After tooth extraction, a blood clot usually forms in the tooth socket. This is the first step in the natural healing process and lays the foundation for your body to heal the extraction site. Since the blood clot is so important to the healing process your dentist will ask you to bite down on a gauze pad to help stop the bleeding and form a stable clot. In some cases, your dentist can place a few stitches to close the gum edges around the extraction site; stitches will help form and stabilise the clot too. The stitches are usually self-dissolving; but sometimes non resorbable stitches will be used. Ask your dentist if you have to come back to have the stitches removed.
In some rare cases, the blood clot in the socket can break loose, causing the bone to be exposed. This is a painful condition referred to as dry socket, and usually requires the dentist to cover the socket with a sedative dressing for a few days while a new clot forms. An extraction wound that has dry socket will not only be painful it will also take longer to heal. This is precisely why it is so critical to care for an extraction site properly after tooth removal.
After the Extraction
While the process of pulling out a tooth is generally safe, the procedure leaves an open wound in your mouth. Since the mouth is host to many different types of bacteria it is important to help the extraction socket heal as quickly as possible. Proper oral hygiene, including on the first day, will help you feel better, prevent infection, and promote faster recovery.
When brushing your teeth after tooth extraction:
- Brush your remaining teeth every morning and evening to ensure that your mouth remains clean for faster healing. Also clean your tongue to help eliminate any unpleasant taste after the extraction and more importantly to keep bacteria levels low.
- Use a soft-bristled brush and clean your mouth gently and slowly using small circular motions.
- Don’t clean the teeth adjacent to the wound area for the rest of the day, but you can start cleaning them the next day. Avoid allowing the brush to hit the extraction socket for the first three days.
- If your wound was stitched up, consider rinsing your mouth. On the day of the extraction, rinse your mouth gently with a solution of salt and warm water after every meal to keep food particles away from the wound area. Don’t rinse vigorously to avoid the risk of dislodging the blood clot. Use ½ teaspoon salt for 8 ounces (240 ml) of warm water
- On the first day after the procedure, start rinsing your mouth thoroughly in the morning and evening using 0.12% chlorhexidine solution until the stitches dissolve. Rinse your mouth for at least one minute before spitting out the solution. Chlorhexidine solution is a prescription antibacterial rinse prescribed by your dentist. It is not necessary to use chlorhexidine to care for every tooth extraction. Your dentist will let you know if it would help you in your unique situation.
- For most tooth extractions you should be able to return to normal brushing and flossing 1 week after the tooth removal.
Other tips which can help maintain the clot in an extraction socket include: don’t drink from a straw for the first 24 hours, maintain a soft diet for the first 24 hours, and take care to chew on the opposite side from the surgery