By Sarah Borroum
After the dentist extracts your tooth (or, worse, teeth), proper aftercare is
vital if you want to recover quickly. If you don’t take good care of your mouth, you risk dry sockets,
infections, and other painful problems. Fortunately, proper aftercare takes little time or effort.
Stay as quiet as possible for at least twenty-four hours after the
surgery. Moving your mouth can disturb the extraction site, which can impede clotting. You want a blood
clot in the socket so that the healing process can begin. Communicate with a pen and paper, sign language, or some
other non-verbal method. This will be frustrating, especially if you love talking, but you’ll be more comfortable
Be as still as you can for at least one day – if not two. Going to the
gym, chasing your kids around in the yard, or moving furniture can disturb your blood clot. So can less-intense
activities like washing the car and taking out the trash. The first twenty-four hours following surgery are the
most crucial, so be as still as possible.
Don’t spit. You want to clear out your mouth, but don’t. Yes, your saliva
is disgusting. Yes, this is uncomfortable. And yes, your natural response is to spit out anything that you don’t
like. But spitting can interfere with the clot. Use a paper towel to gently wipe around your mouth
Change the gauze in your mouth on a regular basis. How long you can go
between gauze changes depends on how much you’re still bleeding. Try to keep fairly-fresh gauze in there, as this
is more absorbent than the gauze you’ve left in the socket for an hour and a half.
Do not use a drinking straw. The suction isn’t good for the clot. Take
small sips from a glass or can instead. You need to be careful, though, especially with carbonated beverages. The
bubbles aren’t necessarily good for the extraction site.
Keep your tongue, fingers, et cetera away from the socket. The more you
tongue, probe or poke, the worse off you’ll be. Interfering with the socket can loosen the clot – or make you sorer
than you already are. Your tongue will want to explore this area, but try to keep that from happening.
Stick to cool or room-temperature foods. Hot food can make your
extraction site feel worse, as can cold food. You should also avoid food that requires chewing, at least for the
first day or two. After that, a soft diet should be just fine.
Avoid tobacco products for the first few days. This might be a good time
to quit smoking or dipping, actually, because you really aren’t supposed to partake during the first few days after
Your dentist should give you a list of aftercare instructions. Typically, this
is a printout that you can take home with you for easy reference. You should follow all of the advice on this
sheet. Be sure to contact your dentist if something isn’t clear, or if you have any questions. Taking proper care
of your mouth after extractions is very important, so be sure that you know exactly what to do. The better
your aftercare, the faster and easier you will heal. Soon, you’ll be right back to your normal, everyday life –
from exercise to eating.