Although the idea of getting a tooth extraction is nerve-racking, it’s actually a common procedure with relatively little downtime. If you’re getting a tooth extraction, here’s a guide from Flossy on what you should expect before, during, and after the procedure.
There are many reasons why you might need to have a tooth extracted. This can range from tooth decay, severe pain, or infections due to cavities, irreparable damage to your teeth or gum tissue caused by trauma, or more deep-set issues such as the misalignment or crowding caused by wisdom teeth.
Once your dentist establishes that you need an extraction, you’ll go through several steps to get your tooth removed. Here’s what to expect during a tooth extraction procedure.
Your dentist will either perform the extraction themselves or refer you to an oral surgeon. In either case, the first step is to assess the issue at hand and make sure that you’re a candidate.
During the assessment, your doctor will take X-rays of the tooth to be extracted, as well as the gums, root, tooth socket, and tissue surrounding it. Your doctor will also determine whether you need a simple or surgical extraction. Although the two are fairly similar, a surgical extraction is reserved for more complicated cases and requires a small incision to be made in your gum.
After you’ve been deemed a candidate for an extraction, you should quickly find yourself in your dentist or oral surgeon’s chair for an extraction.
Before the procedure, you’ll receive a small dose of local anesthesia through a syringe to act as pain medication that numbs the area. This is generally the most uncomfortable part of the procedure—although how much discomfort you feel depends on where the anesthetic is injected. Thankfully, this step takes less than a minute and will leave the area around the tooth completely numb.
An extraction is a fairly complicated procedure, which is why we’ll leave the technical details and instructions up to your doctor. But it’s useful to know that extraction doesn’t involve pulling the tooth out directly.
Instead, your doctor will enlarge the socket that your tooth is rooted in to make it easier to separate from the tooth. After this, your doctor will rock the tooth back and forth to loosen it. Once there’s enough space, the tooth will be comfortably removed, which concludes this procedure step.
Once your tooth is removed, the socket it was rooted in will be left open. Your doctor will usually rinse the socket to remove any fragments and apply pressure to it to stop the bleeding until a blood clot forms. If you’re getting a surgical extraction, such as a wisdom tooth removal, your doctor might also want to stitch up the opening.
It’s normal for the extraction site to bleed after the procedure, especially for wisdom tooth extractions. To control the bleeding, your doctor will place gauze over the extraction site and ask you to bite down on it so that there’s pressure on the wound. You might need to bite down on the gauze for about 30 minutes after the extraction.
You might be wondering: what should a tooth extraction look like when healing? Although healing time is slightly different for everyone, here’s an approximate timeline of what the healing process might look like for you.
After your tooth has been removed, you might experience bleeding for several hours. After the anesthesia wears off, you might also experience some pain during the first 24 hours. To help with this, your doctor should prescribe you some pain relievers for a few days or may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers.
Your mouth may be numb for several hours after the extraction. Make sure not to bite or chew the inside of your mouth accidentally.
You will need to take at least one day off from work and to avoid smoking tobacco products or engaging in any strenuous activities after the procedure. For some people, this might be two or three days.
By the second day of your extraction, you may continue to experience slight bleeding and pain. However, active bleeding should stop at this point, and a clot should begin to form in the socket.
You can continue taking your pain relief medications. It might help to apply an ice pack on your cheek next to the extraction site to help with swelling, which should begin to subside after two days. At this point, you may also start using a saline rinse or warm salt water if your doctor prescribed it.
After three days, the extraction site should begin closing in. Bleeding and swelling should have stopped at this point (or, at the very least, become very minimal). While you may still experience some tenderness, you should no longer be in significant pain and may be able to stop taking pain relievers. At this point, you may even resume your normal oral hygiene routine.
About a week after the extraction, the clot should be fully formed. You should no longer experience any bleeding, pain, or discomfort. However, suppose you are experiencing any lingering symptoms. In that case, you might need to make a follow-up appointment with your doctor to ensure there aren’t any complications, such as a common complication known as dry socket.
After two weeks, the extraction site should be almost healed. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that the tissue around the extraction site is still not fully healed, which is why it’s important to avoid abrasive brushing and chewing around it. However, if you notice any fresh bleeding, pus, or other signs of infection, or deeply lodged food particles, see your doctor as soon as possible.
After a month, the process of healing should be complete. It’s normal to feel a bit of tenderness around the extraction site, but any pain or bleeding should have completely subsided by this point.
Although there’s a general timeline for how a tooth extraction heals, a lot of it does depend on individual factors. Here are some things you can do to speed up the healing of tooth extractions.
Eating healthy is important in general, but this is especially the case after tooth extraction.
Although the last thing you’ll want to do after removing your tooth is eat, it’s important to get your nutrients. Try to increase your intake of protein and antioxidant-rich foods, both of which are known to promote healing. When eating, try sticking to soft foods like yogurt, soups, or applesauce, as chewing after tooth extraction should be avoided for at least three days.
Last but not least, it’s important to avoid sugar. Sugary foods and beverages have an inflammatory effect on the body, interfering with its ability to heal. But we get the desire to eat something sweet after tooth extraction. In that case, berries are always a delicious and nutritious choice.
Although you can resume your normal oral hygiene routine a few days after the extraction, it’s important to be gentle for several weeks following the procedure. This means brushing as gently as possible, using a soft-bristled toothbrush, and avoiding chewing any hard foods near the extraction site. In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol-based oral rinses as these can irritate the extraction site.
It may seem like a saline oral rinse is an optional remedy, but it’s actually an integral part of healing. Salt works by forcing the liquid in cells to move out, drawing out bacteria. Keeping your extraction site as free of bacteria as possible is super important for healing. For this reason, gargling with salt is one of the best ways to speed up healing.
It’s well-known that smoking prevents proper wound healing. The reasons for this are as numerous as the ingredients in cigarettes. But the main problem is that nicotine constricts blood vessels, which prevents the blood flow that’s necessary for proper healing. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stay away from cigarettes while your tooth extraction heals.
Above all, it’s important to monitor the extraction site until your follow-up appointment with your doctor. If you notice bleeding, pain, or swelling that goes on way past the one-week mark of your tooth extraction, then you should call your dentist immediately to make sure that there aren’t any complications.
The first 24 hours after your tooth extraction will involve the most bleeding and pain. However, most of the pain and swelling should subside several days after. After a week, you should barely feel the extraction.
That said, everyone’s body is different. This makes it important to follow up with your doctor after your extraction closely. For a dental professional who will be with you through the recovery process, check out Flossy’s network of skilled and caring dentists and oral surgeons.