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Oral Care After Your Tooth Extraction

There are lots of reasons you may need a tooth extracted, everything from accidents to advanced tooth decay can be at the root of the problem. No matter what causes the extraction, though, the process is basically the same. So is the after care, so pay attention!

What Happens During and Right After an Extraction?

Your dentist will give you an appropriately anesthetic prior to beginning your extraction. It should make your mouth numb so that you don’t feel the actual removal. Once the tooth is out and your gums covered with gauze you may continue to experience that numbness for several hours. This is a good thing because your mouth will be very sore as the drugs start to wear off.

If the pain becomes uncontrollable and unbearable, you run a fever, are nauseous or vomit, call your dentist immediately. These could be signs of infection that may spread — it’s not something to gamble with. If your dentist can’t be reached, head to the closest emergency room right away.

I’m Bleeding! Help!

A little bit of bleeding after a tooth extraction is normal, that’s why the gauze is put over your gums to begin with. It helps the blood to form a good clot and prevents you from swallowing it. Keep the gauze in place for at least a half hour, if not longer. Chewing on the gauze will only make you bleed more, be extra cautious until your clots form.

If you’re bleeding after about an hour, following these instructions:

  • Apply a new, clean, small piece of gauze folded over itself and run under warm water to the extraction site.

  • Put some pressure on the gauze by closing your teeth over it to hold it in place. Maintain this pressure for about a half hour. If the gauze becomes blood-soaked, replace it and repeat.

  • Don’t chew or suck on the gauze, tempting as it may be.

  • Call your dentist if heavy bleeding can’t be stopped. A little bit of bleeding is normal.

Once you get a clot to form, you want it to stay in place. Don’t do anything that might irritate it or cause it to break loose. That would include:

  • No drinking from a straw or rinsing or swishing the site for at least 24 hours. Anything that creates suction can cause the clot to loosen.

  • Avoid alcohol of any kind, including that in mouthwash, for the first 24 hours.

  • No brushing the extraction site or the teeth immediately around it for 48 hours. You should brush and floss any teeth not in the immediate vicinity of the extraction, hwoever.

  • No cigarettes, they can cause the clot to fall out or your wound to become infected.

  • No strenuous exercise or activity for 24 hours.

If you loose your clot, you may experience a condition known as “dry socket.” It’s very painful and can take weeks to resolve. Unfortunately, dry sockets can form even when you do your very best to maintain your clots. In these cases, call your dentist right away so she can help you manage the pain and heal the socket.

Your Post-Extraction Diet

Solid food is not going to be your friend until your extraction site is healed. Instead, drink lots of water and plan for a soft diet. Your dentist may advise you to start slow with food and work back up to more challenging fare. Soup, yogurt, gelatin and other liquids should be all you consume during the first few days. After that you can add increasingly solid foods until you heal.

Avoid chips, nuts, sticky candy and anything that might injure your wound. And, again, remember to avoid any type of suction, as this can cause the clot to fall out and create a dry socket. No straws, no cigarettes, no swishing aggressively. 

Post-Op With Your Dentist

If your dentist placed sutures in your mouth to help hold your extraction site closed, you’ll definitely want to keep your post-op appointment. During this time, the sutures will be removed and your healing progress will be assessed. If you leave the stitches in indefinitely, it can cause serious infection.

Although having a tooth extraction isn’t the most fun you can have in a dental chair, they’re often necessary procedures with high success rates and very low risk. Your experience will be smooth and easy if you follow your dentist’s instructions and keep in communication throughout the healing process.

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