How to Care For Your Mouth Post-Oral Surgery, from General & Restorative Dentist in Vancouver, WA
Updated: Jul 14
“What can I do to heal quickly after my oral surgery?” Whether it is a wisdom tooth removal, dental implant or root canal therapy, caring for your mouth properly after oral surgery is all-important for healing quickly and without complications. We’ve put together a guideline for basic post-oral surgery care, but as always be sure to follow your dentist’s specific instructions!
Take it Easy: After oral surgery, plan to take the rest of the day off because rest is so important for healing! Most patients can get back to their normal routines after the first 24 hours, but avoid strenuous activity for one week after surgery.
Gauze: If you’ve ever had a wisdom tooth removed, you’re familiar with this process. Your dentist will place a piece of gauze over the surgical site and instruct you to apply firm pressure on it (by biting down) for 30-45 minutes; remove and replace with a fresh piece of gauze if bleeding has not stopped.
Reduce Swelling: Swelling and slight bruising of the face is normal after oral surgery; but there are things you can do to reduce them and recover more quickly.
Ice It: Wrap an ice pack (or baggie of ice, or bag of frozen peas, etc.) with a clean towel and hold it against the swollen area, alternating 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off.
Keep Your Head Elevated when you lay down to rest or sleep during the first 24 hours after surgery, using a few pillows to prop up your head. This allows for proper blood flow and helps reduce swelling.
Protect the Clot: Do not brush, rinse, or smoke for 24 hours after oral surgery to avoid disturbing the blood clot, which is very important for healing. To keep your mouth clean, use a saltwater rinse after bleeding has stopped. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 8 oz. of water, and swish very gently. Use this method every few hours during the first 24 hours, and then after meals for one week. You can typically resume brushing and using mouthwash (gently!) 24 hours after surgery, or when your dentist specifies.
Stay Hydrated but avoid carbonated, hot, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours. Water is best! Do not drink through a straw for at least a full week after surgery. The suction from drinking through a straw can disturb the wound or dislodge the blood clot, resulting in a painful dry socket and a much longer recovery time.
Stick With Soft Foods for at least 1-week post-surgery, then gradually transition to firmer foods. Here are some day-of post-surgery food suggestions: yogurt, milkshakes, smoothies, pudding, applesauce, gelatin. A day or two after surgery, you can start including warm and soft foods, like mashed potatoes and soups. Avoid hard, chewy, crunchy and sticky foods for one full week after surgery, since these types of foods can disturb or get stuck in the surgical site.
Pain Management: As with all medication, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully! Your dentist may prescribe you pain medication; do not exceed the daily dosage and stop taking it when pain is mild enough to be relieved by over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them according to the label’s instructions and finish the full course of antibiotics.
Check-In with your dentist for all follow-up appointments to make sure you are healing well, and watch out for any signs of infection, swelling that lasts more than 2 days, fever, and trouble swallowing or breathing. Call your dentist right away if you are experiencing any of these issues. It usually takes around 3-4 weeks for the soft tissues to fully heal after oral surgery, but with proper care, you should be able to get back to your normal routines after just a day or two, and back to enjoying your normal foods and life after just one week!
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