If you’re about to have a tooth removed or just came home from your dental extraction appointment, the right post-op care is extremely important. The better you’re able to care for your mouth after having a tooth pulled, the less likely you’ll be to experience unnecessary discomfort, infection, or a dry socket.
Whether you’re having a wisdom tooth removed or extractions because of periodontal disease (or anything in-between) your home care instructions will fairly identical. Here’s what you need to know:
After an Extraction: Eat Soft Foods for a Day or Two
In the first few days after an extraction, the blood in that area is forming a clot to seal off the socket. To prevent disrupting the clot—which can cause a dry socket—it’s important to eat soft foods that won’t irritate the extraction site. Save hard textures and crunchy foods for later, after your mouth is completely healed.
Some great examples of foods to eat after a dental extraction include things like:
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
- Room temperature oatmeal, grits
You can gradually begin re-introducing firmer foods after a couple of days. In the beginning, do your best to avoid chewing anywhere near the extraction site. Once the gums are completely healed and the socket is sealed off, you can return to your normal diet.
Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, Hot Food/Liquid, or Drinking Through a Straw
Certain risk factors can put you at a higher chance of developing a painful dry socket. Some of them may physically interfere with blood clot formation or put it at a greater chance of becoming dislodged. Classic examples include caffeinated beverages, hot liquids, alcohol, or creating suction by drinking through a straw. Does that mean everyone who does these things will get a dry socket? Not necessarily. But partaking in them will definitely increase your risk of one.
To be on the safe side, give yourself at least a few days before indulging in caffeine or anything too hot. And never, ever drink alcoholic beverages if you’re taking any prescription pain killers or dental sedatives.
Rest Up and Keep Your Head Elevated
One of the best things to do once you get home from a dental extraction is to keep your head elevated. Resting in a recliner or propping your head up with several pillows is a great idea.
When your head is propped up, it reduces your blood pressure or swelling around your mouth. Reduced pressure will, in turn, lower your chances of the blood clot from coming loose. If you’re worried about getting a dry socket, keeping your head elevated is a smart move.
Again, this step only needs to last a day or so at most. While sleeping in a recliner sounds appealing at first, there’s nothing as comfortable as being in your own bed. In the meantime, make sure you have all of your medications, a blanket, and plenty of water handy so that you won’t have to go very far.
Tobacco products and smoking physically inhibit healing inside of your mouth. Not only do they mask infections and raise your risk of gum disease, but they can also interfere with recovery after a dental extraction.
If you haven’t already come up with a tobacco cessation plan, now is the time. It’s a great incentive to quit, period. But like all habits, this one can be hard to break. You might need some time switching over to nicotine patches or a prescription from your doctor to help you get through the first days without any major withdrawals.
Take Medication as Directed
Whether you’re taking antibiotics, a prescription mouth rinse, or pain relievers, make sure you’re following the directions on the label. Always take your medicine as directed and follow a set schedule. Don’t skip doses or take more than you need to.
More than likely you won’t need any strong pain relievers. Most of the time an anti-inflammatory like Motrin (ibuprofen) is more than adequate. Just be sure to take it with food, so that it doesn’t make your stomach feel upset.
The first 24 hours are the most important. By keeping inflammation down through medication and cold compresses, you can help jump-start your recovery and limit potential discomfort.
If we prescribe antibiotics, make sure you take them until the full course is completed. Do not stop taking your antibiotics if you are symptom-free, as it could put you at risk for a recurring infection in addition to drug-resistant bacteria.
Apply a Cold Compress for 20 Minutes at a Time
For the first 24 hours, apply a cold compress to the side of your mouth for up to 20 minutes, with a 20-30 minute break in-between. The cold temperatures will help to alleviate inflammation, as swelling is one of the leading causes of post-operative discomfort.
Gently Rinse with Warm Saltwater
Saltwater solutions naturally draw out swelling and reduce inflammation in your tissues. Since some minor swelling is common after a dental extraction, a saltwater rinse should be part of your home care routine.
However, take care not to rinse too vigorously. Be extremely gentle, as aggressive rinsing might disrupt a blood clot, delaying the healing process.
The right solution will be about 8 ounces of warm water (not hot) and one teaspoon of table salt. Stir it until it’s completely diluted, then gently rinse or gargle. You can repeat this process a few times a day, as it’s also helpful for removing extra food debris after eating.
Call Us if There’s Bleeding or Facial Swelling
If for any reason you begin to experience a fever, facial swelling, or your mouth is bleeding heavily, contact our office. We may direct you to head to the nearest emergency room, as this could potentially be an urgent situation that requires intravenous medication. Fortunately, these scenarios are extremely rare. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of them in case they actually occur.
Typically, mild bleeding is normal. We’ll send you home with a packet of sterile gauze. Apply the gauze to the extraction site and bite down on it to apply firm pressure. Once the gauze is saturated, replace it with a clean piece. You’ll probably only have to do this a few times before you don’t need any more gauze at all.
No Vigorous Exercise or Heavy Lifting
Heavy physical activities can raise your blood pressure, which in turn may dislodge a blood clot in your extraction site. Avoid lifting anything too heavy around the house, and definitely give yourself a few rest days away from the gym, just to be safe. Don’t do anything more than a relaxed walk or extremely light housework in the first few days. Definitely take the first day off altogether.
Do your best to maintain a stress-free experience while you’re healing. The key is to keep your blood pressure at a normal level rather than elevate it unnecessarily. After you’re out of the window for developing a dry socket, you can move around as much as you’d like.
Keep Your Follow-up Appointment
Some of our Raleigh dental extractions may require a follow-up appointment a week or two after the procedure. Especially if it was a surgical extraction, wisdom tooth removal, or we needed to place sutures for any reason.
Make sure to keep your follow-up appointment so that we can check that everything is healing properly. Sometimes there can be residual sutures that need to be removed or bone chips that are irritating your gums. Once we’ve ensured your mouth is healing properly, you can go back to your typical daily routine—including eating whatever you want and exercising—no ifs, ands, or buts!
Have a Tooth Replacement Plan
Unless you’re having wisdom teeth extracted, you’ll want to have a game plan for replacing your missing teeth. Otherwise, the surrounding and opposing teeth will start to drift. Timely tooth replacement will help you keep your smile aligned.
Common options for replacing missing teeth include dental implants, fixed bridges, and partial dentures. Depending on how many teeth are being extracted and the health of the teeth on either side of that space, your choice may be different than the next person. Usually, the longest-lasting solution is to place a dental implant in that site. Implants are capable of supporting the weight of multiple teeth. They’re also completely non-invasive to neighboring teeth and gentle to install. It might even be possible to place your dental implant at the same appointment as your dental extraction. Be sure to work with our Raleigh dentist ahead of time, so that you know what all your options are.
We’re Here to Help
Raleigh Dental Arts is always available to answer your calls and concerns. If you recently had a tooth pulled and need to speak to a dentist, contact our office. Our team will be happy to put your mind at ease and provide guidance as needed.
For gentle tooth removal in Raleigh, contact our office today!