After tooth extraction, proper aftercare is essential to promote proper healing and prevent complications such as infection, dry socket, and prolonged pain. One of the critical aspects of this care involves avoiding certain activities or habits that may interfere with the healing process.
Such things may increase blood flow or pressure to the extraction site, disrupt the blood clot, or introduce bacteria to the wound, which in turn delay healing and increase the risk of complications.
1. Smoking and Tobacco Use
After a tooth extraction, it is important to avoid smoking and tobacco, for at least 72 hours following the procedure, and ideally for as long as possible, since this practice can have a negative impact on the healing process and increase the risk of complications.
Smoking and the general use of tobacco products can increase the risk of:
- Delayed healing by reducing blood flow to the extraction site, which can lead to slower tissue repair and increase the risk of infection.
- Dry socket and the associated symptoms that include severe pain, bad breath, and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
- Infection by weakening the immune system and reducing the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and other harmful substances.
- Impaired bone growth, making it more difficult for the extraction site to heal properly. This can lead to complications such as jaw pain, difficulty chewing, and even tooth loss.
2. Drinking from a Straw
You should avoid drinking from a straw after tooth extraction because the suction created by sucking on the straw can dislodge the blood clot that forms at the extraction site. This blood clot is important for the healing process and protects the underlying bone and nerve endings. If the blood clot is dislodged, it can lead to a painful condition called dry socket, which can delay healing and require additional treatment.
3. Dietary restrictions
Certain foods and beverages can interfere with the healing process, cause pain or discomfort, and even lead to complications like dry socket. Any dietary restrictions after tooth extraction may vary depending on the extent of the extraction and the recommendation of the dentist or oral surgeon.
In general, it is recommended to avoid hard, crunchy, sticky, and spicy foods for the first 24-48 hours after the procedure. After that, soft and easy-to-chew foods may be introduced, gradually adding solid foods as the extraction site heals.
Here are some dietary guidelines to consider after tooth extraction:
- Wait at least 24 hours after the extraction before eating anything to give the blood clot time to form properly.
- After the first day, gradually introduce more solid foods as long as they do not cause pain or discomfort.
- Stick to soft and easily digestible foods, such as mashed potatoes, yogurt, soup, and smoothies.
- Avoid hot and spicy foods, as well as crunchy and hard foods that can irritate the extraction site.
- Don’t consume alcoholic or carbonated beverages, as they can cause dryness and irritation in the mouth.
- Avoid hard or crunchy foods that require excessive chewing or opening the mouth wide, such as tough meats and nuts.
- Be sure to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to promote healing and recovery.
4. Brushing and Flossing Aggressively
Brushing and flossing are important for maintaining good oral hygiene, but it is important to take extra care after a tooth extraction to avoid complications.
Some of the risks you should be aware of include:
- Dislodging the blood clot: Brushing or flossing too aggressively can dislodge the blood clot that forms in the extraction site, which can lead to dry socket.
- Irritation: Brushing or flossing near the extraction site can irritate the area and cause pain or bleeding.
- Infection: If you have an open wound from the extraction, brushing or flossing can introduce bacteria into the area and increase the risk of infection.
Make sure to follow your dentist’s specific instructions for brushing and flossing after a tooth extraction, to ensure proper healing and prevent complications. These may include:
- Avoid brushing or flossing the extraction site for the first 24 hours to prevent dislodging the blood clot.
- After 24 hours, gently brush the teeth surrounding the extraction site using a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoiding the extraction site.
- Be careful while spitting or rinsing, as vigorous rinsing can also dislodge the blood clot and delay the healing process.
- After a few days, the extraction site can be gently cleaned with a saltwater solution or an antibacterial mouthwash recommended by the dentist.
- Avoid using commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol, as it can irritate the extraction site.
5. Neglecting Oral Hygiene
Some people might choose to reduce their oral care habits to avoid interfering with the blood clot or irritating the extraction site. Unfortunately, this is likely to be counterproductive, since neglecting oral hygiene after a tooth extraction can lead to complications and slow down the healing process.
Bacteria can accumulate in the extraction site and cause infection, leading to pain and swelling. It is important to follow the dentist’s instructions for brushing and flossing carefully to prevent these complications and ensure proper healing.
6. Vigorous Physical Activity
After tooth extraction, it’s important to avoid certain physical activities that may interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of complications. Physical activities to avoid include:
- Strenuous exercise – Avoid any strenuous exercise or activities that may increase your heart rate or blood pressure for at least 24 hours after tooth extraction. These activities can cause bleeding at the extraction site and delay the healing process.
- Bending over – Avoid bending over, lifting heavy objects, or any activity that puts pressure on your head. This can increase blood pressure and cause bleeding at the extraction site.
7. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol consumption can have negative effects on the healing process after tooth extraction. It can increase the risk of bleeding, delay the healing process, and increase the risk of infection. Additionally, alcohol can interact with certain pain medications and antibiotics prescribed after tooth extraction, reducing their effectiveness and causing adverse side effects.
Therefore, it is generally recommended to avoid alcohol consumption for at least 24 hours after tooth extraction, or for as long as the dentist recommends. It is also important to follow the dentist’s instructions regarding the use of pain medications and antibiotics, and to avoid consuming alcohol while taking these medications.
8. Touching the extraction site
After tooth extraction, it is important to avoid touching the extraction site with your fingers or tongue. Touching the extraction site can introduce bacteria into the wound, which can cause an infection or slow down the healing process. Additionally, touching the area can disrupt the blood clot that has formed in the socket, which can lead to dry socket. It is important to keep the area clean and follow the dentist’s instructions for post-operative care to ensure proper healing.
9. Skipping follow-up appointments
Follow-up appointments are important to monitor your healing progress after tooth extraction, and to detect any potential issues or complications early on. Your dentist or oral surgeon will also remove any sutures or dressings during these appointments and provide you with further instructions for proper post-operative care.
If you skip these appointments, you may not be aware of any problems that may be developing, such as an infection or improper healing. This can lead to more serious issues that may require further treatment, such as a drainage of an abscess or even another surgery.
Additionally, your dentist may prescribe medications to help manage pain or prevent infection, and they will need to monitor your progress and determine if adjustments to the medication regimen are necessary. Skipping follow-up appointments can mean missing out on these necessary medications, which can also negatively impact your healing process.
So make sure to attend all scheduled follow-up appointments after a tooth extraction to optimize your healing and to address any potential issues early on.
It is important to follow the specific instructions provided by the dental professional, including all the things you need to avoid during recovery following tooth extraction, to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of complications.