While recovering from oral surgery, it is important to carefully follow any post-operative instructions from your dentist. These directions can help speed healing and minimize the risk of complications, such as infection or dry socket. There are some general instructions which apply to most oral surgery procedures. Your doctor will likely provide you with specific oral surgery aftercare instructions before your procedure to help you prepare for the recovery process.
Immediately After Your Procedure
You will likely experience discomfort, swelling, and minor bleeding after oral surgery. For the first hour or so, you should keep gentle, but firm, pressure on the treatment area by biting on damp gauze to encourage the formation of a clot. If bleeding persists after the first hour or two, you can try biting on a damp tea bag for 20 to 30 minutes.
To further speed healing and minimize discomfort, you should:
- Use ice packs for the first 24 hours
- Rinse lightly after 48 hours with a salt water mixture
- Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco for at least 72 hours
- Get lots of rest and limit physical activity for 24 to 48 hours
- Elevate your head when you lie down
- Stick to soft, cool foods which do not require extensive chewing
- Take any medications your dentist prescribed, such as antibiotics or pain medication
Unless advised otherwise, you should continue taking your regularly scheduled medications as well. Keep in mind that antibiotics can interfere with birth control pills. You should refrain from consuming alcohol for the first few days after your procedure, especially if your dentist prescribes pain medications or antibiotics.
If You Were Sedated…
It may take up to 24 hours for the medication to fully leave your system. During this time, there are a variety of activities you should avoid, including:
- Operating heavy equipment
- Working around machinery
- Climbing ladders
- Working at unsafe heights
You may feel nauseous for the first few hours after sedation. Nausea generally improves within four to six hours. Wait to eat until you feel hungry and try sipping small amounts of clear liquid to prevent dehydration.
Maintaining Your Oral Hygiene
It is crucial after oral surgery to follow a proper hygiene routine. Maintaining your oral hygiene can prevent an infection from developing. Your dentist may advise you to avoid brushing or flossing around the treatment area for a set amount of time after your procedure. You can use a prescription mouthwash or a salt water rinse to remove food particles until you can brush normally again.
Special Instructions for Certain Procedures
Many post-operative directions are specific to the surgery performed. The typical recovery symptoms can vary as well. There are some common instructions associated with certain procedures.
If you have had a tooth extracted or undergone wisdom tooth removal, you should:
- Not rinse or spit aggressively for 48 hours
- Avoid using a straw
- Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco
- Expect minor swelling
Notify your dentist if bleeding persists or pain increases after three or four days. You should also let your doctor know if you continue to experience numbness after the first day. Severe throbbing pain in the area or persistent bad breath may signal a serious condition known as dry socket and require a trip to your dentist’s office for additional treatment.
After dental implant placement surgery, you will likely experience swelling and bruising, as well as sensitivity to cold. These symptoms should resolve on their own within a few days. During the initial healing period, you should avoid:
- Ice, ice cream, cold drinks, and solids, if they are causing discomfort
- Sticky or hard foods
- Applying pressure to the implant with your tongue or fingers
If numbness persists after the first day, notify your dentist. You should also contact the office if bleeding persists or pain increases after three days. If your implant or restoration feels loose, let your dentist know.
After a bone graft procedure, keep in mind that the grafting material can move during the healing period. You should not rinse or spit aggressively for at least seven days. Additionally, avoid pressing on the treatment area with your tongue or fingers. Pulling or lifting your lip to look at your sutures can put unnecessary pressure on the area and tear the stitches, so be gentle with the area until the sutures dissolve or your dentist removes them.
Persistent pain, swelling, or bleeding can all indicate a complication.
You may feel small granules around the area for the first several days. This sensation is no cause for alarm. However, if a suture falls out within the first three days or you feel an extensive amount of granules, notify your doctor immediately. Your bandage should also stay firmly in place for the first three days. If not, your dentist needs to replace it.
A sinus lift is a delicate procedure. Your dentist may recommend you use antihistamines or a decongestant to alleviate pressure in the area during healing. For the first two weeks, do not blow your nose or sniff forcefully. You should also avoid going swimming or sitting in a hot tub. In addition, you should:
- Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco
- Sneeze with your mouth open to minimize pressure on the sinus area
- Avoid using a straw or spitting forcefully
- Take all medications as directed, including the nasal spray
- Avoid pulling or lifting your lip to look at sutures
Minor bleeding from your nose is not uncommon after a sinus lift and should pass quickly. You may also notice small granules in your mouth for the first few days. This is normal. However, if you feel them in your nose, notify your dentist right away.
When to Contact Your Doctor
In general, you should contact your dentist’s office if you feel something is not right. Persistent pain, swelling, or bleeding can all indicate a complication. If you develop a fever, you may have an infection that requires additional care. Your dentist will provide more specific instructions on what to do after your procedure.