A tooth extraction is generally a quick, minimally invasive procedure that we perform right in our dental office. With close attention to post-extraction care, most patients recover quickly with few noticeable after-effects. Our dental team works very hard to minimize the chances of a post-procedure infection; however, infections do sometimes develop, just as they might after any other type of surgery.
During the pre-extraction consultation, be sure to inform our team of any heart problems or artificial joints, so we can take additional precautionary measures. As the extraction becomes more complicated, we also warn our patients to be more aware of the potential for infection.
Most patients already have bacteria in their mouth, which is usually kept under control through proper oral hygiene on a daily basis. A tooth extraction infection, however, can begin when bacteria enter the space where the tooth was removed. If not addressed immediately, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream, and could cause additional problems. The CDC explains in detail that tooth infection can happen and there are ways that you can prevent infection.
Fortunately, the chances of infection are extremely low, but it is helpful to be alert for any symptoms that should cause you to take further action. Here is what you should know about getting an infection after a tooth extraction, and what steps you should take if an infection does occur.
What are some signs of infection after a tooth extraction?
While it is normal for the area surrounding the extraction to be red and swollen, signs that could indicate a possible infection include:
- Pus: A white or yellow pus may be discharged from the socket.
- Swelling: Initial swelling is normal, but continued swelling could be cause for concern.
- Pain: Pain should diminish after the first few days. If it increases, there may be an infection.
- Fever: Although a fever could come from other sources, it can be one indicator of a tooth extraction infection.
- Bad Breath: If others tell you that your breath does not smell right, even after rinsing, bacteria could be the cause.
- Unusual Taste: There is some bad taste for a short while after the extraction, but a continued acrid or bitter taste is not normal.
- Ongoing Bleeding: Most bleeding will stop once the blood clot forms. If your mouth continues bleeding, take further steps to control the possible infection.
- Return of Discomfort: If you initially start to feel better, and then start feeling discomfort again, it may be a sign that an infection is taking hold.
How long after a tooth extraction can infection set in?
Most infections will present within a few days after the tooth extraction. There are, however, some infections that can occur as late as 3-4 weeks after the procedure. Continue to pay close attention to your mouth and overall health to watch for signs that something could be wrong.
How should I treat a tooth extraction infection?
After a patient has a tooth extracted in our dental office, we may prescribe antibiotics, antiseptic mouthwash and recommend other precautions to lower the chance of infection. If your tooth should still become infected, contact our dental office for further directions. A tooth infection does not go away on its own and requires additional care. Some additional steps we may recommend include:
- We may direct you to rinse your mouth with warm saltwater on a regular basis to lower your discomfort level.
- Cold compresses may help to alleviate any increased pain or swelling.
- Our dentist will determine if additional antibiotics or pain management measures are appropriate.
- Continue to carefully monitor your food and liquid intake so as not to further aggravate the infection.
- In some cases, we might recommend draining the infection. This is usually based on a visual inspection of your mouth and a full assessment of your symptoms. Draining may help to increase the rate at which any swelling and pain subside.
- Take the full course of antibiotics we prescribe, even if the infection appears to have diminished. Even though you might be feeling better, it is still possible that you have an infection.
How can I prevent infection after tooth extraction?
Steps you can take to prevent an infection after a tooth extraction include:
- Follow our post-operative instructions very carefully. Contact our office if you have any questions.
- Do not engage in strenuous activity for 24 hours after the extraction.
- Pay careful attention to your food and liquid intake, so as not to dislodge the blood clot that forms.
- Do not smoke.
- Keep the area clean of debris.
- After 24 hours, gently rinse your mouth with a warm water/salt mixture to help eliminate the bacteria.
- Keep up with your oral hygiene habits, but be very gentle in the area surrounding the extraction.
If you believe you have an infection after your tooth extraction, contact our dental office immediately, so we can confirm its presence and prescribe any appropriate steps and possible additional medications. If you feel any other painful symptoms, or notice that the bleeding has not diminished, do not hesitate to contact us. We can then provide additional direction, or determine if a follow-up appointment is appropriate.
If you would like to learn more about some common questions that are asked by our patients about tooth extraction, visit our education page on the subject. We have taken all the questions that our patients commonly ask and had them answered by our dentists and oral surgeons.