Pulling a Tooth (Tooth Extraction)
What to Tell Your Dentist Before You Have a Tooth Pulled
Although having a tooth pulled is usually very safe, the procedure can allow harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Gum tissue is also at risk of infection. If you have a condition that puts you at high risk for developing a severe infection, you may need to take antibiotics before and after the extraction. Before having a tooth pulled, let your dentist know your complete medical history, the medications and supplements you take, and if you have one of the following:
- Damaged or man-made heart valves
- Congenital heart defect
- Impaired immune system
- Liver disease (cirrhosis)
- Artificial joint, such as a hip replacement
- History of bacterial endocarditis
After You've Had a Tooth Pulled
Following an extraction, your dentist will send you home to recover. Recovery typically takes a few days. The following can help minimize discomfort, reduce the risk of infection, and speed recovery.
- Take painkillers as prescribed.
- Bite firmly but gently on the gauze pad placed by your dentist to reduce bleeding and allow a clot to form in the tooth socket. Change gauze pads before they become soaked with blood. Otherwise, leave the pad in place for three to four hours after the extraction.
- Apply an ice bag to the affected area immediately after the procedure to keep down swelling. Apply ice for 10 minutes at a time.
- Relax for at least 24 hours after the extraction. Limit activity for the next day or two.
- Avoid rinsing or spitting forcefully for 24 hours after the extraction to avoid dislodging the clot that forms in the socket.
- After 24 hours, rinse with your mouth with a solution made of 1/2 teaspoon salt and 8 ounces of warm water.
- Do not drink from a straw for the first 24 hours.
- Do not smoke, which can inhibit healing.
- Eat soft foods, such as soup, pudding, yogurt, or applesauce the day after the extraction. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as the extraction site heals.
- When lying down, prop your head with pillows. Lying flat may prolong bleeding.
- Continue to brush and floss your teeth, and brush your tongue, but be sure to avoid the extraction site. Doing so will help prevent infection.
When to Call the Dentist
It is normal to feel some pain after the anesthesia wears off. For 24 hours after having a tooth pulled, you should also expect some swelling and residual bleeding. However, if either bleeding or pain is still severe more than four hours after your tooth is pulled, you should call your dentist. You should also call your dentist if you experience any of the following:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Redness, swelling, or excessive discharge from the affected area
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
The initial healing period usually takes about one to two weeks. New bone and gum tissue will grow into the gap. Over time, however, having a tooth (or teeth) missing can cause the remaining teeth to shift, affecting your bite and making it difficult to chew. For that reason, your dentist may advise replacing the missing tooth or teeth with an implant, fixed bridge, or denture.