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About five million people have wisdom teeth removed every year, and that’s not including those who have a tooth extracted for any other reason. If you find yourself among that number, it’s important to make sure you take good care of yourself following the procedure. Proper post extraction care is essential to a smooth recovery.

The First 24 Hours

It’s a good idea to take it easy for the first 24 hours following the extraction. Depending on the anesthesia that was used, you may need some time to recover from the effects of the sedation. You’ll have gauze pads placed where the tooth was extracted to control the bleeding and help with clotting. Avoiding rinsing, drinking with a straw, and smoking for the first 24 hours helps as well. Change the pads as needed, but keep some in place for about 3-4 hours afterward. Take painkillers as directed to control any discomfort you experience. Applying ice packs to the outside of your face where the tooth was pulled in ten-minute intervals can help as well.

Do’s

Beyond the first 24 hours, you’ll still need to take some measure of care to ensure a smooth recovery. Eat soft foods for the first few days. Jello, pudding, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, pasta, fish, soup, and other similarly textured foods are good options. Take some time to rest with your head elevated and get up slowly. Resting will help speed your recovery. If you’ll be using painkillers, take them before the numbness from the extraction wears off so you don’t have to play catch-up with pain management.

Don’ts

Certain things should be avoided in order to speed your recovery and avoid setbacks. Avoid hard foods that can damage the clot or socket. Crunchy foods or foods with small seeds are also best avoided during the first week after the surgery. Don’t engage in excessive exertion during the first 72 hours post-extraction, and limit activity even further in the first 24 hours. Avoid spitting, rinsing, or sucking through a straw for three days to avoid disrupting the blood clot. Smoking will slow down the healing process, so avoid that as well.

Taking good care of yourself after a tooth extraction is one of the best things you can do to promote a speedy recovery. It also helps you avoid complications like dry sockets and infections. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to call your dentist or surgeon to make sure you get the information you need to help with your recovery.

Getting a tooth extracted? Take a look at what to expect during the extraction.