After Surgery Answers

Common Questions

Sometimes the after-effects of oral surgery are quite minimal. Common sense often dictates what you should do and when. However, if in doubt, the following questions and answers can help. You may also contact our office for clarification or with any additional questions. Our phone number is: 317.876.1095


Day of Surgery


Q What steps do I need to take during the first hour following my oral surgery?

A Bite down gently but firmly on the gauze packs that have been placed over the surgical areas, making sure they remain in place. Do not change them for the first hour unless the bleeding is not controlled. The packs may be gently removed after one hour. If active bleeding persists, place enough new gauze to obtain pressure over the surgical site for another 30 minutes. The gauze may then be changed as necessary (typically every 30 to 45 minutes). It is best to moisten the gauze with tap water and loosely fluff for more comfortable positioning.


Q How much discomfort can I expect?

A Unfortunately most oral surgery is accompanied by some degree of discomfort. You will usually have a prescription for pain medication. If you take the first pill before the numbness has worn off, you should be able to better manage any discomfort. Some patients find that stronger pain medicine causes nausea, but if you precede each pain pill with a small amount of food, chances for nausea will be reduced. The effects of pain medications vary widely among individuals. Some patients may even require two of the pain pills at one time. Remember, the most severe discomfort is usually within six hours after the local anesthetic wears off.


Q Are there certain precautions I should take?

A Do not disturb the surgical area today. Do NOT rinse vigorously or probe the area with any objects. You may brush your teeth gently. PLEASE DO NOT SMOKE for at least 48 hours, since this is very detrimental to healing and may cause a dry socket.


Q What is a dry socket and how do I know if I have one?

A Dry sockets usually occur three to five days after surgery. A dry socket occurs when a blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket or does not expand to fill the socket and the bone is left exposed. This exposed bone produces raw nerve endings, which will continue to cause pain until they are covered over by a healing blood clot. Individuals who smoke experience higher incidences of dry sockets than non-smokers.


Symptoms of a dry socket include jaw pain that can radiate to the ear and teeth. This pain is difficult to manage even with medications. We may have you come into the office so that we can place medication into the area of the dry socket. Often, normal post-operative pain can have similar symptoms, but is manageable with medication. Call our office if you are having difficulty managing discomfort following surgery.


Q How long can I expect to be off work following my oral surgery?

A The recovery period varies per patient and depends on the type of oral surgery performed. The average recovery process for many oral surgeries is three to five days. In many instances, patients feel fine the next day following minor procedures.


Q What if bleeding occurs following my oral surgery?

A Bleeding should never be severe. If so, it usually means that the packs are being clenched between teeth only and are not exerting pressure on the surgical areas. Try repositioning the packs. If bleeding persists or becomes heavy you may substitute a tea bag (soaked in cold water, squeezed damp-dry and wrapped in moist gauze) for 20 or 30 minutes. It also helps to keep your head elevated and use icepacks on your face for 20 minutes at a time.


Intermittent bleeding or oozing throughout the day and night is normal.


Q Can I expect swelling?

A Swelling is often associated with oral surgery. It can be minimized by using a cold pack, ice bag or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel and applied firmly to the cheek adjacent to the surgical area. This should be applied 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off during the first 24 hours after surgery. If you have been prescribed medicine for the control of swelling, be sure to take it as directed. The swelling will peak on the third day then lessen.


Q Will I become nauseous following my oral surgery?

A Due to the IV medication and pain medications, nausea is not uncommon after surgery. Sometime, pain medications are the cause. Nausea can be reduced by making sure you ingest a small amount of food before taking each pain pill, as well as large amounts of water. Try to keep taking clear fluids and minimize dosing of pain medications. Classic Coca Cola may help with nausea. If you still do not feel better, please contact our office.


Q What can I expect to experience if I have had IV Sedation?

A If you have had IV Sedation, it’s important that you do not drive or use heavy equipment for at least 12 hours. You also should walk slowly in that you may feel dizzy. Remember to take your time or ask for assistance. It is normal to feel sleepy. During this period, you should not sign important documents or make any important decisions for at least 12 hours. Also, do not drink alcoholic beverages.


Q What about diet? Should I avoid certain foods or drinks?

A Following oral surgery, you may eat any nourishing food that can be taken with comfort. Avoid extremely hot foods; heat may instigate bleeding. Do not use a straw for the first few days after surgery. It is sometimes advisable, but not absolutely required, to confine the first day’s intake to liquids or soft foods (soups, puddings, yogurt, milk shakes, etc.)

In general, it is best to avoid foods like nuts, sunflower seeds, popcorn, etc., which may get lodged in the socket areas. Over the next several days, you may gradually progress to solid foods. It is important not to skip meals! If you take nourishment regularly, you will feel better, gain strength, experience less discomfort and heal faster. If you are a diabetic, maintain your normal eating habits or follow instructions given by your doctor.


Q I feel a “sharp” edge in my mouth; what is this?

A If you feel something hard or sharp in the surgical areas, it is likely you are feeling the bony walls which once supported the extracted teeth. Occasionally, small slivers of bone may work themselves out during the following week or so. If they cause concern or discomfort, please call our office.


Second and Third Day After Surgery Instructions

Q When can I rinse my mouth with a mouth rinse?

A It’s important that you do not rinse vigorously for at least 48 hours following surgery. Keeping your mouth clean after surgery is essential. Use one-fourth of a teaspoon of salt dissolved in an eight-ounce glass of warm water and gently rinse your mouth. Repeat as often as you like, but at least two or three times daily.


Q What about brushing my teeth?

A You may begin your normal oral hygiene routine as soon as possible after surgery. Soreness and swelling may not permit vigorous brushing, but please make every effort to clean your teeth within the bounds of comfort, being extra gentle to the surgical treatment area. Be aware the gum tissue may bleed slightly.


Q Can I apply hot compresses to ease the pain or swelling?

A You may apply warm compresses to the skin over the areas of swelling (hot water bottle, hot moist towels, and heating pad) for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to help soothe tender areas. This will also help decrease swelling and stiffness.


Q How long will the healing process take?

A Normal healing after tooth extraction should be as follows: The first two days after surgery are generally the most uncomfortable and there is usually some swelling. On the third day you should be more comfortable and, although still swollen, can usually begin a more substantial diet. The remainder of the post-operative course should be gradual, steady improvement. If you don’t see continued improvement, please call our office. If you are given a plastic irrigating syringe, DO NOT use it for the first five days. Following this period, use it daily according to the instructions until you are certain the tooth socket has closed completely and there is no chance of any food particles becoming lodged in the socket.


It is our desire that your recovery be as smooth and pleasant as possible. Following these instructions will assist you, but if you have questions about your progress, please call our office.


Calling during office hours will afford a faster response to your question or concern.