If a tooth is cracked below the gum, has a root fracture, or is periodontally involved and can’t be saved, an extraction might be recommended to preserve nearby teeth or to prep the area for an implant or dentures. Sometimes a tooth or teeth need to be extracted before orthodontic treatment to make room for other teeth to shift into a better alignment.
Regardless of the reason, having a tooth removed doesn’t have to be a pain if you follow the post-op instructions provided by your dentist.
Here are some overall tips for making the recovery period following an extraction as pain-free and straightforward as possible.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity for at least 24 hours – Physical activity increases blood pressure and blood flow. After an extraction, no matter how simple, you want to keep your blood pressure down. Don’t do any heavy lifting and postpone your workout to give your body time to heal and to allow a clot to form in the extraction site.
- Watch for bleeding – After your extraction, your dentist will have you bite down on a piece of gauze for a while depending on the difficulty of the removal. When you remove it, there may be a little blood on the gauze or some light residual bleeding at the extraction site. This is normal. Remember, a little bit of blood mixed with saliva looks like a lot of blood. While there is usually no cause for concern, if the bleeding seems to continue for more than a few hours, call your dentist for an evaluation or further instruction.
- Keep the clot in place – After surgery, the goal is to get a clot to form in the socket where your tooth used to live. Avoid drinking from a straw, smoking, and vigorously rinsing your mouth (even with water) for at least 24 hours, preferably a little longer. All these actions create suction in the mouth and can dislodge a clot causing a lot of pain and may delay healing.
- Use cold compresses to relieve swelling – Sometimes your dentist needs to move your lips and cheeks in unnatural ways to get to a tooth that needs to be removed, and that can cause swelling in the cheeks or lips. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel can help or a cold, damp washcloth to reduce swelling and make you more comfortable.
- Brush and floss gently – DON’T brush the extraction site and try to avoid the teeth on either side for a few days just to be sure the clot stays intact.
- Keep all follow-up appointments – These checkups help your doctor make sure you are healing as you should. There are things a dentist can see that you can’t – they are trained professionals! Skipping a follow-up can cause more problems than missing a little time out of work or school and could make a small issue become much larger and more costly.
Today’s technology combined with your dentist’s expert training makes modern dental procedures safer and often reduces the healing time when compared to just a few decades ago. Following your dentist’s post-op instructions and keeping all follow-up appointments can make sure the pain ends with your extraction.