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Tooth extraction aftercare: A how-to guide

A dentist or dental surgeon will perform the extraction in their clinic and then give the person some instructions for caring for the area as it heals.

During the appointment, the dental surgeon will inject a strong anesthetic into the area around the tooth to prevent the person from feeling any pain. They will then use a series of instruments to loosen the tooth before pulling it out.

After removing the tooth, they will place gauze over the extraction site to help control bleeding and promote clotting.

Learn more about tooth extraction aftercare in this article. We also provide a general healing timeline and explain when to speak to a dentist.

Aftercare

Aftercare for an extracted tooth can vary slightly depending on a few factors.

These include which tooth the dentist took out, as some teeth have deeper roots than others and take longer to heal. However, most people find that pain decreases after about 3 days.

One of the most important aspects of aftercare is maintaining the blood clot that forms in the socket where the tooth used to be.

Caring for this blood clot is key to the healing process, and it helps prevent painful complications, such as dry socket.

Days 1–2

Much of the aftercare in the first couple of days following an extraction focuses on allowing a blood clot to form and caring for the mouth in general.

As some experts note, low level bleeding for up to 24 hours after an extraction is perfectly normal. However, active bleeding after this point requires treatment.

Here are a few additional tips for the first 2 days of aftercare:

  • Get plenty of rest: Expect to be resting for at least the first 24 hours after the extraction.
  • Change the gauze as necessary: It is important to leave the first gauze in the mouth for at least a few hours to allow the clot to form. After this, it is fine to change the gauze as often as necessary.
  • Avoid rinsing: As tempting as it can be, avoid rinsing, swishing, or gargling anything in the mouth while the area is still clotting. These actions may dislodge any clot that is forming and affect the healing time.
  • Do not use straws: Using a straw places a lot of pressure on the healing wound, which can easily dislodge the blood clot.
  • Do not spit: Spitting also creates pressure in the mouth, which may dislodge the blood clot.
  • Avoid blowing the nose or sneezing: If the surgeon removed a tooth from the upper half of the mouth, blowing the nose or sneezing can create pressure in the head that may dislodge the developing blood clot. Avoid blowing the nose and sneezing if possible.
  • Do not smoke: Smoking creates the same pressure in the mouth as using a straw. While it is best to avoid smoking during the entire healing process, it is crucial not to smoke during the first couple of days as the blood clot forms.
  • Take pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers may help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Use cold compresses: Placing an ice pack or a towel-wrapped bag of ice on the area for 10–20 minutes at a time may help dull pain.
  • Elevate the head: When sleeping, use extra pillows to elevate the head. Lying too flat may allow blood to pool in the head and prolong healing time.
  • Take any medications that the dentist recommends: The dental surgeon may order prescription medications for complex removals. It is important to complete the full course of treatment.

Days 3–10

After the clot has formed, it is vital to keep it securely in place and to follow some extra steps for oral hygiene to help prevent other issues.

Tips for aftercare between the third and 10th day include:

  • Saline rinses: When the clot is securely in place, gently rinse the mouth with a warm saline solution or a pinch of salt in warm water. This mixture helps kill bacteria in the mouth, which may prevent infections as the mouth heals.
  • Brush and floss as usual: Brush and floss the teeth as usual, but take care to avoid the extracted tooth altogether. The saline solution and any medicated mouthwash that a dentist recommends should be enough to clean this area.
  • Eat soft foods: Throughout the entire healing process, people should eat soft foods that do not require a lot of chewing and are unlikely to become trapped in the empty socket. Consider sticking to soups, yogurt, applesauce, and similar foods. Avoid hard toast, chips, and foods containing seeds.

Aftercare for multiple teeth

Sometimes, dental surgeons will need to extract more than one tooth at a time. When extracting multiple teeth, the surgeon is more likely to recommend general anesthesia instead of using a local anesthetic.

The person will, therefore, be unconscious throughout the process. The dentist will also give them some special instructions leading up to the extraction, such as avoiding food for a certain time. After the procedure, the person will need someone else to drive them home.

Caring for multiple extractions can be challenging, especially if they are on different sides of the mouth. Dentists may have specific instructions for these cases, and they may request a follow-up appointment shortly after the extraction.

They may also use clotting aids in the extraction sites. These are small pieces of natural material that helps clotting. The body breaks the clotting aids down safely and absorbs them over time.

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How whitening strips can damage your teeth

Our results showed that treatment with hydrogen peroxide similar to those found in whitening strips is enough to make the original collagen protein disappear, which is presumably due to the formation of many smaller fragments.

Kelly Keenan

The team is not yet sure whether this damage is permanent or if there is any way of reversing it. In the future, the researchers also plan to find out whether hydrogen peroxide affects not just collagen, but also other proteins that dentin contains.

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Health benefits of baking soda and lemon juice

Several scientific studies have examined the health benefits of baking soda and lemon juice separately, but there is not much research to support the combined effects of these two ingredients.

This article discusses some of the potential health benefits of consuming baking soda and lemon juice mixtures.

A note about pH

The idea of combining baking soda and lemon juice draws on basic principles of acidity and the pH scale.

Scientists use the pH scale to measure the acidity of a solution. A solution can have a pH level between 0 and 14.

The lower the pH, the more acidic the solution, so:

  • pH levels below 7 indicate an acidic solution
  • pH levels above 7 indicate an alkaline, or base solution
  • neutral solutions, such as pure water, have a pH of 7

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a base. This means that when people dissolve baking soda in water, it forms an alkaline solution. For example, a 0.1 molar solution of baking soda has a pH of around 8.3.

Lemon juice contains citric acid and has a pH of around 3. Adding baking soda to lemon juice will raise the pH to produce a more neutral solution.

Skin care

Usually, the skin has a weakly acidic pH of about 5.7. Bases, such as baking soda, will increase the pH of the skin. Higher pH levels can disrupt the barrier function of the skin, which may lead to dryness, excess oil production, and acne.

Lemon juice appears to have obvious skincare applications because it contains concentrations of vitamin C and citric acid, which both provide powerful skin benefits. Citric acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that manufacturers commonly use in chemical peels.

However, skin cells naturally repel water-soluble molecules, such as vitamin C. This means that very little vitamin C will actually penetrate the skin.

The high acid content of lemon juice can lower the pH level of the skin. Low pH levels may cause skin irritation, hyperpigmentation, and UV light sensitivity.

Alternatives

Using a homemade mixture of baking soda and lemon juice may potentially be harmful to the skin. Instead, a person can try using neutral cleansers or chemical peels that contain AHAs, such as glycolic acid.

Neutralizing stomach acid

Excess stomach acid can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as heartburn, vomiting, and indigestion.

Many people with excess stomach acid take over-the-counter (OTC) antacids to relieve their symptoms. Consuming baking soda and lemon juice together may also neutralize stomach acid in a similar fashion as an antacid.

A 2017 study examined the antacid effects of various foods. The authors of this study created artificial stomach acid with a pH of 1.2. Although lemon juice by itself had almost no effect, sodium bicarbonate successfully neutralized the synthetic stomach acid.

Many OTC antacids contain sodium bicarbonate and citric acid. Lemons and other citrus fruits are rich sources of naturally-occurring citric acid.

When a person mixes lemon juice and baking soda, the citric acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate to produce a buffer called sodium citrate. A buffer refers to a weak acid or base that prevents drastic pH changes. Although lemon juice does not neutralize stomach acid, it may help stabilize the pH level inside the stomach.

Alternatives

Using baking soda and lemon juice to combat excess stomach acid may be a good home remedy, as effective OTC antacids contain similar ingredients.

However, mixing the correct proportions of baking soda and lemon juice can be difficult.

Consuming a mixture with too much baking soda may cause diarrhea and gas, whereas too much lemon juice could trigger acid reflux and make symptoms worse. Purchasing an antacid at the drug store is often much safer.

Other home remedies for reducing excess stomach acid include:

  • avoiding or reducing acidic foods and beverages
  • limiting caffeine intake
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • eating smaller meals
  • drinking more water
  • getting enough sleep

People with severe or persistent acid reflux or heartburn should speak to a doctor or gastroenterologist.

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