Thanks to advances in technology and the evolution of dental science, most tooth-extraction procedures today can be performed with minimal pain and complications. Though some people will always feel dread at the thought of visiting the dentist, patients can find comfort in knowing that science is on their side, whether they are going in for a simple tooth extraction or if the procedure is a little more complicated, such in the case of broken teeth. Overall, there are several reasons why a dental professional might recommend a tooth extraction. Tooth decay, wisdom teeth removal or a teeth preventing orthodontic treatment are all common scenarios frequently observed by dentists and the intra oral dental assistant.
In many ways, aftercare is just as important as the principle procedure. Post-procedure, it’s important for patients to follow the instructions of the dental healthcare team, including professionals with dental assistant training or dental hygienist training. This will reduce discomfort and keep recovery time to a minimum.
Following surgery, the patient should:
- Keep his or her head elevated
- Maintain pressure on the gauze pad that the dental professional has placed over the surgical area by gently biting down, until bleeding lessens, and changing the gauze as needed
- Lower his or her activity level as much as possible
- Avoid touching the wounded area
- Avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol, as it could irritate the wound
- Use ice packs to control swelling by placing them on the face, in areas near the extraction
- Eat soft foods, especially those high in protein
- Keep the body hydrated
- Keep the mouth clean by brushing areas around the extraction, being careful to avoid sutures
- Take all prescribed medications according to indications
- 48 hours after surgery, rinse the mouth with warm salt water
Lastly, if the patient is a regular tobacco user, he or she should stop smoking for a few days, to lower the likelihood of infection.
After the tooth has been extracted, the body will begin healing. Sutures should fall out or dissolve within 3 to 14 days, and the empty space in the patient’s mouth will gradually fill in with bone over time, smoothing over with adjacent tissues.
- Bleeding. After a tooth extraction, it’s fairly common for patient to experience bleeding, or notice that their saliva looks pink. Even if the bleeding gets excessive, the patient should stay calm and try to control it using gauze pads. He or she should also keep in mind that exercise or even a raised temper can increase blood flow to the head. If the bleeding persists after 48 hours, the patient should advise his or her dental professional.
- Dead tooth fragments. Sometimes, a patient will have small sharp tooth fragments that the dental professional will be unable to completely remove during surgery. During the recovery period, these fragments of dead bone will come out through the gums as part of the natural healing process. This can be painful, which is why the patient should advise his or her dental professional if any sharp fragments emerge.
- Dry socket. In the days following tooth extraction, pain should subside. In rare cases, patients will report a sharp pain shooting up towards the ear. This is usually a case of dry socket. When the blood clot becomes irritated before the healing process has been completed, a dry socket can occur. In this case, the patient should advise his or her dental professional immediately.
- Lightheadness, numbness and swelling. Some patients will experience lightheadness, which is often related to their blood sugar levels being low due to fasting prior to surgery. Similarly, many patients report a lack of feeling around the mouth after surgery, which will normally subside within 24 hours. Lastly, if swelling occurs, it should subside almost entirely within 10 days of the surgery.