The unfortunate truth is tooth extractions happen regardless of how vigilant you are with your at-home oral care routine.
Sometimes tooth decay causes so much damage that the tooth can’t be saved. In other cases, gum disease causes irreparable damage to the foundation of the tooth and it needs to be removed.
An astounding 85% of us experience extractions with our wisdom teeth due to painful impacted wisdom teeth that fail to cut through the gums properly or in preparation for orthodontic treatment to ensure successful teeth alignment or avoid crowding issues.
Regardless of the reason for the tooth extraction, it’s important to follow aftercare instructions.
Here, our own Dr. Meriem Boukadoum at 54th Street Dental shares her thoughts on best practices to prevent complications, promote healing and to make you feel more comfortable during the estimated 1-2 weeks or so of the recovery period.
Dry socket is a painful condition and the most common complication following tooth extractions. Dry socket is all about the important blood clot that forms in the tooth socket after the tooth is pulled.
Specifically, dry socket develops when the blood clot dislodges or dissolves before the socket wound heals, or in some cases when the blood clot fails to develop at all.
The blood clot serves two important functions for healing and recovery — it protects the bone and nerves exposed by the missing tooth and provides a starting point for new bone growth and soft tissue, which ultimately forms over the clot.
To avoid dry socket, you need to extend a little TLC to the surgical area, especially during the 24 hours after the extraction.
Avoid using a straw when drinking, spitting excessively or rinsing vigorously. Similarly, refrain from smoking. All of these activities produce sucking or suction movements in the mouth, which can loosen the blood clot.
Keep in mind that if you’ve had a previous episode of dry socket from a past extraction, you’re more prone to experience it again. Make sure you share this information with your provider so he can provide additional post-op care instructions.
Not that you’ll feel like running a marathon or even remaining upright for that matter, but make sure to rest in the hours following your tooth extraction. Prop your head up with pillows when you nap or sleep to enhance healing.
Even if your recovery is going well, it’s a good idea to refrain from rigorous exercise for several days. The goal here is to allow your body to heal and to keep the blood clot firmly in place in the tooth socket.
After your tooth extraction, you don’t want to engage in a lot of chewing or biting. Keep it simple and think clear liquids and soft comfort foods.
Non-spicy foods like Jell-O and pudding, pureed fruits and vegetables, eggs and cooked cereals all work well. Things like cool soups or smoothies are great too. If you go the smoothie route, remember to eat with a spoon, not a straw.
Keep in mind that you want to avoid sodas and carbonated drinks, as well as sticky and hard foods like peanuts, pasta and popcorn. All these food and beverage choices not only increase the likelihood of food debris lingering in your tooth socket, but also threaten to dislodge the blood clot.
The best way to recover and heal more quickly is to follow Dr. Boukadoum’s post-op instructions. Your post-op treatment plan immediately following your extraction includes icing for 10-minute intervals to control swelling.
Although it’s uncomfortable, staying vigilant to her do’s and don’ts is really the most efficient way to get back to feeling more like yourself again. This isn’t the time to listen to Aunt Madge’s remedy to pain management. Stick to the post-op game plan.
Take prescribed drugs or over-the-counter medications as directed. If you’re having difficulty with the pain or if something seems off, contact your provider for clarification or additional directions.
Similarly, if your pain doesn’t subside in a day or two or if you start running a fever, contact your provider right away.
If you need a tooth extraction and want to learn more about the aftercare it involves, schedule a consultation with 54th Street Dental. To reach us, use the online booking tool or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.