When you were a child, losing a tooth was an exciting affair. You would constantly wiggle the loose tooth with your tongue, and maybe you would even speculate about what kind of gifts the tooth fairy would bring to you. As an adult, the prospect of losing a tooth isn’t nearly as glamorous.
If a tooth is too badly damaged to repair or if it is interfering with your other teeth, you may need a tooth extraction. Here is some information on what you can expect after the procedure.
The Healing Process
There are two types of tooth extractions. A simple extraction is when the dentist loosens a tooth before removing it with forceps. A surgical extraction involves removing a tooth that is not visible above the gum line.
With both types of extractions, you’ll experience some discomfort and pain after the procedure. With surgical extractions, it can take between six and eight months for the bone to heal completely. However, the initial healing phase usually takes one to two weeks, and your gums should feel better within a month.
For the first 24 hours, the wound may continue to bleed a little. This is because the mouth’s moist environment makes it more difficult for scabs to form.
Tips for Staying Comfortable and Avoiding Complications
Your dentist will tell you how to take care of the wound after the extraction. Some of the instructions that he or she provides may tell you to:
- Periodically apply ice to keep swelling down.
- For the first 24 hours, avoid drinking with a straw.
- Continue good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing. However, be careful to avoid the new wound. If you accidentally break the scab or disturb the stitches before they dissolve, you increase your risk of infection.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products, particularly in the first few days.
- Consume soft foods. A tooth extraction is a good excuse to indulge in ice cream, but there are other suitable foods as well. Yogurt, applesauce, and protein drinks may all be acceptable choices. Gradually add harder foods back into your diet.
- Take painkillers. Your dentist may prescribe painkillers, or he or she may tell you to take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen.
- Limit your physical activity for a few days. Moving too much can increase bleeding.
If a Problem Occurs
Despite your best efforts to take care of the extraction site, you may experience complications. A condition known as dry socket occurs in about two percent of cases. However, it is much more common with wisdom tooth extractions.
With dry socket, the blood clot at the extraction site is lost, leaving the bone exposed and hindering healing. Symptoms of dry socket include bad breath, a foul taste, and throbbing pain. Look for these signs two to four days after the procedure.
Keep an eye out for signs of infection. This could include fever, vomiting, chills, and redness or excessive swelling at the extraction site. If you think you have an infection, get in touch with your dentist right away.
Sometimes, tooth extractions are necessary. You don’t have to be afraid of the procedure, but you should know what to expect during the healing process.