Dos and don’ts of tooth extraction

Feeling nervous about a tooth extraction is only natural.

Fortunately, tooth extraction can be a painless and complication-free experience if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Do: Rest up

Take it easy for 24 hours following your tooth extraction whether you feel you need the rest or not. If possible, take a day off work and pass on working out or sports.

Do: Follow instructions to stop bleeding

You’ll be given gauze to bite down on following your procedure. This allows a blood clot to form in the tooth socket and stop the bleeding. Be sure to use the gauze for at least 30 minutes, even if the bleeding appears to have stopped.

Some patients may need to bite on gauze for up to three hours for the clot to form. If this happens to you, change the gauze every 30 minutes and try biting on a wet tea bag as the tannic acid in tea can accelerate the clotting process.

Don’t chew the gauze. Simply bite down and hold it in place over the socket.

Don’t: Smoke for three to four days

Sucking can dislodge your blood clot and give yourself a painful condition known as dry socket. The chemicals found in cigarettes or chewing tobacco also negatively affect the healing process. If you’re a heavy tobacco user and foresee intense nicotine cravings, you might plan ahead and purchase nicotine patches prior to your tooth extraction.

Do: Apply ice packs to reduce swelling

Apply an ice pack to the affected area with intervals of 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off for one to two hours. Most simple extractions won’t cause much swelling but it’s still a good idea to ice the side of your face where the extraction took place.

Don’t: Eat hard foods right away

Stick to soft foods immediately after your extraction to reduce the risk of dry socket. Smoothies, soups, mashed potatoes and yogurt are popular foods to eat following your procedure. Avoid hot drinks and spicy food for a few days.

Do: Take your medicine as prescribed

Never skip an antibiotic no matter how great you feel. Take your medication according to the instructions from your dentist.

Don’t: Poke or explore the socket

As tempting as it is to run your tongue through the empty socket, this simple action could remove the blood clot and lead to dry socket. Don’t stick your finger in the socket and avoid the use of toothpicks until your mouth is fully healed.

Do: Periodic warm saline rinses

Help keep the socket clean and free of debris with the use of warm saline rinses. Your dentist will generally recommend your first rinse take place 12 hours after you leave the office. Do not brush the socket.