As with any outpatient surgical procedure, there are specific precautions that must be observed in order to manage pain, prevent infection, and optimize healing after a wisdom tooth extraction. Following these simple steps will ensure speedy and optimal healing of the tooth extraction site.
Avoid trauma to the extraction site
For a few days after extraction, the wound is still tender, painful and susceptible to infection and bleeding. Nothing must be done to disrupt the blood clot that forms in the extraction socket since this can lead to a very painful condition called a dry socket which significantly prolongs healing time. Thus, hard, sticky, and chewy foods should be avoided. A liquid or soft diet and chewing on the other side of the mouth are recommended to avoid putting pressure on the wound. Other activities which may disturb the extraction site include touching the wound, spitting, gargling, sucking through a straw, and physical exercise. These should be avoided for a few days.
Keep the extraction site clean
Maintaining a clean mouth is critical to decrease the chances of infection and promote healing after tooth extraction. The day after surgery, normal brushing and flossing should be resumed as tolerated, but special care should be taken when brushing the teeth near the extraction site. Some bleeding is expected but the accumulation of blood in the extraction socket can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Thus, gently rinsing with warm salt water three times a day after meals is recommended to wash away debris and blood, and to foster sterile conditions in the oral cavity. This can be started as early as four hours following surgery.
Smoking should be avoided in the first 48 hours following dental extraction since the heat and nicotine can hinder blood clot formation. It is also necessary to refrain from alcohol for at least 14 days. Alcohol not only interferes with the blood clotting process, it also reduces the effectiveness of the antibiotics that patients must take following tooth extraction. Resist the temptation to use antiseptic mouthwashes since they also contain alcohol. Because the mouth is initially numb, in order to avoid burns, it is best to refrain from eating hot or spicy foods.
Manage pain, bleeding and swelling
For the first 48 hours after surgery, pain, jaw stiffness and swelling are not uncommon. Usually an anti-inflammatory painkiller will be prescribed or one can be purchased over-the-counter. All post-op medications should be taken on time and as prescribed. Painkillers that thin the blood, such as aspirin, are not recommended since they can trigger bleeding. Another good way to manage pain and swelling is by using an icepack for 15 minutes on the outer cheek near the extraction site. Bleeding can be controlled by biting down on a gauze pad or a moistened tea bag for 30 minutes. Getting adequate rest is also a good way to ward off pain. Immediately after the operation, resting in a sitting position, or lying down with the head elevated, is recommended to reduce bleeding.
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