How to Help Your Mouth Heal after a Tooth is Removed
OK, so you have just had a tooth removed, or are about to have this procedure. What do you need to do to give yourself the best chance of a speedy and painless recovery?
Commonly Extracted Teeth
Wisdom teeth removal is one of the more common categories of tooth extraction. Many dental professionals will recommend removing wisdom teeth (third molars) before they are fully developed — usually in the adolescent years — to help eliminate potential problems. One issue that could occur is development of an impacted tooth that has surfaced and has no room in the mouth to grow. Other problems associated with impacted teeth include infection, decay of adjacent teeth, bite interference and gum disease.
Gum disease is another reason for necessary tooth extraction. A tooth that is severely damaged by gum disease may need to be removed or risk infecting other areas of the mouth.
Extractions of some permanent teeth that have not erupted — such as the canines, which are also known as fangs or eye teeth — may be required in order to make space for orthodontic treatment.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare
The dentist will immediately place a pack over the area for you to bite on after the tooth is removed, this will put pressure on the wound and help form a blood clot. A wound in the mouth will usually bleed more than one on the skin, as the saliva prevents a scab from forming. Pressure on the wound is necessary to help form the clot and thus reduce the bleeding. The clot protects the bone while the healing process takes place. The main aim in the few hours and days after an extraction procedure is to not disturb this clot.
FIRST HOUR: Bite down gently but firmly on the gauze packs that have been placed over the surgical areas, making sure they remain in place. Do not change them for the first hour unless the bleeding is not controlled. The packs may be gently removed after one hour. If active bleeding persists, place enough new gauze to obtain pressure over the surgical site for another 30 minutes. The gauze may then be changed as necessary (typically every 30 to 45 minutes). It is best to moisten the gauze with tap water and loosely fluff for more comfortable positioning.
EXERCISE CARE: Do not disturb the surgical area today. Do NOT rinse vigorously or probe the area with any objects. You may brush your teeth gently.
ORAL HYGIENE: It is important to keep the mouth clean. You should brush your teeth the night of surgery, but be gentle around the surgical sites. If there is minimal bleeding, saltwater rinses may begin 24 hours after surgery (mix 1 tablespoon of salt with 8 ounces of water.) Swish gently and allow the water to drip into the sink. Rinses should be done 2-3 times a day, especially after eating. Begin your normal oral hygiene routine as soon as possible after surgery.
ACTIVITIES: Activities after surgery should be couch or bed rest for the first day. Bending, lifting, or strenuous activity will result in increased bleeding, swelling and pain. Exercise should be avoided for 3-4 days following surgery.
SWELLING: Swelling is a normal occurrence after surgery and will not reach its maximum until 2-3 days after surgery. It can be minimized by using a cold pack, ice bag or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel and applied firmly to the cheek adjacent to the surgical area. This should be applied 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off during the first 24 hours after surgery. If you have been prescribed medicine for the control of swelling, be sure to take it as directed.
DRY SOCKETS: If the blood clot is loosened or dislodged, you may have a dry socket, in which the bone is exposed. Dry sockets may last for several days and may cause severe discomfort that sometimes includes ear pain.
PAIN: Unfortunately most oral surgery is accompanied by some degree of discomfort. You will usually have a prescription for pain medication. If you take the first pill before the anesthetic has worn off, you should be able to manage any discomfort better.
DIET: Eat any nourishing food that can be taken with comfort. Avoid extremely hot foods. Do not use a straw for the first few days after surgery. It is sometimes advisable, but not absolutely required, to confine the first day’s intake to liquids or pureed foods (soups, puddings, yogurt, milk shakes, etc.) It is best to avoid foods like rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, popcorn, etc., which may get lodged in the socket areas. Over the next several days you may gradually progress to solid foods.
MOUTH RINSES: Keeping your mouth clean after surgery is essential. Use 1/4 teaspoon of salt dissolved in an 8 ounce glass of warm water and gently rinse with portions of the solution, taking five minutes to use the entire glassful. Repeat as often as you like, but at least two or three times daily.
HEALING: Normal healing after tooth extraction should be as follows: The first two days after surgery are generally the most uncomfortable and there is usually some swelling. On the third day you should be more comfortable and, although still swollen, can usually begin a more substantial diet. The remainder of the post-operative course should be gradual, steady improvement. If you don’t see continued improvement, please call our office.
Your case is individual as no two mouths are alike. Do not accept well-intended advice from friends. Discuss your problem with the person best able to effectively help you – your dentist!
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