While most people hope that their teeth will last a lifetime, sometimes that isn’t the case. Infection, disease, and trauma can result in your dentist having no option but to remove a tooth to protect both the remaining teeth and your oral health.
Edema or swelling after tooth extraction is a common occurrence and while the level of swelling varies from one patient to another, the remedies to manage and minimise it remain the same.
Does swelling always occur after tooth extraction?
In a word, no. However, any tooth extraction whether it’s to remove a wisdom tooth or a molar has the potential to trigger postoperative swelling. It’s a perfectly natural occurrence and is part of the body’s way of handling trauma.
Generally speaking, a relatively simple tooth extraction will result in negligible swelling whereas a more complex tooth extraction such as an impacted wisdom tooth or multiple extractions, may result in more severe swelling.
That’s because ultimately it’s the level of trauma created during the surgical process that determines the amount of swelling that occurs.
Swelling after tooth extraction – What’s the normal course of events?
When swelling occurs, this is what most patients can expect to experience:
- The level of swelling will gradually increase in size eventually peaking some 2 to 3 days following tooth extraction.
- By day 4, the swelling should start to subside
- From there on, it should continue to diminish and disappear fully by day 7
If by day 4 the swelling hasn’t started to subside or appears to be worsening, you should contact your dentist right away. Any swelling after day 7 should be checked out by your dentist since there could be a postoperative infection present.
Where is the swelling likely to occur?
Typically, swelling will be in the soft tissues directly next to the surgical site, however, larger amounts of swelling may involve areas such as the mouth, cheeks, the side of the face and even around the eyes.
How to reduce swelling after tooth extraction?
Swelling after tooth extraction can be controlled in two stages.
Stage 1 – Minimising the amount of swelling that occurs
To help minimise the amount of postoperative swelling, patients should apply cold packs to the outside of their face in the area of the surgical site immediately following tooth extraction.
You can use an ice pack or if you don’t have one handy then a bag of frozen vegetables will work just as well. To protect your face from the source of cold, be sure to wrap the pack in a clean tea towel.
For a routine extraction where a negligible amount of swelling can be expected, hold the pack firmly against the outside of your face directly next to where the tooth was pulled and leave it there for 15 minutes. Repeat the cycle of 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off for 4 to 6 hours following the procedure.
For a more complex surgery where a higher level of swelling is anticipated, the cycles should be continued in waking hours for up to 24 hours post-op. This technique becomes less effective beyond this point and you should proceed to stage 2.
Additional remedies to help minimise swelling after tooth extraction include:
- Elevate your head – the idea is to keep your head higher than your heart by sitting upright or laying down with a couple of pillows to raise your head.
- Over the counter painkillers – Medication such as Ibuprofen will ease any discomfort and help reduce the swelling
- Adopting a soft food diet following tooth extraction – this makes food easier to eat when the mouth and face are swollen. Cold and tepid foods can also help to alleviate swelling
A word of warning: Avoid drinking through a straw after tooth extraction as you could accidentally dislodge the blood clot that has formed in the tooth socket which could lead to a condition known as dry socket. This can expose the nerves and bones underneath. Should this occur, call your dentist for advice.
Stage 2 – Bringing down the swelling that forms as quickly as possible
We’ve already mentioned that any swelling that forms following tooth extraction can be expected to peak after 4 days. Once you’ve hit this point, applying a warm compress will help bring it down faster.
A heat pack, hot water bottle or a moistened towel can all be used. The idea is to gently warm up the swollen area, not scold it or burn it – so manipulate the temperature accordingly.
Hold the compress against your face in the swollen area and repeat cycles of 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off multiple times during your day. You can continue with this technique for the following few days until the swelling has resolved. It won’t bring the swelling down immediately but it should be faster than it would have been otherwise.
Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of how to handle swelling after tooth extraction.
At Dental266 our dentists are committed to providing gentle dental care to help patients have a positive experience at every dental appointment. If you have any concerns regarding tooth extraction or would like to schedule an appointment for one of our dental services please call us on (02) 9051 0600 or book online.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.