What Is Recovery Like After a Tooth Extraction?

One of the most common oral procedures patients can undergo is a tooth extraction. Your dentist in Hampstead or Porters Neck, North Carolina may recommend an extraction for severely decayed teeth, damaged teeth, or emerging wisdom teeth. It’s important to understand what you can expect during your recovery so you can heal quickly. 

What Is Recovery Like After a Tooth Extraction?

In general, it may take as long as three or four weeks to fully recover from an extraction. Whether a single tooth was pulled or multiple teeth have been removed, it will take this long for gum tissue and bone to heal. Some patients may need more than a month to fully heal from this procedure. 
The first three or four days after your extraction will be the most intensive part of your recovery timeline. A few days after your procedure, you should be able to return to work and other normal activities. It’s important to focus on resting as much as possible following an extraction, though, so your body can heal from the procedure. Key parts of your recovery will include:

Activity Restrictions

You will need to refrain from strenuous activity during your recovery. During the first few days after your procedure, this means you should not bend over, jump around, engage in vigorous exercise, or lift heavy objects. Restricting your physical activity will reduce stress on your body so you can recover more quickly.
Along with avoiding certain physical activities, you will also need to be careful about the movement of your mouth. Your dentist will instruct you to avoid spitting during the first several days after a tooth is extracted. You should also avoid using a straw or smoking since the suction in your mouth can potentially dislodge the blood clot at your extraction site.

Ice and Heat

It’s common to experience minor swelling in the days following a tooth extraction. To reduce swelling, you can alternate between ice packs and moist heat during the first 24 hours after your procedure. Ice and heat should be applied with a cloth barrier between the pack and your skin for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. 
After the first 24 hours, it’s best to switch to using moist heat to soothe swelling and discomfort. You should also keep your head slightly elevated when you are resting, as this can help reduce swelling. 

Special Diet

After a dental extraction, you will need to follow a special diet for several days or weeks. As a rule, you should avoid any crunchy or hard foods that require chewing, since this can put pressure on your gums or agitate the healing process. It’s also a good idea to avoid very hot foods, especially if you are waiting for local anesthesia to wear off after your procedure. 
A soft food diet with plenty of liquids and semi-solid foods is ideal. Easy foods to eat following an extraction include:
  • Chicken or beef broth
  • Jello
  • Pudding
  • Soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Scrambled or boiled eggs
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Cream of wheat
  • Grits
  • Milkshakes
  • Protein shakes
  • Canned fruit
  • Applesauce


Your dentist may recommend using prescription medications, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medicine. Antibiotics may be recommended for older patients or patients who have unique health risks. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended if multiple teeth have been extracted since you may experience swelling for an extended period.
Along with prescription medication, you may be advised to use over-the-counter pain relievers for several days following your procedure. For dental discomfort, many patients find that combining acetaminophen and ibuprofen is an effective solution. You should always be sure to follow the dosage directions on the package so you do not exceed the daily recommended dosage limitations for either OTC pain reliever.

Oral Hygiene

Your oral hygiene is crucial after extractions so you can manage the bacteria in your mouth and remove any food debris from your healing gums. On the day of your extraction, you will not be able to brush your teeth, floss, or rinse your mouth. However, on the day after your treatment, you can use warm salt water to gently rinse your mouth every three to four hours.
Some patients may prefer to use a medicated oral rinse that contains antibacterial or pain-relieving properties. If you want to use a medicated oral rinse, please discuss using this product with your dentist. Your dentist may recommend waiting to use an oral rinse for at least a week or two after your procedure since salt water is a gentler way to keep your mouth sterile. 

When Should You Contact Your Dentist?

After dental extractions, you should contact your dentist if you are experiencing excessive bleeding for more than a day after your procedure. Some minor bleeding from the procedure is expected, which is why you are encouraged to use gauze to apply pressure for several hours. However, if you continue to bleed on the day following your procedure, you may require medical attention. 
You should also contact your dentist if you have exceptional pain several days after your procedure. Over-the-counter pain medications should manage discomfort after extractions and most patients will be able to discontinue pain relievers after three or four days. If pain becomes intolerable, or you experience significant swelling, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist for urgent care. 

What Is Dry Socket?

Dry socket is a condition that may develop if the blood clot from the extraction site is dislodged from the healing gum tissue. This condition can develop three or four days after extraction, which is why you should avoid sucking or spitting. If the blood clot is dislodged, it can expose the nerve and jawbone beneath the extraction site.
The most common symptom of a dry socket is throbbing pain that may extend to your ear. You may experience bad breath or a mild fever. Although dry socket can heal by itself, it’s still extremely uncomfortable and may put you at risk of developing an infection. You should visit your dentist if you believe you have dry socket so your dentist can flush the area with antibiotics and make other treatment recommendations. 

Are You a Candidate for Extractions in Porters Neck or Hampstead, North Carolina?

You may be a candidate for a tooth extraction if your dentist decides removing a tooth is best for your overall oral health. Teeth that may need to be removed include impacted wisdom teeth, loose teeth from gum disease, and teeth with exceptional decay that cannot be resolved with a filling or root canal. Sometimes, an extraction may be recommended for teeth that are damaged from an impact. 
It’s just as common for patients to have one tooth extracted as it is for patients to have multiple teeth extracted. You may need to have multiple teeth extracted to prepare for dental implants or dentures. If you are having wisdom teeth removed, you may have all four teeth removed at once. 
Extractions can relieve oral pain and improve your dental health. To see if you are a candidate for dental extractions, get in touch with Smith Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Sneads Ferry, Porters Neck, Jacksonville, Hampstead, Wilmington, and Surf City, North Carolina today. 
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