What Do I Do After a Tooth Extraction?

If your dentist recommends a tooth extraction, you may feel anxious about the process. More specifically, you may worry about the pain associated with the pulling of a tooth.

While having a tooth extracted is not a “fun” experience, you should never be in a significant amount of pain even after the procedure is completed. In fact, you won’t even feel pain during the extraction, only pressure.

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The Process of Tooth Extraction

Before your tooth is pulled, your dentist will numb the area by giving you a local anesthetic injection with a needle, which should be the only pain you might experience through the extraction process. You may also receive a general anesthetic depending on the type of extraction.

If you have a simple extraction, your dentist will use a special tool—an elevator—in order to loosen your tooth and then will simply use forceps to extract it. If you have a surgical extraction, the procedure is a bit more involved. Dentists make a small incision in your gum to remove the tooth. They may remove a small portion of bone from around your tooth to better extract it.

After Your Tooth Extraction

Following your procedure, your dentist will provide you with a list of activities to avoid and ways to aid your recovery. Barring no complications, you should be back to your regular routine in a few days.

Be sure to take any prescribed medications—painkillers and antibiotics—as directed by your doctor. This will keep your pain and swelling manageable and prevent infection at the extraction site. To reduce swelling, ice your cheek and jaw for 10 minutes at a time for 24-48 hours after your surgery.

You will keep gauze pads on the extraction site that you maintain gentle pressure on to stop bleeding. Keep using the gauze pads approximately 3-4 hours after the surgery to ensure that a blood clot has formed. You should change the gauze pads before the bleeding soaks through.

After an extraction, you can develop a condition called dry socket. This occurs when the blood clot dissolves or dislodges from the extraction site before it heals. This is a painful problem because the underlying bone and nerves become exposed. In order to avoid this, do not drink out of a straw, spit or rinse your mouth forcefully.

Continue to brush and floss your teeth as normal—avoiding the extraction site. This will not only help you to maintain good oral health practices, but it will also prevent a build-up of bacteria in your mouth that can cause infection.

When You Should Contact Your Dentist

Some pain and bleeding are normal after surgery, but if the bleeding persists and your pain is significant, you should contact your dentist immediately. You should also look out for signs of infection, such as fever or chills, redness or excessive drainage from the extraction site, nausea or vomiting, or even chest pain or shortness of breath.