Tooth Extraction Aftercare: What To Do

Those of us whose dental office visits are almost never for routine check-ups would understand how harrowing a tooth extraction can be.

The procedure itself is not necessarily long or painful. It’s the mental prep you have to give yourself before, and the care of your mouth after, that is the work.

That’s why this article is centered on what you should be doing after you get a tooth extracted.

extracted tooth

What Is A Tooth Extraction?

post-op instructions

Tooth extraction is the painless removal of a tooth or tooth roots with little or no trauma to the surrounding tissue so that it can heal properly without any complications.

This procedure is usually straightforward, and the majority can usually be performed while the individual is awake by using local anesthetic injections to eliminate painful sensations.


If for any reason your tooth requires an extraction, there are very important aftercare instructions that you need to know and adhere to strictly so as to enhance quick and proper healing.

Following these instructions after the procedure reduces the chances of infection, delayed healing and also complications such as a dry socket.

What To Do

Tooth extraction aftercare, also known as ‘post-operative instructions’ or ‘post extraction instructions’ is a set of instructions given after tooth extraction to facilitate quick and proper healing and also quick recovery.

These instructions are divided into two.
1. The first set of instructions addresses things to do, and not to do, during the first 24 hours after having your tooth extracted.
2. The second set of instructions will outline recovery instructions for the days following (the days after the first 24 hours after extraction

First 24 Hours


1. After a tooth extraction procedure, try as much as possible to get some rest. You may feel great but this is not the best time to hit the gym or carry out any strenuous activity. It’s best to stay home and rest because any form of stress could cause bleeding or pain at the extraction site.
2. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids so you are properly hydrated. Choose soft or liquid foods with cool temperatures, not hot or cold or spicy.

cool water
3. After about an hour post extraction, the effect of the local anesthesia given begins to wear off and you might start to feel some discomfort. Taking pain medication promptly after your procedure and before your numbness has worn off can help to limit the amount of pain you experience. If your dentist feels that the use of an antibiotic is indicated so as to prevent or treat an infection, they will give you a prescription for one.
4. Apply an ice pack on the side of your face where the surgery was performed. This is done to reduce swelling and is most effective on the day of the extraction.
5. You may brush your teeth on the day of your extraction but be careful to avoid the extraction area.

Before being discharged from the clinic, your dentist should have placed a folded piece of gauze over the extraction area at the end of your procedure. You should continue to apply firm pressure to that gauze for the next 30 minutes.

Doing so should stop the bleeding from your extraction site. If you get home and at some point, bleeding restarts, place a fresh piece of moistened gauze over your extraction site and apply firm, constant pressure on it for 30 to 60 minutes. You may need to repeat this process a few times. If bleeding still continues, contact your dentist.



1. Do not rinse your mouth or spit out during the first 24 hours following extraction. These activities may activate bleeding.
2. Avoid using a straw, blowing a musical instrument or activities like blowing up a balloon as these activities create a pressure change. This can lead to dislodging or disruption of the blood clot.

do not blow on instruments
3. The local anesthetic administered during your procedure will slowly wear off during the next 2 to 4 hours. While numb, be careful not to bite your lips or tongue. Also, be careful not to expose your face or lips to extreme temperatures.
4. Avoid smoking for at least 48 hours after tooth extraction as it increases the risk of dry socket formation and other post-operative complications.
5. Do not consume alcoholic beverages following your surgery. Consumption of alcohol also interferes with the healing process.
6. Avoid eating or drinking for the first hour after your surgery (with the exception of taking medication).
8. Avoid taking aspirin because it is a blood thinner that will delay the process of clot formation causing excessive bleeding.
10. Avoid hot drinks, spicy foods, and sodas
11. Don’t poke into the gap created: Though for the first few days, it will feel a bit awkward to have a gap but don’t poke that area with any toothpick or even your tongue as it may delay healing or provoke bleeding.

After 24 Hours

After the first 24hrs following tooth extraction, the following set of instructions need to be carried out.
1. Warm saline mouthwash: The main aim of this is to clean the area of extraction as it may not be possible to clean it with a toothbrush. Contrary to the name, it’s actually a mouth bath and not a rinse and this is usually advised 24 hours after extraction.

The solution is made up of warm water and a teaspoon of salt. Ensure that the water is not too hot so it doesn’t burn your mouth. A teaspoon of salt is put into a cup of warm water and stirred, then it is used as a mouth bath. Do not gargle. It can be done for a minimum of eight times a day for seven days after the extraction.
2. Take all medications as prescribed by your dentist and ensure you complete it.

take your medicine
3. Avoid chewing on the side of the extraction until after 5 to 7 days post extraction.
4. A follow-up appointment may be needed after a week so as to monitor the healing process, and if there is a need to remove stitches, you will be told.

What Are The Common Reasons For Tooth Extraction?

Tooth extraction is a fairly common procedure done in the dental clinic and these are some of the reasons why you may need one.
• Reduced cost: The cost of a tooth extraction is relatively cheaper when compared to other treatments such as a root canal treatment.
• Severe tooth decay or infection: When a tooth is severely decayed or infected, filling the tooth may not be possible.
• Extra teeth or teeth that are not properly formed: These teeth may disturb the path of eruption of other teeth, or also cause improperly aligned teeth.
• Retained baby/milk teeth: This would prevent the permanent teeth from growing well or not growing at all.
• Severe gum disease: This may affect the supporting tissues and bone structures of teeth.
• Orthodontic treatment (braces): Extraction of certain teeth are sometimes necessary so as to create space in cases of overcrowding. This then allows the braces to do its job of aligning the teeth properly.
• Teeth in the fracture line: In cases of jaw fracture, teeth in the fracture line are usually removed.
• Fractured teeth: When a tooth is fractured, it should be extracted.
• Prosthetic consideration: When a denture (artificial teeth) is to be fitted into the mouth, teeth may be removed if they interfere with the fitting of the denture.
• Impacted wisdom teeth: Since the wisdom teeth are usually the last to erupt in the mouth, the tooth/ teeth may erupt abnormally due to inadequate space. This abnormal eruption may cause pain, damage to adjacent teeth or even become decayed. In these cases, the tooth needs to be extracted.
• Cosmetic: To remove teeth of poor appearance which are unsuitable for restoration.
• In preparation for Head and neck radiation therapy: Before radiotherapy of tumors of the head and neck, extraction of teeth is an essential part of the preparation of the mouth.

dental disease

Reasons For Not Extracting A Tooth.

Sometimes, a patient may require an extraction but due to some reasons or underlying medical diseases, the extraction may be postponed until after the condition has been treated. Some of these reasons include-
• Patients with a diminished resistance to infection such as leukemia. In a condition such as this, the body will not be able to fight or resist infection.
• Patients on steroids.
• Patients with bleeding disorders such as hemophilia.
• Patients who are on anticoagulants, for example, aspirin. This prevents clotting of blood thereby leading to prolonged bleeding.

What Could Go Wrong After An Extraction?

After the extraction, there may be slight pain and discomfort which will resolve in a few days. In some cases, the extraction may be difficult and this may affect the recovery period and healing process.

One of the causes of a difficult extraction is very strong supporting structures. For example, a massively built individual may have a bone structure that is denser and may cause difficulty extracting the tooth.

strong man with denser bones

Other causes of a difficult extraction include poor mouth opening, inadequate access, buried or impacted teeth, and misshaped roots.

Due to any of the reasons stated above, the recovery phase may not be smooth. Here are some of the things that could go wrong after an extraction.
1. Excessive bleeding after extraction
2. Jaw fracture as a result of excessive use of force. This usually happens with the lower jaw.
3. Damage to soft tissue e.g lips, cheeks, gums.
4. Fractured tooth. This usually occurs when the extraction is difficult.
5. Dry socket: This is a painful complication of extraction which usually occurs about 3 days after the extraction. It is as a result of the blood clot being dislodged from the tooth socket.

In any of these cases, extra care would be taken post op so as to aid the healing process.

When To Contact Your Dentist

contact your dentist

Contact your dentist if you notice any of the following
• Swelling that increases in size after 48 to 72 hours post extraction.
• Pain that continually increases 2 to 3 days post-operatively.
• A foul mouth taste or odor.
• Your temperature rises above 380C (100.4F)
• Excessive bleeding which lasts longer than 1hour post op.

In Summary

Tooth extraction aftercare is very important, especially in the first 24 hours following the procedure. This is to ensure a smooth and quick healing process. It is very important to know what to do and to adhere to the aftercare instructions so as to prevent pain, infection, and other complications.

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Onyeka Mgbemere, BDS

Dr. Onyeka Mgbemere is a graduate of Dentistry and a licensed dentist who is passionate about the promotion of oral health education and prevention of oral diseases. She is currently undergoing her residency program in Oral medicine after spending years working at a Naval hospital. Her hobbies are watching movies and reading.