likely to use general anaesthesia, meaning that the patient will be unconscious during the extraction. This also means that the patient should avoid driving after the procedure. The aftercare instructions above apply; however, the dental surgeon may offer additional recommendations. Clotting aids are often used as well. These are small pieces of material that are placed in the extraction sites to promote clotting. They are eventually broken down and absorbed by the body. Wisdom teeth are a special instance of multiple tooth extraction, and may require dissolvable stitches to aid in the healing process.
If children require a tooth extraction, they will also be put under general anaesthesia. Although the aftercare process is essentially the same as for adults, it will be necessary for their caregiver to pay special attention to the child during the healing process. They will need to ask questions about the level of pain and the presence of bleeding. The dentist may also offer special recommendations to aid in the recovery process.
Signs that the Patient Should Return for Additional Treatment
At The Bondi Dentists we know that some people get concerned about the healing process and might worry about whether or not to come in for a checkup. First, remember that a 10-day healing process is normal. This can be lengthened depending on age, whether or not the patient is a smoker, or other factors. Here are some signs that you should come in for a follow up:
- Severe pain that spreads to the ear
- Bleeding after 24 to 48 hours
- Foul smelling or tasting drainage from the extraction site
- Swelling and pain that worsens over time
- Nausea or vomiting
- High fever
If any of these symptoms occur, return to your dentist as soon as possible.
If you’d like to know more about tooth extractions or you have any questions about oral health, feel free to contact us. At The Bondi Dentists, we’re dedicated to giving you the brightest healthiest smile you can have.