Post Operative Instructions Following Tooth Extractions

Tooth extraction is a common dental procedure carried out for various reasons such as severe tooth decay, infection, overcrowding, or impacted wisdom teeth. While the extraction process is typically straightforward, the success of the overall treatment largely depends on proper postoperative care. By adhering to the following postoperative instructions, you can ensure a smooth recovery process, avoid potential complications, and speed up healing after tooth extraction.

Pain Management

Pain is a common experience after tooth extraction. Pain levels may vary depending on the complexity of the extraction procedure. Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to manage pain. Always follow the dosage instructions provided by your dentist or pharmacist. Avoid taking aspirin as it can increase the risk of bleeding.

Bleeding Control

Following a tooth extraction, it is normal to experience some bleeding. Your dentist will typically place a gauze pack on the extraction site to control bleeding and promote clot formation. Keep the gauze in place by biting down on it and replace it as needed, usually every 30-45 minutes until the bleeding stops.

Do not disturb the extraction site by touching it with your tongue or fingers and avoid rigorous rinsing or spitting, which can dislodge the blood clot and lead to dry socket, a painful condition that can delay the healing process.

Swelling and Bruising

Swelling and bruising around the mouth, cheeks, eyes and sides of the face are common after an extraction. This is the body’s normal reaction to surgery and eventual repair. The swelling will not become apparent until the day following surgery and will not reach its peak for 2-3 days. After this time, the swelling should decrease but may persist for 7-10 days.

Applying an ice pack to the affected area immediately after the procedure can help reduce swelling. The ice pack should be used 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off for the first 24 hours. After 24 hours, it’s generally more effective to switch to warm compresses.

Oral Hygiene

While it is important not to disturb the extraction site directly, maintaining a clean mouth is crucial to prevent infection. Starting 24 hours after surgery, you can rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) every few hours.

Avoid using commercial mouthwashes for a few days as they may irritate the extraction site. Continue to brush and floss your other teeth as you normally would, but avoid the teeth and gum adjacent to the extraction socket.

Nutrition and Hydration

Staying hydrated is essential for healing. Drink lots of water following the extraction, but do not drink from a straw as the suction could dislodge the blood clot at the extraction site.

Eating may seem challenging immediately after a tooth extraction. It is recommended to have soft foods and liquids while the mouth is healing. Foods like yogurt, pudding, soup, ice cream, mashed potatoes, and smoothies are generally safe choices. As healing progresses, more solid foods can be gradually reintroduced into your diet. Avoid hot, spicy, crunchy, or hard foods that could irritate the wound or get lodged in the socket.

Rest and Activity

After the procedure, your body needs time to heal. Rest and avoid strenuous activities for at least 24 hours after the extraction. Elevate your head with pillows while lying down to minimize swelling.

Avoiding Alcohol, Tobacco and Certain Medications

Alcohol can thin your blood, making it harder for a blood clot to form and delay healing. Similarly, smoking or tobacco use can interfere with the healing process and increases the risk of complications like dry socket. Therefore, refrain from drinking alcohol and smoking for at least 72 hours, or as long as possible following the procedure.

Also, certain medications like blood thinners can interfere with clotting. Always let your dentist know about any medications you’re taking before the procedure.

Follow-Up Appointments

Your dentist may schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your healing process and remove sutures if they were placed and are non-dissolvable. Don’t skip these appointments and contact your dentist immediately if you experience severe pain, excessive or prolonged bleeding, or any other unusual symptoms.


Tooth extraction is often necessary to maintain overall oral health. Postoperative care plays a crucial role in minimizing discomfort and potential complications, thereby ensuring a smooth recovery. Proper pain management, good oral hygiene, correct nutrition, adequate rest, and adherence to the dentist’s instructions are key components of postoperative care following tooth extractions.