Using gauze pads to apply pressure over the surgical site is one of the most common after-effects of tooth extraction. When used correctly, they will stop bleeding and promote healing.
However, there are times when it is not necessary to use gauze after surgery. Here are the signs to look for when it is time to stop using them.
After a tooth extraction, bleeding is normal and will typically stop in about 24 hours. The reason for this is because the removal of the tooth leaves an empty socket.
After the extraction, your dentist will give you gauze to bite on over the socket area and put pressure on it. This will help to control the bleeding and promote a clot on the site.
Bite down on the gauze firmly and repeat this process about every 15 minutes for the first two hours after the extraction. Replace the gauze as needed and follow any other aftercare instructions provided by your health professional.
If bleeding persists or gets worse, try a moistened tea bag on the extraction site. The tannins in the tea will constrict the blood vessels and encourage clotting.
Swelling should peak 72 hours after surgery and may be controlled by placing ice packs over the face near the extraction site. During this period, drink plenty of fluids and eat soft foods, as these will help reduce swelling.
To help control bleeding, bite firmly on the gauze pack that is placed by your dentist, or a moistened tea bag (which contains tannic acid). This will aid in forming a blood clot to protect your tooth socket and speed healing.
If bleeding persists, replace the gauze pack(s) and reapply biting pressure for another half hour. Repeat this process every ten minutes until bleeding stops or when the gauze shows a red dot of blood.
You should not spit, use a straw, smoke, or touch the surgical sites with your fingers for 48 hours after the procedure as these activities dislodge the blood clot and can prolong bleeding. In addition, do not consume carbonated beverages or alcohol for this period.
The pain and swelling that follow tooth extraction are normal and should be manageable with the help of over-the-counter pain medication. Your dentist can prescribe acetaminophen and ibuprofen for you to take on a regular basis until the healing process is complete.
A blood clot naturally forms to fill in the hole left behind by a tooth extraction, and it’s very important that this clot is kept securely in place during the healing process. If this blood clot is dislodged or fails to form, it can result in dry socket.
During the first 24 hours after a tooth extraction, the blood clot is most likely to form. As a result, it’s essential that you take it easy and don’t do any strenuous activity at this stage to allow the clot to properly form.
When a blood clot has securely plugged the extraction site and stopped bleeding, you should stop using gauze. This is usually after 4 to 6 gauze changes.
The color of the gauze should be dark red or purple with minimal oozing. This is a normal, safe color to change, and the socket should be healing properly.
Some oozing can be expected for a few hours after surgery. However, if the oozing persists or becomes heavier, this may indicate a problem with the blood clot that has formed in the socket.
Dry socket is a complication that occurs in about 5% of tooth extractions. It delays the healing process and is very painful.
The best way to prevent dry socket is to take all of the post-surgery instructions your dentist gave you seriously and follow them faithfully. These include not drinking through a straw, avoiding smoking and vigorously rinsing your mouth.