Although most people don’t relish the idea of having a tooth pulled, sometimes a tooth extraction is the safest and most effective option. For instance, if a tooth cannot be fixed with a crown or a filling, the dentist may opt for a tooth extraction. If your dentist has suggested a tooth extraction, you may have a few questions about healing and the aftercare process.
Types of extraction
It is important to find out what type of extraction you need. There are two types of extractions:
- Simple extraction: During a simple extraction, the area is first numbed to relieve any discomfort. Then the tooth is loosened with a special tool called an elevator. Once the tooth is loosened, forceps are used to remove the tooth from the socket in the bone physically. Note that simple extractions can only be done on a tooth that is visible.
- Surgical extraction: If a tooth is not visible (meaning that it may not erupt or it may be even be snapped off at the gum line), then a surgical extraction must be performed. This procedure is performed by an oral surgeon, who cuts an incision to access the tooth before removal.
Tooth extraction aftercare
Taking care of your extraction site will help the healing process move along.
- Controlling bleeding: For both simple extractions and surgical extractions, a small amount of bleeding is normal. Your dentist should place a piece of clean gauze over the socket to help stop the flow of blood. Apply pressure for 45 minutes or more. Replace the gauze as necessary.
- Brushing: Continue to brush and floss as normal, but do not brush the socket. This can loosen the clot and delay healing. Also, avoid intense swishing or spitting.
- Avoid dry socket: Dry socket occurs when the clot is pulled out of the socket, which also delays healing. This condition may also cause additional pain for up to 5 days. To help prevent pulling out the clot, avoid using a straw, spitting, or smoking during the healing process.
- Food: Choose only soft foods for the first few days after an extraction. Ideally, soft and cool foods are the best such as yogurt, mashed potatoes (cooled), and chilled soup.
If you are experiencing pain or soreness after an extraction, pain relief comes in a few forms:
- Medication: Most dentists suggest aspirin or ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Ice: Wrap an ice pack in a tea towel and place in on the outside of your cheek. Keep the ice on for twenty minutes, then off for twenty minutes. Repeat as necessary.
- Swish with a warm salt water solution: Mixing ½ teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water. Do not start this until 24 hours post surgery.
Tooth extraction healing time
While the first 24 hours are crucial to start the healing process, pain and swelling should be decreased by 3-4 days post extraction. However, the gum tissue will take about three weeks to heal, and the bone may take up to 6 months.
When to call your dentist
If you display any signs of infection such as fever, swelling, or pus, call your dentist. If you have questions at any point during your healing process, your dentist will be able to recommend additional pain management options or address any concerns you have.