So you’ve just come from the dentist’s office after having a routine wisdom tooth extraction. The doctor has you all packed with some gauze to bite down on and some extra for the next half an hour if the bleeding persists. He has you prepped with pain killers and a prescription for some useful old antibiotics just to be on the safe side. For a minute, everything seems to be under control.
But as soon as you get home, you realize, “Wait, can I brush my teeth now? Is it even safe to use toothpaste after removing my last molars?” You’re not the only one who forgot to ask during post-op directives. But it’s also nothing too complicated to understand.
Have you ever wondered why general dentists often hold the title of Doctor of Dental Surgery? Whenever you have an extraction done – wisdom tooth or the likes – the tissue in your mouth gets traumatized. After all, a molar just got lodged out of your jaw. That’s a small surgery.
Extractions usually happen under anesthesia, so you, as the patient, will be numb for the entire time. But following the procedure comes a bit of swelling, discomfort, and bleeding. You’ll also notice a small hole where that tooth once was – that’s where aftercare comes in.
After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Typically, the assistant will instruct you to maintain pressure on the gauze placed over the hole to stop the bleeding. The blood should only last a few hours. You may get the urge to examine the area yourself. Don’t. It’s imperative to leave the site unbothered for at least one week so that proper healing can take place.
You should avoid
- spitting for the first day – swallow
- ticking your tongue in the hole
- drinking from a straw.
The area will develop a single blood clot that acts as the foundation for new cells and tissues to lay down. Even the suction from a straw can cause that clot to escape from the canal and leave the surrounding fibers exposed. Imagine your bone, tissue, and nerve endings in direct contact with air and moisture. Ouch.
We call this a dry socket, and it is excruciating. Mayo Clinic dubs this the most common post-extraction complication experienced across the board. If you’ve extracted a lower wisdom tooth, you could also feel the pain radiate across the jaw since this is where the main mandibular nerve runs. I’ve once had a patient come in crying of pain that not even morphine could solve in the ER. That’s how serious it is.
To remedy the condition, the dentist will place a small dressing strip soaked in Eugenol solution in the area. The medication should cause the pain to subside for a couple of days but will need changing afterward.
Brushing After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
One of the most significant precautions that you can take is to keep the wisdom extraction site clean. No one wants an infection straight after surgery. Food can get trapped in the socket and can be very difficult to remove. As best as you can, try to eat on the opposite side of your mouth for the next 72 hours.
But here’s the thing; using toothpaste and a toothbrush on the area can be just as detrimental. Firstly, the toothbrush bristles can damage the already cut gum and cause further irritation and swelling. In addition, the compounds in toothpaste may be too harsh for the healing tissue and can aggravate discomfort in the area.
However, there’s no harm in regular brushing of the remaining teeth in your mouth. But as oral health professionals, we recommend avoiding the extraction site and at least the first two teeth ahead of the hole. Instead, rinse the area with some warm salt water solution and avoid vigorous swooshing to loosen the clot. Saltwater is also an excellent antiseptic. It kills bacteria by drawing out the moisture in their single-celled bodies.
During the first two to three days after the procedure, try tilting your head forward instead of spitting out while rinsing. Again, these are just preventative measures.
You might consider using mouth wash instead of saltwater, but most mouthwashes contain alcoholic components that can sting when applied to open cells. Kind of like how it feels when isopropyl pours over a bruised knee. Chlorhexidine solution (0.12%) is a good substitute after the first week following extensive surgical extractions, especially if you received stitches, but regulate its use. The wash is famous for causing long-term staining of teeth. Once rinse, twice a week should suffice – and always rinse with water for a minute after.
Generally, patients return to their regular brushing routines after 7 to 14 days. It all depends on how sensitive your gum is and how long it takes for you to heal. Pace yourself. Like they say, “better safe than sorry.”