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How to Keep Your Mouth Clean and Healthy After a Tooth Extraction

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2023

You’ve chosen Dr. Holtzen for your extraction because oral surgeons are experts in this surgical procedure. When an extraction is necessary, whether because of impaction, injury, or infection, for orthodontic purposes, or for any other reason, we have the skill and experience to ensure that patients have the best possible surgical outcome.

And you want the best possible outcome for your recovery as well. What are some basic steps you can follow at home to speed the healing process? Here are the ABC’s of aftercare to help make your post-extraction recovery a speedy and healthy one.

  • Antibiotics

Antibiotics aren’t generally necessary after oral surgery, but, if they are prescribed to prevent infection, be sure to take them as directed. Always finish the entire prescription to ensure that the antibiotics work properly. And, if you have any allergies to medications, always tell us in advance.

  • Brush carefully

Don’t brush or floss in the area of your surgical site until you get our approval. You don’t want to damage delicate tissue or sutures. Be sure to brush and floss the rest of your teeth normally, because you want your mouth its cleanest while you heal, but no swishing or spitting! After the extraction, a clot will form to protect the socket, and you’ll need to be careful to avoid dislodging it. Otherwise, a painful condition called “dry socket” can result.

  • Clean the extraction site as directed

The directions we will give you for cleaning the extraction site will depend on your specific surgery, but gentle rinsing is usually the recommended way to keep the area clean after oral surgery.

After 24-48 hours, depending on our instructions, you might be asked to use a salt water solution or a prescription rinse to gently cleanse the extraction area. Just remember, the “no forceful swishing or spitting” rule still applies! Rinse after eating and snacking to keep the extraction area clean and free from food particles. A good general rule is to avoid over-the-counter mouthwash for now, because the alcohol it contains can be irritating.

Even with careful attention, sometimes the wound site can become infected. If you notice any signs of infection, including severe pain, redness, prolonged swelling, pus or other discharge around the extraction, or fever or chills, call our Missoula or Hamilton office immediately. Other symptoms such as nausea, heart pain, or shortness of breath should also be reported at once.

  • Diet

Eating a nutritious diet after oral surgery can help speed wound healing. Foods rich in proteins, vitamins A and C, and Zinc have been found to assist healing, while alcohol and smoking have the opposite effect.

And while you’re eating for health, eat for comfort, too. The traditional diet choices after an extraction are still the best. Soft, creamy foods such as yogurt, applesauce, pudding, or soft-serve ice cream are gentle on your healing tissue. Drink plenty of fluids in the days after surgery, including clear broth and non-acidic and non-carbonated beverages.

Temporarily eliminate foods from your diet that are grainy, seedy, or crunchy to keep particles out of the extraction site. Avoid sticky and chewy foods, which can dislodge the clot. And while you’re at it, take acidic and spicy foods off the menu—they can irritate sensitive tissue.

Be sure that you protect the clot that protects your socket. Foods that are too hot can interfere with clot formation over the wound, and any use of a straw or other suction can dislodge the clot completely. Use a spoon for your milkshake, and, of course, don’t smoke.

  • Every patient is different!

While all of the above suggestions are good generally guidelines, we will have information that has been specifically tailored to your needs. Which leads us to the most important recommendation of all . . .

  • Follow our aftercare instructions

You will receive detailed instructions after surgery. Following this advice to the letter is the very best way to make sure your mouth is its cleanest and healthiest.

Taking care of yourself after an extraction isn’t quite as easy as ABC (DEF), but with guidance from Dr. Holtzen, careful attention to the extraction site, and patience as you allow the healing process to take place, you have all the basics you need for a healthy recovery.