Tooth Extraction: Healing Timelines & Recovery Tips.
Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents
- Extraction Requirements
- Healing Support
- Recovery Timeline
- Orthodontic Treatment
- At-Home Aligners
After a tooth extraction, it is important to follow your dentist’s instructions to ensure the healing process goes smoothly. You may receive prescription medications, a list of foods to avoid, and a list of habits to adjust until your gums heal.
There are also things you can do at home to support the healing process, such as avoiding smoking, limiting strenuous exercise, and being gentle with your mouth.
When is tooth extraction required?
As you take care of your oral health, your dentist may recommend tooth extraction as part of your treatment plan. This is a process of removing a tooth from the gum socket.
The most common type of tooth extraction is removing wisdom teeth, but you may also need to have other teeth removed for a range of reasons, such as to:
- Remove a damaged or decayed tooth.
- Deal with infection in people undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.
- Save space in the mouth, which is often why wisdom teeth are removed.
- Improve the outcome of braces or other orthodontia.
Tooth extraction can require different levels of sedation. You may have just the area around the tooth numbed and remain awake, or you could have general anesthesia if the tooth is impacted or you have multiple teeth removed.
In the first day or two after the extraction, a small amount of bleeding is normal, as your gums form a blood clot to seal the area. Then, your mouth will fill in the area where the tooth root was.
How to support healing after tooth extraction.
Your dentist will provide instructions on caring for your mouth after a tooth extraction. This will include steps like the following:
- Stop smoking, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot and cause dry rot.
- Avoid drinking through straws for the same reason.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for at least the first 24 hours or as long as recommended by your dentist.
- Do not rinse your mouth out vigorously, although you can rinse gently as part of your oral hygiene routine.
- Brush your teeth as normal, except around the area of the tooth extraction.
- Avoid sharp, hard, or sticky foods, as recommended by your dentist, for several days after the procedure.
- Use an ice pack and over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce swelling.
- Limit strenuous activity like running for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
- Call your doctor if pain does not subside or gets worse, if swelling occurs, if the area feels hot, or if you feel feverish or sick, as these could indicate underlying issues like infection.
Helping the blood clot form in your socket after a tooth extraction is important, as this is a vital part of healing and tissue regeneration. In some cases, the blood clot may form, but it can dissolve or become dislodged for some reason. This may lead to a painful condition called dry socket. Your dentist will need to help resolve this condition if it develops.
There will be some pain, swelling, and minor bleeding for a few days after the procedure. This is normal, but if it does not decrease or it gets worse rather than better, talk to your dentist immediately.
How long does it take to heal after a tooth extraction?
If you have one or two teeth removed because of decay or another reason, healing typically takes about three days. Having your wisdom teeth removed means a longer recovery timeline, up to two weeks, especially if one or more of the wisdom teeth are impacted.
Typically, healing after a tooth extraction follows this timeline:
This is the period during which a blood clot will form. Rest is important, so follow your dentist’s instructions on taking care of your oral hygiene and relaxing.
Change the gauze in your mouth often in the first 24 hours. You can change the gauge less frequently the following day, per your doctor’s instructions.
Once a clot has formed, you can start eating more solid foods, drinking warmer or colder liquids, and returning to a more normal oral hygiene routine, including brushing around the area. Saline rinses help to keep the area clean. If you are taking antibiotics, be sure to complete the full course.
Having one or two teeth extracted means you will be resting for a week or less. Having more teeth extracted than that may mean up to two weeks of recovery time.
Do you need to have a tooth extracted for orthodontic treatment?
Sometimes, your dentist will remove a tooth as preparation for orthodontic treatment with braces, clear aligners, or another process. People who have overcrowded teeth or poorly positioned teeth, which cannot be fully straightened with just orthodontia, may need this first step before continuing to align their teeth.
Extracting an adult tooth before orthodontia will provide space for crowded teeth to adjust to correct your bite. This is only recommended when crowding of the teeth is severe, like if a tooth is protruding or there is substantial overcrowding. In some cases, if teeth aren’t removed to create space, straightening the teeth can lead to excessively protruding teeth or lips, which will not ultimately improve your smile or how you feel about your appearance.
Tooth extraction will not be recommended unless absolutely necessary. An orthodontist will recommend this procedure if they look at your teeth and determine that just straightening the teeth with braces or at-home aligners might push teeth outside the jawbone.
Extreme protrusion makes teeth less stable, causes gums to recede, and increases the risk of decay or infection. Protruding teeth are also less attractive, so you may not feel satisfied with orthodontic work if you do not have one or two teeth removed if your dentist and orthodontist deem it necessary.
At-home aligners to straighten teeth.
For most people, undergoing a tooth extraction and straightening their teeth are not connected processes.
Your dentist may want to put a dental implant in after a tooth is removed, to prevent your teeth from shifting too much and changing your bite. However, if you need to have a tooth removed and also want to straighten your teeth, your dentist may suggest waiting until after you get orthodontic work to put an implant in.
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Extractions. Mouth Healthy, from the American Dental Association.
Tooth Extraction. (2013) ADA PatientSmart, Patient Education Center.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare: A How-To Guide. (August 2019). Medical News Today.
Why Tooth Extractions Are Sometimes Necessary in Orthodontic Treatment. Orthodontics Australia.