How Long Does A Tooth Extraction Take To Heal? Understanding The Timeframe

By Jason Wesley

Updated On

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Tooth extractions are a common dental procedure that many people will need at some point in their lives. While no one looks forward to having a tooth pulled, extractions are sometimes necessary to maintain good oral health. Severe decay, overcrowding, impacted wisdom teeth, and dental infections are just a few of the reasons your dentist may recommend an extraction.

If you’re facing a tooth extraction, you likely have questions about the healing process and recovery time. In this article, we’ll cover what to expect as you heal from an extraction and share some tips for a smooth recovery.

Key Takeaways

  1. Most simple extractions heal within 7-10 days, but healing can take longer for complex extractions.
  2. Factors like your overall health and following aftercare instructions impact healing time.
  3. Avoid smoking, using straws, and eating hard/crunchy foods during recovery. Gently rinse with salt water and take medications as prescribed.

What Is a Tooth Extraction?

A tooth extraction is a dental procedure where a tooth is completely removed from its socket in the jawbone. Extractions are performed for various reasons when a tooth is too damaged or decayed to be repaired with a filling or crown.

In some cases, teeth need to be removed due to overcrowding, to prepare for orthodontic treatment, or if they become impacted and unable to erupt through the gums properly. While your dentist will always try to save a natural tooth whenever possible, sometimes an extraction is the best course of treatment for your overall oral health.

Also Read: Best Foods To Eat After Tooth Extraction

Why Are Tooth Extractions Needed?

There are several common reasons why tooth extractions may be necessary:

  • Severe tooth decay or damage: If a cavity goes untreated and decay spreads deep into the tooth, it can become too damaged to repair with a filling or crown. In this case, extraction is often the only option. Teeth that are badly cracked or broken below the gum line also typically require extraction.
  • Periodontal (gum) disease: Advanced gum disease can cause the teeth to loosen as the supporting bone is lost. If the damage is extensive, extraction may be recommended.
  • Impacted teeth: Wisdom teeth (third molars) often become impacted, meaning they get stuck under the gums and are unable to emerge properly. Impacted teeth can cause pain, crowding, and infections, so they are commonly extracted.
  • Overcrowding: Sometimes teeth need to be extracted before orthodontic treatment to create space and allow the remaining teeth to be properly aligned. This is often the case when the jaw is too small to accommodate all the teeth.
  • Infection: If a tooth becomes abscessed (infected) and root canal treatment is not possible or unsuccessful, extraction is necessary to prevent the infection from spreading.

How Long Does a Tooth Extraction Take to Heal?

The healing timeline after a tooth extraction varies from person to person and depends on factors such as the complexity of the extraction and your overall health. However, most people can expect to feel back to normal in about 7-10 days following a simple extraction. The initial healing period usually lasts a few days, during which time you may experience some swelling, bleeding, and discomfort.

These symptoms are normal and should improve within 48-72 hours. Healing may take longer for more complex extractions, such as impacted wisdom teeth or multiple extractions. In these cases, complete healing of the extraction site can take a few weeks to a couple of months. Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide specific instructions and let you know what to expect based on your individual case.

Factors that can impact healing time include:

  • Complexity of the extraction (simple vs. surgical)
  • Number of teeth extracted
  • Your age and overall health
  • Whether you smoke or use tobacco products
  • How closely you follow post-op instructions

Most people are able to return to work or school within a day or two after a simple extraction. However, it’s important to avoid strenuous activity and exercise for at least 72 hours to reduce the risk of complications like dry socket. If you had IV sedation or general anesthesia for your procedure, you’ll need someone to drive you home and will likely feel groggy for the rest of the day.

Things to Avoid After Tooth Extraction

To promote proper healing and reduce the risk of complications, there are certain things you should avoid after having a tooth extracted:

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco for at least 72 hours, as this can delay healing and increase the risk of dry socket (a painful condition where the blood clot becomes dislodged from the extraction site).
  • Avoid drinking through straws for at least a week, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot.
  • Don’t eat hard, crunchy, chewy, or sticky foods that could get stuck in the extraction site or dislodge the blood clot. Stick to soft foods and chew on the opposite side of your mouth.
  • Avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages for at least 24 hours.
  • Don’t vigorously rinse or spit for the first 24 hours to avoid disrupting the blood clot. After that, gently rinse with warm salt water a few times a day to keep the area clean.

Recovery Tips for Extractions

In addition to avoiding the things listed above, there are some steps you can take to support healing and make your recovery as comfortable as possible:

  • Take over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications as directed to manage discomfort. Holding a cold compress against your face can also help reduce swelling and pain.
  • After the first 24 hours, gently rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution (1/2 tsp salt mixed into a cup of water) a few times a day. This helps keep the extraction site clean and promotes healing.
  • Brush and floss your other teeth as usual, but avoid the extraction site for the first few days. You can gently brush the area after it has healed.
  • Eat soft, nutritious foods like smoothies, yogurt, and mashed potatoes for the first few days. Gradually add in other easy-to-chew foods as you feel comfortable.
  • Get plenty of rest and limit strenuous activity for at least 2-3 days. This helps your body focus its energy on healing.
  • Attend your scheduled follow-up appointments so your dentist can monitor your healing and remove any stitches if needed.

Following these guidelines and your dentist’s specific post-op instructions will set you up for a smoother recovery. However, contact your dentist right away if you experience severe pain, excessive bleeding, swelling that worsens after a few days, or any signs of infection like fever or discharge. These could indicate a complication that needs prompt treatment.

Conclusion

Tooth extractions are a very common dental procedure, and most people heal quickly without complications. However, it’s important to follow your dentist’s post-operative instructions closely to promote proper healing and reduce the risk of issues like dry sockets or infection. Be sure to rest, eat soft foods, avoid smoking and straws, and gently rinse with salt water as directed.

While no one looks forward to an extraction, remember that this procedure is often necessary to relieve pain, treat advanced decay or damage, and improve your overall oral health. If you have any concerns about an upcoming extraction or your recovery, don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist. They are there to guide you through the process and ensure you heal properly.

Read More: How To Relieve Pain After Tooth Extraction? A Comprehensive Guide

FAQs

Q: How can I tell if my extraction site is infected?

A: Signs of infection include severe pain that doesn’t improve with medication, swelling that gets worse instead of better after a few days, discharge (pus) from the extraction site, and fever. Contact your dentist right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

Q: When can I resume normal eating after an extraction?

A: Most people can resume a normal diet within a week of a simple extraction. However, it’s best to gradually progress from soft foods to your regular diet and avoid chewing on the extraction site for a few weeks. Healing may take longer for complex extractions. Follow your dentist’s specific instructions.

Q: How long should I use gauze after an extraction?

A: Your dentist will have you bite down on a gauze pad for 30-45 minutes immediately after the extraction to help a clot form in the socket. After this initial period, you can generally stop using gauze. If bleeding continues, you can bite on a moist black tea bag for 30 minutes (the tannic acid helps promote clotting).

Q: Will I need a follow-up appointment after an extraction?

A: Most dentists schedule a quick follow-up visit about a week after an extraction to check your healing progress and remove stitches if needed. However, if you had a simple extraction with no stitches, a follow-up may not be necessary unless you experience problems. Your dentist will let you know if a follow-up is needed.

Sources:

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007630.htm#:~:text=You%20will%20get%20a%20local,tooth%20out%20from%20the%20gum.

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