wisdom-teethPost-operative care is important following oral surgery and recovery may be delayed if this care is neglected. Some swelling, stiffness, oozing of blood and discomfort is expected after surgery. It is helpful to have the patient observed by a responsible adult for the duration of the day of the surgery. The following includes our post-operative instructions and events, which may take place following this kind of surgery.

Bleeding: The gauze pad which was placed after surgery acts as a protective dressing and should be left in place 2-3 hours with gentle pressure applied. Some oozing is to be expected. If excessive bleeding is noticed, this is not normal. Most often, however, this can be controlled by the use of clean gauze placed directly over the surgical site and held with firm pressure for approximately 1 hour until the bleeding is controlled. If bleeding continues, call the office number at any time (435) 752-9662, or report to the emergency room.

Pain: If it is necessary, you will be provided with a prescription for medication. This can be filled at any drugstore and should be used as directed. Pain may be expected soon after the surgery and will reach its maximum during the first few hours. It is recommended that the prescription be started approximately 1-2 hours after the surgery and continued as directed.

Nausea: If nausea is encountered in the immediate post-operative period, it is often increased by taking the pain medication. Remember not to take the pain medication without something in your stomach. The post-operative nausea may be relieved by taking 1oz. of a carbonated drink such as Ginger Ale every hour for 5-6 hours. This can be followed with mild tea, broth, and soft foods before resuming your regular diet.

Swelling: Swelling and stiffness are to be expected. This swelling may increase over the first 2 days, and then it should start to subside. Swelling can be somewhat controlled by the use of ice and heat as follows:

  • Ice: Use ice for the first 12-24 hours applying it to the cheeks for 20 minutes and removing it for 20 minutes alternately.

  • Heat: Swelling and stiffness may be relieved by warm, moist heat applied to the jaws on the 2nd and 3rd days following the surgery.

  • After the first 24 hours, for at least five days after extraction, gently rinse the socket with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water) after meals and before bed.

The stiffness which can sometimes occur will usually be relieved by the heat application, the use of chewing gum at intervals, and gentle stretching exercises beginning the day after surgery.

Things to Avoid After Tooth Extraction

In addition to the aforementioned aftercare considerations, tooth extraction aftercare also involves avoiding certain foods and activities:

  • Avoid anything that might dislodge the blood clot and delay or prevent normal healing.

  • Do not smoke, vigorously rinse or spit, engage in strenuous activities, or drink through a straw for at least two days after an extraction.

  • Stay away from hot liquids, foods that are crunchy or contain seeds or small grains, alcohol, and carbonated soft drinks for two to three days after tooth extractions.

  • Do not brush your gums or use an OTC mouth rinse (you can use homemade water-and-salt washes).

Dry Socket

Dry socket, a common complication after a tooth extraction, occurs when a blood clot has failed to form in the socket, or the blood clot that did form has been dislodged. This leaves the underlying bone and nerves exposed to air and food. Often quite painful, dry socket typically appears two to five days after extraction and can cause a bad odor or taste.

Dry socket is most frequently associated with difficult or traumatic tooth extractions, such as the extraction of lower wisdom teeth. It occurs more often with people over the age of 30, smokers, those with poor oral hygiene habits and women (particularly those taking oral contraceptives). Unless there is an emergency, experts recommend that women using oral contraceptives schedule their extractions during the last week of their menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are lower.

In most cases, if you develop dry socket, your dentist will place a medicated dressing into the socket to soothe the pain and encourage healing. The dressing is replaced every 24 hours until the symptoms of dry socket lessen (about five to seven days).