- Posted by Dr Alex Loh
- On October 2, 2017
If you’ve just had a tooth taken out, how you look after yourself immediately afterwards is extremely important, as it influences how well you heal up.
There are three phases:
1. Blood clot formation – first 30 mins
After a tooth is taken out, the dentist will have placed a piece of gauze into the area and asked you to bite down. It is important to bite down for 30 mins to allow the blood clot to form properly. Taking the gauze out too soon will stop the blood clot from forming properly, and in the worst case scenario, the partially formed blood clot could attach itself to the gauze and be removed together with the gauze! The blood clot is critical to efficient and effective healing.
2. Blood clot stabilisation – from 30 mins to 24 hours
For the first 24 hours, the blood clot is very fragile, and is in a jelly-like state. It is important not to damage the blood clot. There are three main categories of things that can damage the blood clot:
a) Physical trauma – avoid eating hard foods (nuts, corn chips), avoid touching it with your tongue or finger, avoid brushing your teeth for the first 24 hours
b) Rinsing/washing – avoid using water or mouthwashes to rinse or wash the area.
c) Suction – avoid creating negative pressure in the mouth (e.g. sucking through straws, sucking on the socket, or smoking!)
3. Healing – from 24 hours onwards
After the blood clot has stabilised, it is important to keep food and bacteria out of the socket. This can be achieved by vigorously rinsing the area with mouthwash or warm salty water immediately after eating. If you are making your own salt water mouth rinse, don’t use too much salt as this can cause the wound to sting; but also don’t use fresh water either, as this will also be uncomfortable. Use a small glass of warm water with a pinch of salt – this will create a mouth rinse that is approximately the same concentration as your own bodily fluids and cause less discomfort!