Tooth Extraction Aftercare and Healing

Teeth Extraction Aftercare Guide

It is very important after having a tooth extracted to follow the post-operative aftercare advice given by your dentist. Failure to follow the advice properly can lead to painful complications and slow healing of the wound. The dental team will always give advice both verbally and in leaflet form to every patient who has had a tooth removed to ensure that they are fully aware of the best aftercare procedure. There are two different forms of tooth extraction:
  • Simple extraction
  • Surgical extraction
In most cases, a tooth can be removed with a simple extraction process where it is loosened and then pushed out of its socket cleanly by the dentist using extraction tools. However, in some cases, the dentist will determine that the tooth is likely to be more difficult to remove and will opt for a surgical extraction process. Situations where surgical extraction will be used include:
  • Very badly decayed teeth that are likely to disintegrate during removal.
  • Teeth that contain a large amount of filling material and are too weak to be removed by simple extraction.
  • Partially erupted teeth that don’t allow access to the roots.
  • Teeth with curved or hooked roots that are likely to be stubborn to remove.
The aftercare advice for both procedures is identical except for the addition of a few extra steps for surgical extractions.  

Simple extraction aftercare procedure:

  • The dentist will situate a gauze pack on the extraction site and ask you to bite down. This applies pressure to the torn blood vessels and controls the flow of blood from the open tooth socket. The gauze bite pack should be left in place for between 15 and 30 minutes to allow the blood to clot and stop flowing. If there is still bleeding after removing the bite pack make another one by simply folding gauze into a bite-sized pillow, dampen it with warm water, and reinsert it into the extraction site.
If you don’t have any gauze you can use a tea bag as a makeshift bite pack. Dipping a tea bag in warm water and placing it on the bleeding area can have some extra soothing and medicinal benefits thanks to the tannins contained in tea. Tannins have antimicrobial properties that can kill bacteria and prevent infection. Additionally, it has also been reported that tannins can help to speed up the blood clotting process and stop bleeding.
  • The blood clotting process is a vital part of the natural healing mechanism and it is important not to disturb the tooth socket for at least 24 hours after the tooth has been removed. The blood clot provides insulation and protection to the bone and nerves underneath and it is vital not to burst this protective layer.  If the blood clot is disrupted or fails to form properly, a dry socket will be formed leading to a delayed healing time, intense pain and possible infection. Actions that can affect the blood clotting process and therefore should be avoided, include: smoking, strenuous exercise, drinking hot drinks, drinking alcohol, chewing food over the site of the extraction and touching the wound with fingers or tongue.
  • It is important to try and refrain from smoking while the wound is still raw because cigarette smoke can contaminate the wound and increase the chance of post-operative infection.
  • After 24 hours have passed and the blood clot has had a chance to set and harden it is possible to use hot salty mouthwashes ( stir 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water) 3 times daily to help clean the wound and encourage healing. It is advisable to carry on using these salty mouthwashes for the next three days to ensure a fast recovery.
  • After the local anesthetic has worn off it is okay to eat, provided that chewing over the extraction site is avoided. Hot and crunchy foods are best avoided as they are more likely to open the wound and restart the bleeding.
  • It is normal to experience some pain and discomfort after the anesthetic has worn off. The level of pain is usually related to how easy or difficult the extraction was. After a simple extraction, the level of pain should be minimal and should dissipate after 24hours.
  • Painkillers may be required to manage any discomfort and pain. It is important never to exceed the recommended dosage for any painkiller and avoid aspirin based painkillers since they can interfere with the clotting process and allow bleeding to reoccur. It is normal to experience some pain after having a tooth extracted but if the pain should become severe after a few days it is advisable to contact your dentist.
  • It is okay to brush teeth on the night of the extraction provided great care is taken around the wound. It is important to keep the mouth clean to avoid infection and to remove the bad taste and bad breath that are common side effects of having a tooth removed. Do not rinse out the mouth on the first day to avoid disturbing the blood clot that has formed in the tooth socket.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin C or take vitamin C supplements before and after the tooth is extracted., Clinical Studies have shown that increased levels of vitamin C can accelerate the healing process.
  • It usually takes about 2 weeks for the extraction site to heal over. In this time, skin and bone will have begun filling in the space left by the removed tooth.

Surgical extraction aftercare procedure:

All the instructions regarding simple teeth extraction also apply to surgical extraction with the following additions:
  • Pain and swelling will likely occur and should be managed with routine painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Aspirin based drugs should be avoided as they can hinder the blood clotting process.
  • Sutures, or stitches, will usually be required to assist the gum tissue to heal properly. The sutures must not be interfered with and will be removed by the dental team after about 7 to 10 days (although dissolvable sutures may be used, in which case, they will dissolve in the soft tissue as the wound heals and therefore do not need to be removed).

Questions and Answers


How soon can you eat after having a tooth extracted?

It is okay to eat as soon as the anesthetic has worn off provided chewing does not take place over the wound.  It is important to avoid very hot or crunchy foods in case the wound site is disturbed and bleeding restarts. For the first 24 hours, it is best to stick to cold soft foods until the healing process has begun.

How soon can you smoke after having a tooth extracted?

It is important not to smoke immediately after having a tooth removed. The sucking action of inhaling smoke can disrupt the blood clot that has formed over the nerve endings and bone and can cause bleeding to restart or a dry socket to form. Also, cigarette smoke can contaminate the wound and potentially cause an infection. It is advisable to avoid smoking for as long as possible, but at the very least, it should be 24 hours after extraction.

How soon can you drink alcohol after having a tooth pulled?

It is important to wait until at least 24 hours after extraction before having an alcoholic beverage. The wound site can be irritated or dissolved by alcohol and hamper the healing process.

How soon can you brush your teeth after having a tooth removed?

It is okay to brush and floss on the night that the tooth was removed provided you avoid the wound area and don’t disrupt the blood clot. It is also advisable to clean your tongue at the same time to make your mouth as clean as possible.

How long does your mouth take to heal after having a tooth removed?

It usually takes about two weeks for new skin and bone to grow into the tooth socket where the tooth used to be.

What shouldn’t you do after having a tooth extracted?

There is a number of things you should avoid doing after having a tooth removed. These include:
  • smoking.
  • drinking alcohol.
  • strenuous exercise.
  • Drinking through a straw.
  • Drinking very hot food or beverages.
  • Eating hard or crunchy foods.

What should you do after having a tooth out?

There are a number of things you can do to help the healing process. These include:
  • Resting and avoiding strenuous exercise.
  • Taking vitamin C supplements before and after the extraction.
  • Pressing an ice pack against the area of the face where the extraction site is.
  • After the first 24 hours have passed, start rinsing out the mouth with salty water.
  • Sticking to soft foods that are easily chewed and swallowed.
  • Keeping the mouth clean by toothbrushing, flossing and scraping the tongue.

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