Dental surgery has made amazing strides in the last few decades, and a tooth extraction is no longer the potentially painful experience it once was. Nevertheless, you may still experience a little discomfort afterward as your mouth heals over the following days.
Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to keep the aftereffects to a minimum and make your recovery as speedy as possible. Here are seven essential tips to follow after having a tooth taken out.
1) Don’t Remove the Gauze
As the final step in the extraction, your dentist may have placed a protective gauze over the treated area. It’s important to keep this in place for at least two hours, unless you’ve been given different advice. After this period, all bleeding should have stopped naturally, and you can gently remove the gauze to free up your mouth a little.
2) Leave the Wound Alone
Once the gauze is removed, it can feel very tempting to explore the new gap using your tongue, but it’s better to leave it alone as much as you can. Even a gentle touch from your tongue can reopen the wound by dislodging the natural blood clot that’s formed, slowing the healing process.
And whatever you do, don’t touch the wound with your fingers. Even small amounts of bacteria on your fingertips can find their way into the cut gum, potentially causing infections in the tender area left behind after extraction.
3) Choose Pain Relievers Wisely
If your dentist has given you pain relievers, stick to using only those provided. If not, it’s safe to use an acetaminophen or ibuprofen product to reduce any discomfort. However, it’s usually best to avoid aspirin, as it can work as a mild blood thinner to prolong any swelling or bleeding.
4) Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol
Among its many other harmful effects, tobacco can slow down gum healing and even provoke inflammation, so avoid smoking for at least 48 hours. Similarly, alcohol can work as a solvent to soften the clotted blood, so avoid it until the gum feels back to normal.
5) Stay Clear of Mouthwash
It’s also a good idea to avoid using mouthwash until you’re completely healed, as the rinsing and spitting involved can easily open up a tender wound. The risk is even greater if your mouthwash contains alcohol, even in small amounts.
6) Eat and Drink Carefully
Take care when eating or drinking for a few days after an extraction. Avoid foods that take a lot of crunching or chewing or ones with high acid content. Overall, it’s best to stick to small amounts of easily swallowed foods such as soups.
Similarly, be careful with the drinks you take. Hot drinks can slow down healing by boosting blood flow to the damaged area, while cold drinks can cause discomfort in tender, swollen gums. Also, avoid using straws to drink until your gum is fully healed. The low pressure in your mouth caused by sucking can open up the wound surprisingly easily.
7) Take it Slow
Lastly, if at all possible you should take it easy for a day or two after the treatment. If you can take the rest of the day off work, or postpone any other appointments, then do so. And definitely avoid exercise for at least 24 hours to give your mouth some easy space to heal.
In most cases, the effects of a dental extraction will quickly fade and be gone within a week. But if you’ve followed all these tips and you’re still feeling discomfort after two days, contact your dentist to make sure that your symptoms aren’t any cause for concern.