Tooth extraction is a common dental procedure performed to remove a tooth that is damaged, decayed, or causing other oral health issues. While the process may seem daunting, understanding the healing time and recovery process can help alleviate any concerns.
In this blog post, we will explore what tooth extraction is, the normal healing time, what to expect during recovery, dos and don’ts after tooth extraction, and tips on recovering faster.
What Is Tooth Extraction?
Tooth extractions are a common procedure performed by dental professionals. They involve removing a single tooth or several teeth damaged due to severe tooth decay, advanced gum disease, or injury. Extractions can be simple or surgical, depending on the condition of the natural teeth.
A simple extraction is typically done on a tooth seen in the mouth and performed under local anesthesia. On the other hand, surgical extractions are more complex and may involve removing a broken tooth, a fractured tooth, or wisdom teeth that haven’t erupted through the gum tissue.
Why Are Tooth Extractions Needed?
The most common reason for extracting a tooth is due to severe damage or decay that cannot be corrected with other dental treatments. However, there are several other reasons why tooth extractions may be needed, including:
Tooth Decay. This is the most common reason for tooth extraction. When tooth decay reaches the center of the tooth, which is the pulp, the bacteria produced by the decay can cause an infection. If this infection is too severe to be treated with a root canal, the tooth may need to be extracted.
Gum Disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, can cause the supporting tissue and bone structures of the teeth to become damaged, leading to tooth extraction.
Overcrowded Teeth. Sometimes, dentists pull teeth to prepare the mouth for orthodontia. The goal of orthodontia is to properly align the teeth, which may not be possible if your teeth are too big for your mouth.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth. Impacted teeth, often wisdom teeth, are those that have failed to emerge or have only partially emerged. These can cause pain, inflammation, and infection, and may need to be removed.
Tooth Breakage or Trauma. Accidents, sports injuries, or falls can cause severe tooth damage. If the damage is beyond repair, the tooth may need to be extracted.
Other Reasons. In some cases, patients may have medical conditions or are preparing for certain medical treatments that require tooth extraction. For example, patients undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplantation may need to have compromised teeth removed to ensure their oral health.
What Is the Normal Tooth Extraction Healing Time?
The tooth extraction recovery time can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the extraction and the patient’s overall health. Generally, the soft tissue and gum at the extraction site will heal in about two weeks, while complete healing of the jawbone can take several weeks.
For a simple extraction, expect the recovery time to last about 7-10 days. However, the healing time can extend to 3-4 weeks for surgical extractions, such as wisdom teeth removal.
What to Expect During Recovery
During the recovery period, it is essential to take proper care of the extraction site to ensure optimal healing. Here’s a general timeline of recovery and how long pain after tooth extraction usually lasts:
- Immediate aftercare. After the procedure, a gauze pad will be placed over the extraction site to control bleeding and help form a blood clot. This should be left in place for about 3-4 hours.
- Pain and swelling. Some pain and swelling are normal. Apply a cold compress to the area to help reduce these symptoms.
- Eating and drinking. It’s best to stick to soft foods and lukewarm liquids on the first day.
- Swelling peaks. Swelling often peaks around the second or third day and then starts to go down.
- Gentle rinsing. Begin gently rinsing your mouth with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm water) after meals to clean out food particles.
- Continue with a soft diet. Keep eating soft and easy-to-chew foods.
- Gradual return to normal diet. As healing progresses, you can gradually return to a normal diet.
- Healing of soft tissue. By the end of the first week, the soft tissue should be closing up, and any stitches may be ready to be removed.
- Bone healing. The bone begins to heal and fill in the area where the tooth was. This process takes several weeks.
Weeks 4 Onwards
- Complete healing. Complete healing of the area usually takes 3-4 weeks, especially if it was a surgical extraction with stitches.
This is just a general timeline, and individual experiences can vary greatly. The answer to “How long does a tooth extraction take to heal?” will still depend on your dentist’s assessment of your particular condition.
Tooth Extraction Aftercare
To promote faster healing and minimize the risk of complications, it is important to follow these dos and don’ts after a tooth extraction:
1. Follow Aftercare Instructions
Carefully follow the aftercare instructions provided by your dentist or oral surgeon. This may include specific guidelines for cleaning the extraction site, taking prescribed medications, and managing pain.
2. Maintain Dental Hygiene
While being gentle, continue to brush your teeth and tongue, but avoid the extraction site for the first day. Afterward, rinse your mouth with warm saltwater several times daily to keep the extraction site clean.
3. Eat Soft Foods
Stick to a soft-food diet for a few days to prevent any damage to the extraction site. Opt for foods such as mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, smoothies, and scrambled eggs.
4. Manage Pain and Swelling
If you experience discomfort or swelling, use over-the-counter pain medications recommended by your dentist. Applying ice packs to the affected area can also help reduce swelling.
5. Avoid Hard or Crunchy Foods
Steer clear of crunchy or hard foods that can irritate the extraction site or get stuck in the tooth socket, leading to infection or discomfort.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, but avoid using a straw, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot.
7. Rest and Relax
Give your body time to rest and recover. Avoid strenuous activities or exercise for at least the first day after the extraction.
8. Attend Follow-Up Appointments
Don’t skip any follow-up appointments with your dental professional. These visits are essential for monitoring your healing progress and addressing any concerns.
9. Drink Through a Straw
Avoid using a straw, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot and delay healing.
Smoking can hinder the healing process and increase the risk of complications. Avoid smoking for at least 72 hours after the extraction.
11. Consume Alcohol
Alcohol can interfere with the healing process and may interact negatively with any prescribed medications.
12. Engage in Strenuous Physical Activities
Avoid vigorous exercise or physical activities that could increase blood flow to the extraction site and cause bleeding.
13. Don’t Touch the Extraction Site
Avoid touching or poking the extraction site with your fingers or tongue to prevent infection or irritation.
What Is Dry Socket?
Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is a painful dental condition that can occur after a permanent adult tooth has been extracted.
Normally after a tooth extraction, a blood clot forms in the socket (the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed) as a part of the natural healing process. This clot serves as a protective layer, covering the underlying bone and nerve endings in the empty socket and aiding in the development of new bone and soft tissue.
However, if the blood clot is dislodged, dissolves too early, or fails to form, the bone and nerves are exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can lead to infection and severe pain that can last up to a week or more.
Dry socket is relatively rare, occurring in about 2% to 5% of all extractions, but the likelihood increases after wisdom teeth extractions due to the nature of the surgery and location in the mouth.
Symptoms of dry socket include:
- Severe pain within a few days after a tooth extraction
- Partial or total loss of the blood clot at the tooth extraction site, which you may notice as an empty-looking (dry) socket
- Visible bone in the socket
- Pain that radiates from the socket to your ear, eye, temple or neck on the same side of your face as the extraction
- Bad breath or a foul odor coming from your mouth
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
If you suspect you have dry socket, it’s important to contact your dentist or oral surgeon right away. They can provide treatments to relieve your pain and promote healing.
Contact Strull Oral Surgery Clinic for Gentle and Comfortable Tooth Extractions
Everyone’s healing time after a tooth extraction will vary — it could be anywhere from 7-10 days to 1-2 weeks or even 3-4 weeks in some cases. The key is to follow your dentist’s aftercare tips, maintain good oral hygiene, and reach out to your dental provider if you experience severe pain or excessive bleeding.
At Strull Oral Surgery Clinic, our team of experienced dentists is committed to helping you maintain a healthy smile. If you’re dealing with a damaged tooth or severe tooth decay, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll provide you with the highest quality care and guide you through every step of the recovery process.