Perhaps your dentist has suggested you need a tooth removed, and you’re curious about the tooth extraction process. This guide will walk you through the procedure and the recovery.
Why You Might Need a Tooth Extraction
There are many reasons why you might need a tooth extracted. Common causes include:
- Impacted teeth (i.e., wisdom teeth)
- Severely decayed or infected tooth
- A damaged tooth that cannot be repaired
- Crowding (preparing for orthodontic treatment)
- Preparation for dentures
During the procedure, your dentist uses forceps to gently rock the tooth until it is freed. If the tooth is below the gum, your dentist must first make a small incision in your gum to reveal the tooth. Some extractions require only local anesthesia while others may benefit from a general.
How Long Is Recovery?
The recovery process varies depending on a few factors including whether or not your tooth had already erupted. If your tooth was below the gum (such as a wisdom tooth), you might have a longer recovery. Your dentist will be able to provide a more specific timeline for your situation, but in general, you can expect the recovery to look like this:
- Day 1: Protective blood clots form
- Day 2 – 3: Swelling should subside
If you needed stitches, your dentist could remove any remaining stitches about one week after your extraction.
Note: Infections can delay your healing. You can reduce your chance of infection by following all of your dentist’s instructions and keeping your mouth clean.
Can You Eat After a Tooth Extraction?
Immediately after a tooth extraction, you’ll want to hold off on eating until the anesthesia wears off. Otherwise, you might bite your lip or tongue. Once you can eat, stick with soft foods for a few days, and avoid anything that is hard or crunchy. Some tried-and-true foods include:
- Mashed potatoes
- Egg or ham salad
- Soup (but not too hot)
- Smoothies and smoothie bowls
What Not to Do
Although recovery from a tooth extraction is fairly straight-forward, there are a few things you should avoid:
- Brushing the extraction site
- Eating sharp or pointy foods (e.g., tortilla chips)
- Swishing (for the first 24 hours)
- Using a straw
What is Dry Socket (and How to Prevent It)
After an extraction, your body naturally forms a protective blood clot over the extraction site. This blood clot protects your nerves and bone from being exposed. However, if the blood clot is dislodged, it can lead to a painful condition called dry socket. You can reduce your risk of developing dry socket by avoiding smoking cigarettes and by avoiding straws as those activities can dislodge the clot.
If you feel discomfort after a tooth extraction, you have a few options for pain management. Your dentist might provide a prescription for pain medication if you had a particularly complex extraction. Other options include:
- NSAIDs: Take only as directed
- Ice packs to reduce swelling: You can even find ice packs that are specially designed for the face
- Swish salt water: Combine one teaspoon of salt and one cup of warm water. Swish in your mouth. This will soothe sore gums and help to keep your mouth clean. Do not swish until 24 hours have elapsed after your extraction.
When to Call Your Dentist
Do you need to have a tooth extracted? Do you have questions about the extraction process? Contact us today to learn more or schedule an appointment.