8 tips for recovering from a tooth extraction
Dr. Christy Cranfill, a dentist at the highly rated Marketplace Dental Care in Indianapolis, prepares a tray to examine her next patient. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
Although dentists prefer to save a tooth, sometimes your teeth cannot be saved or restored and extraction becomes necessary.
Severe cavities are the most common reason for tooth extraction. Other reasons include cracked teeth, impacted teeth or malformed teeth the dentist cannot reposition. Teeth that experience severe periodontal (gum) disease with bone loss are often a candidates for removal. For some people, a dentist will pull a tooth that might cause other teeth to crowd. Removing these teeth is often the only way an orthodontist can ready the mouth for braces. Other people grow too many teeth, and removal of these extra teeth is necessary. An oral surgeon might also extract a tooth because the patient simply doesn't have the money for dental restoration.
Many times, these issues that lead to tooth extraction aren't caught because the patient doesn't visit the dentist regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-third of adults aged 18 and older have not seen a dentist in the last year.
Once you and your dentist agree to remove a tooth, the procedure itself is routine. Because teeth removal is surgery, it is important to take aftercare seriously as it prevents any complications that might arise following oral surgery and tooth removal. Follow these tips for care of your mouth after oral surgery:
- Read the care instructions the dentist gives you. Following these directives can prevent infection and other problems that may delay full recovery.
- Bite down on the gauze the dentist puts over the extraction site. This helps stop the bleeding and aids in the formation of a blood clot. Keep the gauze in place for at least one hour.
- Rest after you get home. Avoid exercise for one day.
- Apply ice packs immediately to reduce any swelling. Swelling rarely occurs after removing just one tooth. If the dentist removes more than one tooth, swelling usually occurs one to two days after the surgery. Still, applying ice on the day of the surgery is a good idea.
- Don't eat food or drink liquids for two hours after the surgery. When you do start eating again, eat only soft foods.
- Wait until the anesthetic wears off completely before eating solid food.
- Avoid smoking for 48 hours following surgery.
- Rinse out your mouth with warm saltwater 12 hours after the extraction. This rinse cleanses the mouth and promotes healing. Repeat two to three times a day.