Millions of teeth need to be extracted each year. And although this is not what anyone hopes for, sometimes it is the best option. If you have had a tooth extraction, there’s tips and tricks you should know so that you have easy and fast healing. Whether you’re healing from a wisdom tooth extraction or any other tooth, the secrets to healing are the same. In this article we’ll talk about the dos and don’ts after tooth extraction, eating after tooth extraction, tooth extraction healing tips, and everything you should know about tooth extraction aftercare.
The Do’s and Don’ts after a Tooth Extraction
Let’s get right to it. If you had a tooth extracted, you don’t have time to meander through rhetoric about teeth. We’ll that for another article and I’ll give you what you need.
And in case you’re in the wrong place. If you had a tooth extraction and wondering how long the hole takes to close this article may be better suited for you.
If you were feeling great after a tooth extraction but then suddenly things got worse, you might have a dry socket—in that case, check out this one.
And without any further ado, let’s talk about the dos and don’ts after tooth extraction.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare: The Do’s
Ice the Area the First 12 Hours
Bumps, bruises, and tooth extractions…what’s the first thing someone tells you?
And that’s for good reason. The majority of swelling will occur the first day and night after a tooth extraction. Icing the area helps to reduce swelling and bruising.
Switch to Warm Compresses After 12 Hours
After waking up the second day after your tooth extraction, the majority of the swelling has already formed. So your mindset should change.
Instead of preventing swelling, you now want to begin reducing it.
Warm compresses are the best option to reduce swelling. The heat soothes the area and helps increase blood flow to shuttle away the swelling.
So what’s the easiest way to make a warm compress for tooth extraction aftercare? Place a small dish of water in the microwave, warm it up, and dab a clean facecloth in the water to create a warm compress. Check to make sure its not too hot and hold the compress against your cheek for about 2-3 mins at a time.
A significant amount of healing happens while we sleep which is great. But when we sleep, particularly the first night after a tooth extraction, that’s when the majority of swelling develops.
And it happens for a simple reason. When we lay down, there’s more blood pressure to the head—hence more blood flowing to the tooth extraction site which means more swelling develops.
The trick for tooth extraction aftercare is to reduce swelling while you sleep. You do that by sleeping elevated.
Try to keep your head above your heart level. Great ways to do that are by sleeping propped up with multiple pillows or on your favorite couch recliner.
Eating After Tooth Extraction—Chew Away
Eating after tooth extraction is one of the things that almost everyone has questions about. Chewing away from the area of the tooth extraction is a simple strategy. And yes, I know its obvious that you wouldn’t chew on a healing site, but the reasons may not be as obvious. You want to eliminate the chance of irritating the area when eating after a tooth extraction, or getting particles of food caught in the site that can cause an infection.
There’s also a blood clot nestled in the place where the tooth was, and chewing away from the site helps not to dislodge the clot that is essential for healing. When the clot becomes dislodged it causes a dry socket.
Brush Your Teeth but with Some Modifications
You can brush your teeth after a tooth extraction, and you actually should. Keeping the mouth clean is important after a tooth extraction to not collect bacteria in the healing area. But when you’re brushing and getting close to the healing area, just be extra gentle.
Brush the adjacent teeth to the site cautiously and try not to hit the gums where the hole of the tooth extraction is.
Water is one of the most abundant substances on earth and it actually makes up 60% of the human body. So it makes sense that studies show that healing is linked to hydration. It can be difficult to remember to have enough water when your mouth is sore.
But the bottom line is that proper hydration is essential for wound healing.
Ditch the Gym for 7 Days
This one can go either way. I’ve had patients who can’t bear the thought of missing a workout, and I’ve had some who rejoice at a mandated break from the gym. Either way you need to know that excess physical activity from cardio or lifting weights is detrimental to tooth extraction aftercare.
The reason is because exercise significantly increases the heart rate and blood pressure. And since a tooth extraction is essentially an empty raw hole, the increased blood pressure can cause bleeding, swelling, or induce a painful dry socket.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare: The Don’ts
But of course an article about the dos and don’ts after tooth extraction would not be complete without what you shouldn’t do. When it comes to tooth extraction aftercare (and many things in life) it’s equally important to know what not to do. So buckle up, here we go with the don’ts after tooth extraction:
Don’t Overdo It
As we talked about with “ditching the gym,” you also want to make sure you’re not overdoing anything else. In today’s world there a million things going on. From work, to childcare, to the stress of not being in the range of a Starbucks…there’s plenty of things that can work us up. And that’s exactly what you want to avoid.
You don’t necessarily need to be homebound, but just avoid things that get your heart racing. Try to limit excessive physical work and excessive mental stress for the first few days of tooth extraction aftercare. Trust me, I know its easier said than done, but you’re tooth will thank you later.
Avoid Straws like the Plague
With all that’s been happening environmentally to switch from plastic straws to paper straws, dentists should receive credit. They’ve been telling people to not use straws for years.
The reason straws are a big “don’t” on the list of do’s and don’ts after tooth extraction, is because they create suction within the mouth. That’s bad for healing. The space where the tooth was is an open hole that fills with blood. The blood must clot and eventually help produce tissue to close the site. Without the blood clot, the healing stalls.
Straws are a no-no because they create suction which can disrupt the blood clot and cause a dry socket.
Don’t smoke (and let me give you tips how to beat cravings)
Smoking is very similar to using straws after a tooth extraction—it creates suction. And you know what that does (eg. increases the risk for dry socket).
But smoking also has another major disadvantage for the healing of the open wound in the mouth. It bathes the tooth extraction site in heat and various chemicals. The bottom line is that smoking disrupts the healing of a tooth extraction. It’s best to avoid smoking for 3-5 days after a tooth extraction.
I recommend a nicotine patch as the best option to bridge yourself to success without having massive cravings.
And I know smoking is a complex topic. You’re probably thinking what about vaping, what if you don’t create a suction when you smoke, what if you cover the extraction site, etc? In case you want to learn more about smoking and tooth extractions check out this article.
Don’t Eat Solid Food Immediately
After a single tooth extraction, and especially after multiple, you want to ease yourself into foods as you feel comfortable.
Eating after tooth extraction can be problematic if done incorrectly. What I mean by that is trying too many strenuous foods to eat is a recipe for delaying your healing. It can irritate the site and cause bleeding. Stick with softer foods the first few days until you are confident you can try more difficult foods to eat.
Some great options for creative foods to eat during tooth extraction aftercare can be found in this article.
Don’t Swish Mouthwash
This one is a common mistake during tooth extraction aftercare. The reason is because its completely counterintuitive. Most people want to keep their mouth clean while their healing. They know they can’t brush the extraction site so they try to clean it by rinsing mouthwash. That’s a no-no.
Many over the counter mouth rinses work great for teeth and gums, except when they are healing. Oftentimes the mouth rinses contain alcohol or other substances that can irritate the gums.
But some people will ask, what about rinsing with salt water? This is okay in theory, but you need to be careful not to “swish.” Because remember, you don’t want to flush away the blood clot. It’s all about that blood clot. If you swish it away, it creates a dry socket and delays the healing.
So what you can do is use warm salt water rinses by placing it in your mouth and just letting the area soak without swishing vigorously. It’s also okay to use prescription mouthrinse the same way if your dentist prescribes you one that is designed for tooth extraction healing such as chlorohexidine.
Don’t forget your prescriptions
After a tooth extraction, it’s a departure from your normal routine to some degree. Be sure to take any routine prescriptions as instructed if you take prescriptions regularly. And follow the directions of prescriptions that your dentist gives you for tooth extraction aftercare. Common prescriptions after tooth extraction are antibiotics to prevent infections, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Don’t Panic if There is Minor Bleeding
During the first 12 hours after an extraction, it’s relatively normal to have minor bleeding from the site that tinges the saliva slightly pink.
If you have issues where the bleeding seems excessive (pouring out of the site), you should contact your dentist to discuss.
But in the meantime you should try a home remedy to slow the bleeding. Bite on a gauze or try the tea bag home remedy. Green tea has been shown to reduce bleeding. Simply bite on a green tea bag for 5-10 mins with gentle pressure. It should stop the bleeding.
Don’t pick at the Extraction Site
The extraction site will feel a little odd the first few days. After all, you’ve been used to have a tooth there and there are a lot of changes that are happening during the healing. Try to avoid touching the area with your tongue and avoid picking at the area.
What Are Some Other Complications During Tooth Extraction Aftercare?
In modern dentistry having a tooth extracted is relatively uneventful. The majority of patients heal from a tooth extraction over the course of 1-2 weeks, with the majority of the healing happening the first 7 days.
However, there are some complications that do occur with tooth extractions. Following the above tooth extraction aftercare protocols helps to minimize many of them.
The most common complication after a tooth extraction is called a dry socket—essentially the blood clot, which is required to heal the site, dislodges. When a dry socket happens, its not the end of the world. The extraction site will heal normally, but it does set it back by a few painful days.
There are some other complications that are common to tooth extractions. Many of the complications are temporary and resolve over the first few weeks. Here’s a list of some of the most common complications:
- Limited mouth opening for 2 weeks (this is called trismus)
- Bleeding that lasts longer than the normal 12 hours
- Infection of the tooth extraction area
- Dry socket
- Nausea or vomiting (particularly common with sedation)
- Pain or difficulty eating after tooth extraction
- Throat soreness (most common with wisdom teeth)
- Numbness of the area
The Do’s and Don’ts after a Tooth Extraction: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that a tooth extraction will generally healing in 1-2 weeks uneventfully. However, tooth extraction aftercare is important. That means– how easily you heal is affected by how well you follow the recommended instructions.
There are tricks to eating after tooth extraction, maintaining hygiene, and managing pain. Try to follow the do’s and don’ts after a tooth extraction as close as you can for best results.