After Tooth Extraction

The removal of teeth is a serious surgical procedure. Post-operative care is very important. Unnecessary pain and the complications of infection and swelling can be minimized if the instructions are followed carefully.

Immediately Following Surgery

  • The gauze pad placed over the surgical area should be kept in place for at least 45 minutes. After this time, the gauze pad should be removed and discarded. Repeat as necessary.
  • Vigorous mouth rinsing or touching the wound area following surgery should be avoided. This may initiate bleeding by causing the blood clot that has formed to become dislodged.
  • If there are no contraindications, take ibuprofen 600-800 mg immediately after surgery. Take the prescribed pain medications as prescribed and as needed after that. This will usually coincide with the local anesthetic becoming diminished.
  • Restrict your activities the day of surgery and resume normal activity when directed.
  • Place ice packs to the sides of your face where surgery was performed 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off only for the first 36 hours. Please do not use ice after that. Refer to the section on swelling for explanation.


A certain amount of bleeding is to be expected following surgery. Slight bleeding, oozing, or redness in the saliva is not uncommon. Excessive bleeding may be controlled by placing a gauze pad over the area and biting firmly for at least 45 minutes. Repeat as necessary. If bleeding continues, bite on a moistened tea bag for thirty minutes. The tannic acid in the tea bag helps to form a clot by contracting bleeding vessels. To minimize further bleeding, do not become excited, sit upright, and avoid exercise. If bleeding does not subside, call for further instructions.


The swelling that is normally expected is often proportional to the surgery involved. Swelling around the mouth, cheeks, eyes and sides of the face is not uncommon. This is the body’s normal reaction to surgery and eventual repair. The swelling may not become apparent until the day following surgery and may not reach its maximum until 2 to 3 days post-operatively. However, the swelling may be minimized by the immediate use of ice packs. Ice packs should be applied to the sides of the face where surgery was performed. The ice packs should be used 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off while you are awake. After 36 hours, ice has no beneficial effect and can make swelling and pain worse. If swelling or jaw stiffness has persisted for several days, there is no cause for alarm. This is a normal reaction to surgery.


For pain, one or two tablets of Tylenol or Extra Strength Tylenol may be taken every three to four hours and Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) two to four 200 mg tablets may be taken every 6 to 8 hours.

For severe pain not controlled with a nonnarcotic regimen, consider taking the tablets prescribed as directed. The prescribed pain medicine will make you groggy and will slow down your reflexes. Do not drive an automobile or work around machinery. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Pain or discomfort following surgery should subside more and more every day. If pain persists, it may require attention and you should call the office.


After general anesthetic or I.V. sedation, liquids should be initially taken. Do not use straws. Drink from a glass. The sucking motion can cause more bleeding by dislodging the blood clot. You may eat anything soft that does not require chewing. High calorie, high protein intake is very important. Nourishment should be taken regularly. You should prevent dehydration by taking fluids regularly. Your food intake will be limited for the first few days. You should compensate for this by increasing your fluid intake. At least 5 to 6 glasses of liquid should be taken daily. Try not to miss a single meal. You will feel better, have more strength, less discomfort and heal faster if you continue to eat. Caution: If you suddenly sit up or stand from a lying position you may become dizzy. If you are lying down following surgery, make sure you sit for one minute before standing.

Keep the mouth clean

No rinsing of any kind should be performed until the day following surgery. You can brush your teeth the night of surgery but rinse gently. The day after surgery you should begin rinsing as directed with the prescribed mouth rinse.


In some cases, discoloration of the skin follows swelling. The development of black, blue, green, or yellow discoloration is due to blood spreading beneath the tissues. This is a normal post-operative occurrence, which may occur 2 to 3 days post-operatively.


If you have been placed on antibiotics, take the tablets or liquid as directed. Antibiotics will be given to help prevent infection. Discontinue antibiotic use in the event of a rash or other unfavorable reaction. Call the office if you have any questions.

Nausea and Vomiting

In the event of nausea and/or vomiting following surgery, do not take anything by mouth for at least an hour including the prescribed medicine. When the nausea subsides you can begin taking liquids then soft foods and medication.

Other Complications

  • If numbness of the lip, chin, or tongue occurs there is no cause for alarm. As stated before surgery, this is usually temporary in nature. You should be aware that if your lip or tongue is numb, you could bite it and not feel the sensation. So be careful. Wait until your follow-up appointment or call the office during normal business hours if you have any questions regarding numbness.
  • Slight elevation of temperature immediately following surgery is not uncommon. If a temperature over 101.5 persists, notify the office. Tylenol or ibuprofen should be taken to reduce the fever.
  • You should be careful going from the lying down position to standing. You were not able to eat or drink prior to surgery. It was also difficult to take fluids. Taking pain medications can make you dizzy. You could get light headed when you stand up suddenly. Before standing up, you should sit for one minute then get up.
  • Occasionally, patients may feel hard projections in the mouth with their tongue. They are not roots, they are the bony walls which supported the tooth. These projections usually smooth out spontaneously. If not, they can be removed by Dr. Wiggins.
  • If the corners of your mouth are stretched, they may dry out and crack. Your lips should be kept moist with an ointment such as vaseline.
  • Sore throats and pain when swallowing are not uncommon. The muscles get swollen. The normal act of swallowing can then become painful. This will ususlly subside in 2-3 days.
  • Stiffness (Trimus) of the jaw muscles may cause difficulty in opening your mouth for a few days following surgery. This is a normal post-operative event which will resolve in time.


Sutures are placed the area of surgery to minimize post-operative bleeding and to help healing. Sometimes they become dislodged, this is no cause for alarm. Just remove the suture form your mouth and discard it. It is never an emergency when sutures come out. The sutures may be removed at your post-operative appointment. The removal of sutures requires no anesthesia or needles. It takes only a minute or so, and there is generally no discomfort associated with this procedure. So it’s really nothing to worry about.

After a few days, the pain and swelling should subside more and more each day. If your post-operative pain or swelling worsens or unusual symptoms occur call my office for instructions.

There will be a cavity where the tooth was removed. The cavity will gradually over the next month or two fill in with the new tissue. In the mean time, the area should be kept clean especially after meals with salt water rinses or a toothbrush.

Your case is individual, no two mouths are alike. Do not accept well intended advice from friends or the internet (other than this site). Follow the postoperative instructions you were given in our office and/or on this web site. Discuss your problem with the persons best able to effectively help you: Dr. Wiggins or your family dentist.

Brushing your teeth is okay – just be gentle at the surgical sites.

A dry socket is when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket. If this occurs, increased pain at the surgical site and even pain to the ear may occur 2 to 3 days following surgery. If this occurs, the only remedy is to place a medication in the surgical site.