If you are about to have a tooth removed at the dentist, or other oral surgery, here are some tips about how to help your mouth recover quickly and with a minimum of pain.
While You Are at The Dentist
Right after they remove the tooth, your dentist will pack the area with padding and ask you to bite on it to put pressure on the area and aid in the formation of a blood clot. Because of the moist environment in your mouth (think saliva), a wound there will take longer to heal because it can’t form a scab. So a blood clot in the affected area will protect the bone while the wound is healing.
First Hour After the Procedure
Keep the pressure on the wound by continuing to bite down gently – but firmly – on the gauze packs that have been placed over the surgical areas, making sure they remain in place. Avoid changing the gauze pack for the first 60 minutes after the procedure so that you can keep constant pressure on the wound. You can then gently remove the gauze pack. If bleeding persists, place another gauze pack over the wound to keep pressure on the site for another half hour. Also remember to moisten the gauze pack and fluff it a bit to make the positioning over the wound more comfortable. And be sure to not disturb the wound the first day other than changing the gauze.
Oral Hygiene Recommendations
Be sure to keep your mouth clean after the tooth removal. This will help the wound heal and prevent infection. Go ahead and brush your teeth the evening of your surgery, but be sure to brush gently around the wound site. You can also use saltwater rinses beginning a full day after the surgery. Swish gently and let the saltwater dribble out of your mouth into the sink (to avoid stressing the surgical site). Rinse two to three times a day – especially after you eat.
Keep the pressure on the wound by continuing to bite down gently – but firmly – on the gauze packs that have been placed over the surgical areas, making sure they remain in place.
Activities Following Surgery
Avoid strenuous activities for a full day after your oral surgery. That means avoiding bending and lifting. You should also not exercise for 3-4 days after surgery. You may see an increase in swelling, bleeding, and pain if you don’t follow these guidelines.
What to Expect Physically
You’ll notice a fair amount of swelling after the surgery. It won’t reach its maximum swelling until several days after the procedure. Use a cold pack, bag of ice, or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to reduce the swelling. Apply firmly to the cheek adjacent to where the surgery was performed. Apply the cold pack for 20 minutes at a time, with a 20-minute break in between. Try to do this for the first 24 hours after the surgery when you are awake. Your dentist may also prescribe a medication to limit the swelling – so be sure to take the medication as directed.
You may encounter a dry socket if the blood clot covering the wound is dislodged or loosened. It is called a dry socket because the bone is exposed. This can last for several days and you may experience sever discomfort, including in some instances ear pain. Call your dentist if this happens.
Feeling some degree of discomfort or pain is normal following oral surgery. Your dentist will most likely give you a prescription for a pain medication. Be sure to take the first pill before the anesthetic has worn off – this will help you manage the discomfort and/or pain more effectively.
Eating and Drinking Following Surgery
Look for nourishing foods that you can eat or drink comfortably for the first few days after your surgery. Be sure to avoid hot foods and don’t use a straw for a couple of days following your surgery. It often helps to just limit yourself to liquids or pureed foods for the first 24 hours. Think puddings, yogurt, soups, milk shakes, etc. Avoid foods like rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, popcorn, etc., which may get lodged in the socket areas. Over the next several days you may gradually progress to solid foods.
Each person’s oral surgery is different, since none of our mouths are alike. The healing process following surgery also differs for each of us. Be sure to rely on your dental care team at your dentist’s office for the best advice on how to have the best outcome from your oral surgery.