What to Expect After a Tooth Extraction

Many patients choose to undergo tooth extractions when other forms of tooth-saving treatments fail. Once a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket, which begins the healing process. While most tooth extraction sites heal without a hitch, some patients may experience lingering discomfort, swelling, and other symptoms. Learn more about the recovery period following a tooth extraction and what you should expect.

During the first hour following a tooth extraction, you can expect to see and taste some blood at the extraction site. Before leaving the dentist office, your dentist will have you bite down firmly on some gauze placed over the surgical site. Keep this gauze in place for at least one hour to help control the bleeding. If bleeding persists, continue to change the gauze every 30 to 45 minutes until the bleeding stops.

For the first few days following the extraction, it’s important to take extra care to avoid disturbing the surgical site. Do not use a straw, rinse your mouth vigorously, or touch the area with your fingers or any objects. While it’s okay to brush your teeth, do so very gently. Smoking and the use of tobacco products is also highly discouraged.

Oral Hygiene

Practicing good oral hygiene is essential during the tooth extraction recovery period to prevent infection. Brush your teeth like you normally would, using caution around the surgical site. Saltwater rinses can begin 24 hours following the surgery. If your dentist prescribes a special rinse, follow his or her instructions. Rinses should be done about 2 to 3 times a day, especially after meals.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

Avoid strenuous activity for a couple days following the surgery. Couch or bed rest is best for the first 24 hours to help decrease bleeding, swelling, and pain. Exercise and other activities can contribute to post-operative bleeding, swelling, and discomfort, so exercise should be avoided for 3 to 4 days. While most oozing of blood stops within the first few hours, it’s not uncommon to have mild bleeding for up to 48 hours.

Dealing With Swelling

Swelling is common during the first week of recovery, usually reaching its peak around day 2 or 3. You can help to minimize any swelling with an ice pack or bag of ice wrapped in a towel and pressed against the cheek near the surgical site. Apply the ice pack for 20 minutes, then take a 20 minute break during the first 24 hours following the procedure. Your dentist may also prescribe medication to help control swelling.

Your dentist will likely provide postoperative instructions on how to care for your extraction site to remain healthy and to make your recovery as pain-free as possible. If you’re concerned about your recovery, contact your surgical dentist.