One of the first post-operative instructions you receive after a tooth extraction is to avoid drinking through straws for at least 24 hours. You might have heard this indication if you or any family member ever had a tooth removed, but do you know why it is so important?
This blog explains in detail how your body reacts to teeth extractions and why following this (and any other) post-op instruction is critical.
What Happens After a Tooth Extraction?
The physiological response to a tooth extraction might vary according to the characteristics of the surgical procedure, as some surgeries are more invasive than others. However, the healing process is very similar in all cases. After all, dental surgery leaves a wound, so the body will react as in any other traumatic event.
As soon as the surgeon pulls out the tooth, the empty socket is filled with blood. After a few minutes, the blood tends to get thicker and eventually forms a blood clot. This blood clot is vital to the healing process, but, unfortunately, it can easily get dislodged from the empty tooth socket. In most cases, oral surgeons opt to give stitches to the wound to prevent this inconvenience, but patient cooperation is still crucial to avoid post-operative complications.
Why Can’t I Use a Straw After Surgery?
Well, drinking through a straw creates suction, which can easily dislodge this blood clot. As mentioned before, this clot is vital as it has two primary purposes:
Stop uncontrolled bleeding: this clot stops the bleeding that is inevitably caused by oral surgery. If it gets dislodged, the socket will start bleeding once again, and you might need to visit the emergency room if it doesn’t stop on its own. Uncontrolled bleeding can be dangerous, so please do not hesitate to contact our office or visit the ER if this happens!
Avoid dry sockets: the blood clot also protects the remaining bone tissue from getting infected by bacteria. This infection, known as dry socket or alveolar osteitis, is extremely painful and requires urgent dental attention. If you start feeling pain after an extraction, visit the office as soon as possible – dry sockets can take a couple of weeks to resolve on their own without medication or dental treatment.
Other Post-Operative Recommendations
Besides avoiding straws, there are other instructions that you should follow after oral surgery to prevent further inconveniences:
- Bite on a gauze pad for 45 minutes after the appointment. Replace it whenever it gets soaked.
- Avoid rinsing or spitting for 24 hours after surgery.
- Be extra careful when brushing near the area.
- Take medication as prescribed by the oral surgeon.
- Keep your fingers and tongue away from the surgical area.
- Apply ice packs on the surgical area (on the side of the cheek) for the first 48 hours to prevent severe swallowing (20 minutes on and 10 minutes off).
- Do not smoke for at least 48 hours after surgery.
- Choose soft and preferably cold or warm foods. Ice cream is a perfect choice!
- Avoid lifting heavy weights and do not exercise for at least three to four days after surgery.
Oral Surgery in Austin, TX.
If you have further questions regarding this or any other post-op instruction, you can schedule a consultation with one of our oral surgeons at Hill Country Oral Surgery. Our team is always ready to help!