Tooth extractions can be the key to restoring your oral health.
When it comes right down to it, we need our teeth. They carry out a wide range of essential tasks every day, so they’re protected by the hardest biological material on earth—tooth enamel—and designed to last a lifetime. That’s a long time, though, and our teeth aren’t indestructible. They can suffer damage from injury or decay over time. Thankfully, that’s where dentistry comes in. Modern dentistry procedures repair and protect teeth even after they’ve suffered damage, so that they stay healthy long term. In some cases, however, a tooth extraction is the best way to restore and protect your oral and overall health.
A tooth extraction is necessary when a tooth has been severely damaged by extensive decay, compromised by severe periodontal disease, broken or cracked beyond repair, or is suffering from an infection or abscess. You may also need a tooth extraction before you receive orthodontic treatment to eliminate overcrowding, creating enough room for your remaining teeth to shift into the proper position. Modern dentistry techniques have made tooth extractions easier than ever, but you can make the process go even more smoothly by taking the time to learn what to expect during the healing process. This helps you better prepare and adjust your behavior while you recover. To help you do just that, we’ve put together a breakdown of common problems you could experience after your extraction and what you can do to avoid or ease these issues.
When you chew and bite down, your tooth roots provide stimulation to your jaw bone that lets your body know that it needs to keep the bone strong and healthy. When you lose a tooth, your jaw bone loses that stimulation and begins to be reabsorbed by your body in that spot. The loss of bone density weakens your jaw bone and can even change the shape of your face over time, making it appear sunken-in.
Socket preservation is a step that Dr. May can perform after your tooth has been extracted to help prevent bone loss in your jaw. It involves using a bone graft or collagen plug to fill the hole, encouraging the bone to heal and grow to fill the hole your tooth left, strengthening your jaw bone in the process. This can be particularly helpful for ensuring that there’s enough bone density for a dental implant in the future. There’s no concrete evidence yet that socket preservation increases the success rates of dental implants, however, so it’s wise to discuss this step with Dr. May. He can discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks with you, especially in light of your unique oral health history, and give you advice about whether or not he thinks it will be beneficial for you.
After your tooth has been extracted, the site will continue to bleed for up to 24 hours, though this bleeding should be minor after the first four hours. Before you leave our office, Dr. May will place gauze over the area, which you should gently bite down on to hold it in place. Keep the gauze over the area for at least 30 to 45 minutes after your procedure, removing it only if you need to switch it out with fresh gauze before it becomes soaked in blood. Over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen thin your blood, which can increase your bleeding or cause it to last longer. It’s best to avoid these pain medications and opt for other over-the-counter options like Tylenol instead.
Lying flat can also cause you to bleed for longer, so it’s best to prop your head up on pillows when you rest or go to sleep. You should also be careful with what you eat to avoid irritating the site, sticking to soft foods like yogurt and applesauce while avoiding anything hard, crunchy, or chewy. Following these instructions will help the bleeding lessen and stop sooner, but if the bleeding lasts longer than 24 hours or is still severe after four hours, you should call our office to let Dr. May know.
It’s normal for you to experience a little swelling at the extraction site for a few days after the procedure. Once again, sticking to soft foods to avoid irritating the area is important because it can help limit swelling. You can also reduce the amount of swelling by rotating ice on and off of your jaw. Just be careful not to keep the ice on too long, as it can lead to poor circulation and make your pain worse! Try to limit yourself to holding ice to the area for 10 or 15 minutes, then keep it off for at least 15 minutes before reapplying it. This gives the tissues in your face time to warm up between applications. The swelling in your face should start going down three days after the procedure, but will likely take five to seven days to be completely gone.
One of our patients’ biggest concerns before a tooth extraction is how much the procedure will hurt. You will experience some tooth pain and discomfort, but it’s easy to manage it with ice packs and over-the-counter pain medication. Generally, your pain levels should start to decrease after the third day, though you will likely have some discomfort for about two weeks. Being careful not to disturb or irritate the extraction site will help you heal faster and cut down on your pain.
Dry socket is a condition that occurs when the blood clot that forms over the extraction site falls out. This clot protects the underlying bone and nerve tissue while your gums heal, so dry socket is often very painful. It’s also one of the most common complications after a tooth extraction, but it’s usually avoidable! All you need to do is avoid actions that could dislodge the clot, particularly disturbing the site with your tongue, participating in strenuous activities, or actions that create suction in your mouth.
For the first 24 hours after your procedure, you should avoid rinsing your mouth out, drinking with a straw, or smoking. Alcohol can also disturb the clot, so it’s best to avoid it for the first 24 hours as well. For the first few days, it’s also best to avoid eating crunchy or sticky food that could disturb the clot, get stuck in the extraction site, or irritate the area. Once the blood clot has done its job, it will fall out on its own. This is different for everyone, but it generally happens around seven to 10 days after your procedure.
Getting an infection is another potential complication of tooth extractions, but carefully cleaning the area and following Dr. May’s instructions on how to care for it can reduce your risks of getting one. Once it’s been 24 hours since the procedure, you should begin gently rinsing your mouth out with salt water to help fight bacteria and promote healing. Keep brushing and flossing your teeth as usual, but be careful to avoid disturbing the extraction site.
Additionally, any type of tobacco use impairs your immune system and slows the healing process, making you more vulnerable to infections, so it’s best to avoid tobacco during the healing process. Instead, try switching to a nicotine patch while you heal. Dr. May might also prescribe you an antibiotic to reduce your chances of infection, but this isn’t always necessary.
If you follow these steps, you’re much less likely to get an infection, but you should call our office right away if you notice any troubling signs, such as a fever, pus at the extraction site, or an increase in swelling and pain when it should be going down. We understand that a tooth extraction can sound intimidating, but the procedure is very common and simple. When you know what to expect and take the time to follow the instructions that Dr. May will send home with you, the healing process goes faster and much more smoothly. Plus, you don’t have to go through this alone! If you have any questions about your tooth extraction or how to care for the site once your procedure is complete, you can call our Granite City, IL, office at any time!