If you're like us, your first question about aftercare will likely be about pain management. During the first 24 hours after tooth extraction surgery, most patients take painkillers, either prescribed by the dentist or oral surgeon or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. Applying a cold compress or cold pack to the face or jaw will help constrict blood vessels, preventing and reducing swelling as well as reducing pain.
And what about eating and drinking? Tooth extraction is no cause for fasting during the first 24 hours, but stick to a liquid diet while your mouth is still numb so you don't accidentally bump the wound. Once the feeling is back in your mouth, unless otherwise instructed by your dentist or oral surgeon, it's OK to eat soft foods such as puddings, oatmeal and mashed potatoes, and liquids during the first few days after the procedure. After that, it's fine to return to solid foods.
After the first 24 hours pass, most patients continue to take pain relievers, but typically after the first three days or so there is no longer a need for any prescription painkillers. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can control pain and lingering swelling for several days after the extraction.
Rinsing with warm salty water may also help to reduce pain and swelling, but to avoid disrupting the formation of the blood clot, wait to do so until after the first 24 pass, then rinse gently several times a day. It's also OK to brush and floss your teeth as well, but be extra careful to avoid the area of the tooth extraction as well as any stitches. While some extractions require stitches, some do not, and while some stitches dissolve as the wound heals, over one to two weeks, others will need to be removed at a follow-up visit to the dentist.
More Great Links
- American Association of Endodontists. "Endodontic Facts." (Nov. 11. 2011) http://www.aae.org/News_Room/Endodontic_Facts.aspx
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Tooth Extraction." 2010. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/MedicalProcedures.aspx?ChunkID=14873
- Boyd, Jane. "Bone Implants Could Speed Healing after Tooth Removal." Sallyport. Vol. 61, no. 2. 2004. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.rice.edu/sallyport/2004/winter2/sallyport/bone.html
- Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. "Tooth Extraction." (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Checkups-and-Dental-Procedures/Tooth-Removal-Extraction/article/Tooth-Extraction.cvsp
- Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. "Tooth Whitening." (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Cosmetic-Dentistry/Tooth-Whitening/Tooth-Whitening-Basics/article/Tooth-Whitening.cvsp
- Mayo Clinic. "Dry Socket." 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dry-socket/DS00778
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. "Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Adults (Age 20 to 64). 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/DentalCaries/DentalCariesAdults20to64.htm
- North Sound Oral Surgery. "Wisdom Teeth & Other Extractions." (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.northsoundoralsurgery.com/faq-and-helpful-hints/faqs.html#wisdom
- Steiner, GG; Francis, W.; Burrell, R.; Steiner, DM; and R. Macias. "The healing socket and socket regeneration." Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. Vol. 29, no. 2. Pages 114-116, 118, 120-124. 2008. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18429427
- WebMD. "Dental Implants." 2009. (Nov. 11. 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/dental-implants
- WebMD. "Tooth Extraction." 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/tooth-extraction