The memory of having a tooth pulled tends to be replete with blurred scenes of drooling, bleeding, and random acts of silliness – especially if your last extraction was when you were still a kid. But that’s where the memories tend to fade for most of us. So, if your child is gearing up for an extraction or two of their own, and you’d like to freshen up on what’s going to happen after the procedure, we’ve got you covered.
Please keep in mind that your doctor will likely provide you with instructions specific to your child, this list should serve merely as a guideline to set expectations.
After sedation: If your child will be administered procedural sedation during their extraction, be sure to ask your doctor for pre and post care advice as it relates to your child and the type of anesthesia they will be receiving. Generally speaking, sedation may cause extended drowsiness and, possibly, nausea. Be sure to contact your doctor so you know what to expect and how to care for your child in the 24 hours after their appointment.
Protecting the blood clot: After an extraction, a clot will begin to form where the tooth was removed. The body does this to protect against excessive bleeding and to begin the healing process. To aid the body’s clotting process, your child will be asked to bite on a gauze pad for 20-30 minutes after the extraction. Typically, after this timeframe, bleeding will subside, but if it doesn’t you can place another gauze pad in its place for another thirty minutes. You may have to do this several times.
After the blood clot forms it is important to protect it, especially for the next 24 hours. So your child shouldn’t suck through a straw, rinse vigorously, spit forcefully, or clean the teeth next to the extraction site. Additionally, if your child is a teen smoker, they should avoid smoking. Each of these activities can dislodge the clot and slow down healing, not to mention cause a very painful side effect: dry socket. Limit your child to calm activities for the first 24 hours, this keeps their blood pressure lower, reduces bleeding and helps the healing process.
Addressing pain: Some pain and swelling may be present after an extraction. Swelling usually starts to go down after 48 hours, and ice can help. Just be sure to wrap the ice in a towel or something similar (don’t place ice directly on the face), and use it in 20-minute “on” and 20-minute “off” intervals. You child can also use pain medication as directed. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed – be sure to continue to take them for the indicated length of time, even if all symptoms and signs of infection are gone.
Stay hydrated: Have your child drink lots of fluids and eat only soft nutritious foods on the day of the extraction. Normal eating habits can generally commence the next day, or as soon as it is comfortable.
Rinse: Have your child gently rinse with salt water (a tsp. of salt in a cup of warm water) three times a day beginning the day after the extraction. They should also rinse gently after meals, as it helps keep food out of the extraction site. It’s also very important to resume their normal dental routine after 24 hours; this should include brushing their teeth and tongue and flossing at least once a day. This speeds healing and helps keep your breath and mouth fresh.
"What ifs": Should your child experience heavy bleeding, severe pain, fever, chills, or continued swelling after two or three days, please contact your care provider right away.