Natural teeth are ideal for biting, chewing and maintaining mouth and jawbone structure, which is why a dentist’s first priority is to help restore, save and repair your natural teeth. However, sometimes a tooth extraction is unavoidable.
Sometimes, teeth need to be removed due to decay, disease, or trauma. When you get a tooth “pulled,” it’s called an extraction.
It’s natural that changes will occur in your mouth after the procedure. Here are some general guidelines to help promote healing, prevent complications, and make you more comfortable while you recover.
Follow all instructions from your dental team. This will help make sure that your mouth heals properly after your tooth is removed. These instructions will also help to lower your risk of having any problems while your mouth heals.
Your dentist may place a gauze pack on the extraction site to limit bleeding. This will also help a blood clot to form, which is necessary for normal healing. This gauze pack should be left in place for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the dentist’s office.
Do not chew on the pack. There may be some bleeding or oozing after the pack is removed. If so, here’s what to do:
- Fold a piece of clean gauze into a pad thick enough to bite on. Dampen the pad with clean, warm water and place it directly on the extraction site.
- Apply pressure by closing your teeth firmly over the pad. Maintain this pressure for about 30 minutes. If the pad becomes soaked with blood, replace it with a clean one.
- Do not suck on the extraction site or disturb it with your tongue.
- A slight amount of blood may leak from the extraction site until a clot forms. However, if heavy bleeding continues, call your dentist. (Remember, though, that a little bit of blood mixed with saliva can look like a lot of bleeding.)
How to clean your mouth after your tooth is removed
Day of procedure:
- Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day.
- You should still brush and floss your other teeth.
- You can also brush your tongue. This can help get rid of the bad breath and unpleasant taste that are common after an extraction.
Day after procedure:
- Begin cleaning the teeth next to the healing tooth socket.
- Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water after meals to keep bits of food out of the extraction site.
- To make a salt water rinse: mix half a teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
- Try not to rinse your mouth too hard because this could loosen the blood clot. If you have high blood pressure, discuss with your dentist whether you should rinse with salt water.
Avoid using a mouthwash during this early healing period or until your dentist tells you when you are able to do so.
Take pain medication only as directed by your dentist
- If your dentist has prescribed medicine to control pain and inflammation, or to prevent infection, use it only as directed.
- If the pain medication prescribed does not seem to work for you, don’t take more pills or take them more often than directed — call your dentist.
Swelling and pain are normal after a tooth is removed
To help reduce swelling and pain:
- try applying a cold compress to your face, like an ice pack or a cold, moist cloth
- your dentist may give you specific instructions on how long and how often to use a cold compress
Call your dentist right away if you have any of these issues.
- fever, nausea, or vomiting
- ongoing or severe pain, swelling, or bleeding
- pain that gets worse with time instead of better
If you cannot reach your dentist, go to a hospital emergency room.
Eating and drinking
Day of procedure:
- Drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods.
- Avoid hot liquids and alcoholic beverages.
- Do not use a straw, as this can disturb the blood clot.
Day after procedure:
- Begin eating solid foods the next day or as soon as you can chew comfortably.
- For the first few days, try to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site.
- When it feels comfortable, you should resume chewing on both sides of your mouth.
Other things you should know
- Avoid alcoholic beverages or mouthwash that has alcohol in it for 24 hours.
- Limit physical activity like exercise or lifting heavy objects for 24 hours after the extraction. This will reduce bleeding and help the blood clot to form.
- If you do get a dry socket, report it to your dentist right away. A dressing may be placed in the socket to protect it until the socket heals and to reduce any pain.
Do not disturb the blood clot that forms in the tooth socket!
The blood clot that forms in the tooth socket is an important part of the normal healing process. You should avoid doing things that might disturb the clot. If the blood clot is disturbed and breaks down, you can get a dry socket. Dry sockets can be extremely painful. To lower your risk of a dry socket, be very careful to not do anything that can disturb the clot.
For the first 24 hours, do not suck, spit, slurp, or any other action that creates suction in your mouth and puts pressure on your blood clot. This means:
- Do not drink through a straw
- Do not smoke (smoking can also prevent your gums from healing properly)
- Do not suck on candy, popsicles, lollipops, etc.
- Do not slurp up soups or other liquids
- Do not rinse your mouth with too much force