Tooth Extraction—Aftercare, Recovery and What to Expect

It is very common to feel pain and experience some swelling after a tooth extraction. Take medications as directed. You may take narcotic pain medicine simultaneously with 600 mg of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) every 6 hours. Do not take additional acetaminophen (Tylenol), as it is already in the narcotic pain medicine you may have been prescribed. If antibiotics are prescribed, continue to take them until they are gone, even if signs and symptoms of infection have disappeared.

It’s important for a blood clot to form to stop the bleeding and begin the healing process after a tooth extraction. Once the tooth is out, your dentist or surgeon may place a few dissolvable stitches, pack a gauze pad into the socket to stop the bleeding, and ask you to bite down on it for 30-45 minutes. If bleeding continues, place another gauze pad and bite down for an additional 30 minutes. Applying a moistened tea bag to the area for 20-30 minutes can also help to staunch bleeding.

After the blood clot forms, it is important not to disturb or dislodge it for optimal healing. Do not use a straw, rinse vigorously, smoke, or drink alcohol for 72 hours. These activities can dislodge the blood clot and impede the healing process. Avoid vigorous exercise and bending for 48 hours, as this will increase blood pressure and may cause more bleeding.

Nausea can occur as a result of anesthesia, narcotic medication, or swallowed blood. To help relieve nausea, take one ounce of a carbonated beverage such as ginger ale every hour for five or six hours. Eat soft foods and drink plenty of fluids on the day of the extraction. You can return to eating your normal diet when you feel more comfortable.

Applying an ice pack to the area will help keep swelling to a minimum. Swelling will typically subside after about 72 hours. Bruising or skin discoloration is not unusual following a tooth extraction. Small bone fragments may also work through the gums during the healing process.

You may rinse gently with warm salt water (1/2 tsp. salt with 1 cup water) 24 hours after your tooth extraction, three to four times a day. Make sure to resume brushing and flossing after 24 hours. This will encourage healing and help keep your mouth clean and free from infection.

If you have received general anesthesia, avoid consuming alcohol, operating machinery or making any important decisions for 24 hours. It is possible to faint or fall the first 24 hours after anesthesia. Ask a friend or family member stay with you.

What to Do if Pain Persists

If the pain becomes excruciating or fails to subside after a few days, it may be a symptom dry socket, a condition in which the blood clot breaks loose, leaving the bone and nerves exposed. If you look at the site where the tooth was pulled and see whitish bone instead of a dark blood clot, you probably have dry socket.

A few days after your tooth extraction you should feel fine and can resume your normal activities. If you continue to experience severe pain and swelling, or have a reaction to medication, please contact our office in Jersey City.