If you've just had a tooth extracted you are probably wondering how to know if your tooth extraction is healing properly.
A dentist may decide to pull a tooth if they encounter tooth decay, crowding, or an impacted wisdom tooth, any of which can mean the risk of infection or further decay is too high, and the health of your mouth is likely to suffer unless the tooth is pulled.
Knowing that you will need a tooth extracted can lead to many questions and some stress concerning what the recovery will be like after an extraction. The unknown can be a little scary, but your dentist will be very experienced in pulling teeth as it is a very common procedure. Your dentist will also walk you through what to expect for the days and weeks to come after having a tooth extracted or even, in some cases, multiple teeth pulled at one time. However, there can be some differences in tooth extraction procedures between simple extractions versus surgical extraction, including what kind of anesthesia is used, recovery instructions, and what to expect can be very similar.
Though it can take a few months to fully heal from tooth extraction, most of the care and attention during recovery happens in the first three days. During this time, contact your dentist if you see any of these signs of concern:
- Active bleeding. Some minor bleeding is to be expected.
- Pain after day three of post tooth extraction. Pain should be manageable with over-the-counter painkillers or prescription painkillers, depending on the extent of your procedure. If it is not manageable at any point in recovery, contact your dentist.
- Loss of the blood clot causing dry socket.
Understanding what to expect in the tooth extraction healing stages by looking at each day of recovery will ease any concerns you may have about the procedure. Once your tooth is pulled, with the risk of infection or cavity behind you, you can enjoy the relief of knowing your mouth has the best chance of staying healthy and pain-free.
During the First 24 Hours after Tooth Extraction
After your tooth is extracted, your dentist will likely give you a detailed list of instructions to follow during the first 24 hours. Following these instructions can set your mouth up for a faster recovery and help you avoid situations that will cause more pain and prolonged recovery time. Pay close attention to the tooth extraction aftercare advice your dentist will give you that pertains specifically to your mouth. A general list of instructions to follow in the first 24 hours includes:
- Rest often and with your head elevated. Keeping your head upright or above your heart, even when sleeping, will lessen the bleeding where the tooth was pulled. Making sure your body gets plenty of rest helps your mouth recover faster. Plan to be lying down for the first 24 hours.
- Only eat soft foods that do not have seeds, crumbs, or crunchy elements that could get stuck in your open tooth extraction site. Eating soft foods that do not involve much chewing is the best way to keep the tooth extraction site clean of food debris.
- Do not use a straw, and do not spit. Sucking a drink through a straw or spitting something out of your mouth will put pressure on the newly forming blood clot in the extraction site and can ultimately lead to the blood clot getting pulled out, causing a painful regression in the healing process.
- Change the gauze placed over the extraction site by your dentist as needed. Light pressure from biting down on the gauze can keep the bleeding to a minimum.
- Keep fluid, food, and your toothbrush away from the tooth extraction site. Of course, eating and drinking are necessary. But trying your best to keep food and drink on the opposite side of your mouth than the open socket will ensure that the site stays clean.
What to Expect 1-2 Days Post Tooth Extraction
When the tooth is pulled, a blood clot will form in the hole where the tooth once was. This is a good thing, and it will protect the nerves and exposed bone in the socket. If the blood clot comes out, the results can be not only painful but also prolong the tooth extraction healing time.
Dry socket occurs when the blood clot comes out, creating pain in the inflamed empty socket that can also spread along the nerve line in your jaw. Dry socket is the most common complication from tooth extractions. It can become very painful, and over-the-counter pain medications may not be enough to mitigate the pain. If you experience radiating pain post tooth extraction, you may be suffering from dry socket and need to call your dentist right away.
To avoid dry socket and other complications, some important instructions during the first 48 hours include protecting the blood clot that forms in the extraction site by:
- Avoid drinking with straws.
- Not rinsing your mouth with anything, including mouthwash.
- Avoiding spitting. Take special note of this because when you brush your teeth, you will instinctively want to spit.
- Avoid any activity that gets your heart rate up or causes you to strain at all.
- Brushing your teeth but avoid getting anywhere close to the extraction site.
- Eating only soft foods.
What to Expect 3 Days Post Tooth Extraction
The tooth extraction site after three days should be feeling better and healing nicely. Swelling should be minimal, and there should be no more bleeding.
The blood clot that formed in the socket should be more secured but can still become dislodged if you are not careful. At this stage, you should:
- Continue to brush and floss your other teeth while staying away from the extraction site.
- Continue only to eat soft foods that will not get crumbs and food debris in the open socket. This can be even more difficult with multiple extractions. When food gets stuck in the extraction site, you may try to get it out, which can damage the blood clot. Stick with foods like soup, yogurt, and applesauce.
- Gently rinse with warm salt water or a medicated mouthwash. This will eliminate bacteria around the area and keep the extraction site healthy. Avoid vigorous swishing and gurgling.
Tooth extraction healing is now well underway, but it is normal to have some tenderness around the tooth extraction site. But if you experience bleeding or swelling, please make your dentist aware.
What to Expect 1 Week Post Tooth Extraction
When you make it through your first-week post tooth extraction, the hardest work is behind you. Your stitches will either be removed or dissolve on their own, depending on which kind you received. Pain, bleeding, and swelling should have ceased except for a little sensitivity from the newer tissue forming around the extraction site. If you experience any pain or bleeding at this point, please call your dentist so they can evaluate your situation. Continue to follow the special care instructions to keep the now very secured blood clot in place by rinsing the area, not brushing it, and continue staying away from crunchy, crumbly foods that could get in the partially open socket, to learn more about what to eat and not eat read our Wisdom Tooth Recovery: What to Expect article. It is still possible to dislodge the blood clot and if so, will reverse the healing you have already achieved.
What to Expect 2 Weeks Post Tooth Extraction
The site should be mostly healed two weeks post tooth extraction, with tissue closing up instead of an open socket. It is important to not brush this soft, tender tissue. Avoid chewing food near the healing socket because it could damage the soft, new tissue and could also lead to infection.
3+ Week Post Tooth Extraction
At the three-week mark and beyond post tooth extraction, your main focus will be to keep the site clean of food debris and well rinsed with a saline solution or a recommended mouthwash from your dentist. Though the site will still be sensitive for a little while longer, you should not have any pain, bleeding, or swelling.
Understanding the Tooth Extraction Healing Stages
Though having a tooth pulled is not as fun as slurping a milkshake on a hot summer day, it doesn’t have to be a procedure that causes a lot of stress or worry either. Knowing what to expect day by day after having a tooth extraction should put your mind at ease. Those who follow the Dos and Don’ts of post-tooth extraction can achieve a quicker recovery with much fewer complications. By avoiding dry socket and keeping the site clean, additional pain and infection can be avoided altogether.
Find an Oral Surgeon Near Me
Put your mouth’s health in trusted hands by finding a dentist in your area who can give you the care you need and who is guided by current education and years of experience performing tooth extractions for others in your community. If you are looking for a local dentist for a tooth extraction, use the Find A Dentist Tool through Smile Generation today.