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What to Expect After Tooth Extraction

Friday - November 10th, 2017
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Tooth extractions are never fun, but they don’t have to be stressful. If a tooth extraction is necessary to help preserve your oral and overall health, knowing what to expect can help reduce anxiety about the procedure beforehand and produce better results afterward.

Here’s all you need to know about tooth extractions.

What is a tooth extraction?

A tooth extraction is a dental procedure during which an entire tooth, including its roots, is removed from its socket. There are two types of tooth extractions–simple and surgical.

A simple extraction is possible when the entire tooth is visible, not under any gum or tissue, and is not too damaged to be removed as a whole unit. A simple extraction can be performed by a general dentist with only a local anesthetic, applied via injection or topically.

A surgical extraction is necessary if the tooth is impacted–trapped below the gum line–or is broken and cannot be removed in one piece. A surgical extraction requires an incision in the gum line as well as additional sedation methods or general anesthesia. While oral surgeons specialize in surgical extractions, some general dentists can perform them, especially in the case of wisdom teeth removals.

What are the reasons for a tooth extraction?

Other than wisdom teeth removal–which a majority of Americans will have done in their late teen and early adult years—the most common reason for a tooth extraction is for a severely decayed or abscessed (infected) tooth. If a cavity or infection in a tooth goes too long without treatment, the decay and infection can spread and essentially kill the tooth. Tooth extraction is often the last resort, necessary only if the tooth cannot be treated with a filling, crown, or root canal.

You may also need extraction if:

Removing problematic teeth can help ensure your teeth are properly spaced and aligned for optimal health.

If your dentist is recommending that you have a tooth extracted, then it is necessary for your oral and overall health to have it removed. Whatever the condition your tooth is in, it will not improve on its own.

What happens during a tooth extraction?

The process for your tooth extraction will depend on whether you are having a simple or surgical extraction and the number of teeth that will be removed. If it is a simple extraction, you will have a local numbing agent applied to the extraction site either topically or via injection. For more complex surgical procedures, you may be administered some sedation or general anesthesia. Once it takes effect, you will not feel any pain. You may be lightly sedated, feel slight pressure, or may even fall asleep.

During a surgical extraction, an incision will be made in the gum to access the tooth. In a simple extraction, the entire tooth is visible above the gum line. The dentist will then use a dental elevator to gently wiggle the tooth back and forth and loosen it from any ligaments or gum tissue. Then he or she will use forceps to pull the tooth from its socket.

The empty socket will be cleaned, and cleared of any infected or decayed tissue, and sutured close Gauze will be placed over the extraction site to help control bleeding and allow a blood clot to form. You will then be moved to a recovery room or allowed to remain in the exam room while your sedation wears off.

What should you expect after your tooth extraction?

Recovery from your tooth extraction may take a few days. If you had a surgical extraction with anesthesia, you may feel a bit drowsy immediately following your procedure as the medication wears off, and will need someone to drive you home. You may also experience some swelling and sensitivity at the site of the extraction. Reduce pain and discomfort by applying an ice pack to the area or using over-the-counter pain medication. Your dentist may also prescribe you pain medication which you should take as directed. 

You will also be advised to avoid sports or vigorous activities for the first few days after a tooth extraction to protect the blood clot and extraction site.

How long does it take to heal after a tooth extraction, and what are the stages of healing?

The exact amount of time it will take for your mouth to heal after a tooth extraction depends on a variety of factors, such as:

In general, it takes around 14 days for most patients to completely heal from a tooth extraction.

First 24 hours: You will have some mild to moderate pain or discomfort, and there may be bleeding while the blood clot forms. You will also likely experience some swelling and sensitivity at the extraction site.

Days 1 and 2 post-extraction: These days are important to recovery. You should avoid smoking, caffeine, drinking through a straw, brushing your teeth, and rinsing and spitting. Limit activities, get plenty of rest, and take pain medication as directed. Your diet should consist of liquids or soft solids–nothing hard, crunchy, or chewy.

Day 3: The empty socket(s) should be largely healed at this point, with minimal swelling and no bleeding. You may have some tenderness, but there shouldn’t be any pain. You can begin gently brushing your teeth and gums, avoiding the extraction site, and gently swishing out your mouth, letting the water or mouthwash fall out of your mouth rather than spitting it out. Continue to stick with soft foods.

End of Week 1: The clot should be completely formed and secure 7-10 days after the procedure. Sutures will have either dissolved or will be removed at this point, and you should have minimal discomfort and no swelling.

End of Week 2: The sockets should be almost entirely healed, though they may still be a little tender or sensitive. Avoid chewing and brushing near or on the extraction site to prevent rupture of the new gum tissue or infection.

Week 3 and beyond: You should be able to return to all normal brushing and eating activities, taking care to keep the extraction site clean and irrigated of any food debris.

What does a blood clot look like after a tooth extraction?

The blood clot that forms after a tooth extraction will look like a dark-colored scab. If you do not see this or see something white in the extraction site, be sure to contact your dentist to make sure you are not developing a dry socket.

What is the white stuff where I had a tooth extracted?

The white stuff in or near your extraction site could be one of a few things–granulation tissue, a dry socket, an infection with pus, or trapped food.

If it has been several days since your procedure and you are not experiencing any pain, the white stuff could be granulation tissue, which replaces the blood clot and helps with the healing process. Granulation tissue contains a variety of cellular material necessary to protect the empty socket, such as blood cells, collagen, and blood vessels. It does not need to be removed and should be kept clean to allow the gums to heal properly.

If you are within 72 hours of your procedure and experiencing severe pain at the extraction site, that white stuff may be bone from a dry socket, exposed when a blood clot hasn’t formed correctly. Since the blood clot hasn’t formed, the granulation tissue has also not formed. Contact your dentist right away so he or she can clean and retreat the area.

If you have white stuff over your extraction site that oozes when touched or is producing a foul smell, you may have an infection. The white stuff may be pus. You will need to see your dentist to have the socket drained and cleaned. The dentist may also give you a prescription for antibiotics.

Food that has gotten stuck in the socket may also appear white, but it shouldn’t be painful. You can rinse vigorously with water or a mouth rinse, then allow it to fall out of your mouth into the sink (don’t spit). You can also try very gentle brushing or a water flosser to dislodge the piece of food.

When can I stop using gauze after a tooth extraction?

After a tooth extraction, the dentist will place a piece of gauze in the empty socket to help staunch the bleeding and promote the formation of a blood clot. The gauze should remain in the extraction site for 30-45 minutes, preferably with pressure (by biting down). If the socket is still bleeding after this time, remove the gauze and replace it with another one, biting down for another 45 minutes to an hour. If you are still bleeding–which is rare–contact your dentist.

You can stop using the gauze when all bleeding has stopped, usually within a few hours of your extraction procedure.

Can I brush my teeth after a tooth extraction?

You should avoid brushing your teeth, rinsing your mouth, or spitting for the first 24 hours after a tooth extraction. These activities can dislodge the blood clot that has formed in the empty socket, creating a dry socket and/or causing your mouth to bleed again. After the first 24 hours, you can brush gently, avoiding the extraction site. You can gently swish with water or mouthrinse, but don’t spit it out; just open your mouth and let it fall into the sink.

What can I eat after a tooth extraction?

The extent and type of your tooth extraction will dictate what you can eat after your procedure. You may be directed to avoid solid foods and keep a liquid diet for the first 24 hours after your tooth extraction, then soft foods for the first few days following. While it doesn’t need to be soup, it should be foods you don’t have to chew, such as applesauce and yogurt. Avoid sucking on popsicles or lollipops or using a straw to drink. You should also avoid chewy, sticky, or very spicy foods during the first 4-5 days after an extraction.

When can I eat solid foods after a tooth extraction?

You can eat soft solid foods one to two days after your tooth extraction, depending on how you feel, and return to some of your regular foods within a week. However, you should continue to avoid foods that are likely to stick in the tooth socket, are difficult to chew, or will irritate or injure the extraction site, such as very crunchy foods.

Can I drink coffee after a tooth extraction?

Because caffeine can interfere with the healing and blood clotting process, you should wait a few days before having your next cup of joe. 

Can I drink soda after a tooth extraction?

You should avoid drinking carbonated beverages–and using a straw at all–for 48-72 hours after your tooth extraction because the carbonation bubbles can dislodge the blood clot. The acidity can also impair your body’s ability to form a blood clot in the first place. Once you can drink soda again, try to limit how much you drink to minimize your risk of developing a cavity.

Can I smoke after a tooth extraction?

You should not smoke for at least 72 hours after a tooth extraction. While smoking is detrimental to your health overall, the suction created from smoking–or any kind of inhalation, even e-cigarettes, can dislodge the blood clot that has formed in your gum from the extracted tooth and that is necessary for proper healing, creating a dry socket. 

Chewing tobacco should also be avoided. Not only can it cause an infection in the exposed socket, but spitting can also dislodge the blood clot and lead to a dry socket.

Trust Monarch Dental for Your Tooth Extraction

Whether you need wisdom teeth removed or are living with severe tooth pain and decay, Monarch Dental can help with safe, affordable, and professional tooth extraction services. We know that no one wants to have a tooth removed, but in many cases, it’s the only way to preserve your health.

If you think you or a loved one may need a tooth extracted, find the Monarch Dental location nearest you and schedule an appointment today. Our caring and compassionate team will help determine your best treatment options so you can smile with confidence again. You can also visit our page on tooth extractions for more information