How Long Does Pain Last After Tooth Extraction? What to Expect and 4 Tips for Quick Relief

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Had a tooth removed but still in pain? A dentist explains why that may be and how to make it feel better.
how long does pain last after tooth extraction

Experiencing pain after a tooth extraction can be one of the most daunting aspects of dental care. For most individuals, pain tends to peak within the first 24 to 48 hours post-extraction and gradually subsides over the next few days. Typically, you can expect discomfort to last between one to three days, with some variations based on personal health and the complexity of the procedure. This timeframe, though, can stretch up to a week for certain cases.

Post Extraction Pain? Help Is At Hand

Tooth extractions are a common dental procedure aimed at addressing various oral health issues, from severe decay to impacted wisdom teeth. After the initial anaesthesia wears off, understanding what kind of pain is normal and how long it will last can provide much-needed reassurance.

As a dentist with over 10 years of experience and hundreds of successful tooth extractions under my belt (unfortunately), I’ve seen it all; from smooth recoveries to complications, so I can can guide you through the post-extraction period.

Knowing what to expect can make a world of difference in how you manage your recovery process. If you’ve ever wondered why the pain persists or how you can ease it, stay with us as we unfold the key factors and best practices for a smooth recovery.

Key Takeaways: How Long Does Pain Last After Tooth Extraction?

  • Pain usually peaks within 24 to 48 hours and can last up to a week.
  • Pain levels vary based on individual factors and extraction complexity.
  • Expert advice can help manage pain and improve the healing process.

Reasons for Pain After Extraction – Side Effects of Surgery

No one wants to have a tooth extracted, but unfortunately sometimes the procedure is unavoidable. Once you’ve had the surgery, it’s completely normal to experience some pain. Lets have a look at what’s causing your discomfort:

Inflammation in the gum tissue is the most common reason for the pain. Your body’s natural healing process triggers this response, leading to swelling and redness. This inflammation can cause a throbbing sensation around the extraction site. Managing gum inflammation involves a careful balance of maintaining cleanliness without further irritating the tissues.

Bleeding is normal for the first few hours but should gradually stop with proper care.

Swelling often peaks within 48 hours and can be managed using ice packs and keeping your head elevated.

Additionally, you might experience sensitive or tender teeth adjacent to the extraction site. This sensitivity is temporary and should resolve as the area heals.

Being aware of these side effects can help you better manage and alleviate the pain following the procedure.


Immediate Post-Extraction Care

Proper management and self-care after having a tooth extraction can really help speed up the healing process:

Use the gauze provided

If you find the socket is still bleeding or oozing, it’s a good idea to place a clean piece of damp gauze over the area, and apply gentle pressure by clenching your teeth. Doing this for around 30 minutes will help to stop any bleeding.

Do Not Rinse for 24 Hours

You might be tempted to rinse your mouth after the extraction, but resist the urge. This helps you keep the blood clot intact, which is crucial for healing.

Careful Brushing

Maintain good oral hygiene but be cautious around the extraction site. Continue brushing your other teeth normally, but avoid the area where the tooth was removed to prevent irritation and dislodging the clot.

Eating and Drinking

For the first 24 hours, stick to soft foods and cold liquids. Avoid hot beverages and chewy foods, as they can dislodge the blood clot crucial for healing. Foods like yoghurt, smoothies, and mashed potatoes are ideal. Do not use straws as the suction can disrupt the clot. Gradually reintroduce your regular diet over the week, but avoid nuts, seeds, and any hard or crunchy foods that might impact the extraction site. Stay hydrated but avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks to protect your oral health.

Exercise and Activity

You should avoid strenuous activities for at least the first 24 to 48 hours. High-intensity exercise can increase blood pressure and lead to excessive bleeding at the site of extraction. Gentle walks are a good alternative if you feel the need to move. After a couple of days, you can slowly start to return to your normal exercise routine as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Listen to your body and avoid activities that cause discomfort or increase bleeding.

Time Off Work

Taking time off work depends on the complexity of your tooth extraction and your pain tolerance. For a simple extraction, you may need a day to recover. More complicated extractions or oral surgery might require up to a week. It’s always a good idea to discuss this with your dentist, as they can provide a more personalised estimate based on your health and the specifics of your procedure. Make sure to arrange your work accordingly to give yourself ample time to rest.

Stitches

Some extractions require stitches to close the wound. Dissolvable stitches typically fall out on their own within a 1-2-week period. Do not spit forcefully or use mouthwash for the first few days, as this can disturb the stitches and disrupt healing. Your dentist will have made you a second review appointment if the stitches need removing.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed after tooth extraction for most patients. Here’s why:

  1. Low Infection Risk: In the majority of cases, the risk of developing an infection after tooth extraction is considered low.
  2. Natural Healing: The mouth has a good ability to clean itself with beneficial bacteria.
  3. Limited Evidence: Studies have shown that there is no evidence supporting routine antibiotic use to prevent pain, fever, or swelling after tooth removal.

However, there are exceptions. Dentists may prescribe antibiotics in specific situations, such as for patients at higher risk of infection (e.g., immunocompromised individuals) or for complex extractions. Always follow your dentist’s recommendations, and if antibiotics have been prescribed, make sure to finish the course.


How to Manage Pain: 4 Tips That Can Help Provide Relief From Post-Extraction Pain

Home remedies can be used to care for your extraction site in the days after your procedure to help with the discomfort.

#1 Pain Relief Medication

Paracetamol provides effective relief for dental pain. Adults can take two, 500mg tablets at 4 intervals in 24 hours. You must wait at least 4 hours between doses, and take a maximum of 8 tablets a day.

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory pain relief medicine. Adults can take two, 200mg tablets 3 times a day.

If pain is severe, it may be helpful to take paracetamol and ibuprofen together.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs are not suitable for everyone. You MUST NOT take ibuprofen if a doctor has advised you to avoid NSAIDS.

#2 Salt Water Rinse

After the first 24 hours, gently rinse your mouth with a salt water solution. This keeps the extraction area clean and aids in preventing infection. Mix one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and swish it around your mouth gently.

#3 Ice Pack Application

In the initial 24 hours, apply an ice pack to your cheek near the extraction site. Use 15-minute intervals to help reduce swelling and numb the pain. This can significantly ease the throbbing sensation you might feel.

#4 Soft Diet

Play it safe with your diet by sticking to soft foods like yoghurt, mashed potatoes, and soup. Chew on the opposite side of your mouth and avoid eating hard, crunchy, or hot foods which might aggravate the area.

By following these steps, you can manage your pain effectively and ensure a smoother recovery after your tooth extraction.


My Pain Isn’t Getting Any Better? When to Seek Help

It’s important to know when you should consult your dentist after an extraction. Too much pain or other symptoms might be signals that something isn’t right.

Jaw Pain

If you experience persistent or worsening jaw pain beyond a week, it’s time to seek care. Jaw pain that lingers could indicate an infection or other complications. Sometimes, pain can even radiate to your ear or other parts of your face. Don’t ignore it if it gets more intense or disrupts your daily activities.

Non-Management with Painkillers

Over-the-counter painkillers are your first line of defence after a tooth extraction. If pain continues unabated despite medication, this is a clear sign that something may be wrong. In some cases, you might need stronger prescription painkillers. It’s always best to talk to your dentist if the usual medications don’t bring relief.

Excessive Swelling

A bit of swelling is normal after a tooth extraction. However, if you notice swelling that increases after the first 48 hours, this might be a sign of infection or hematoma. Monitor the swelling carefully. Use a cold compress to manage it during the first couple of days. But if it worsens or doesn’t subside, contact your dentist immediately.

Airway or Breathing Difficulty

If you ever encounter airway or breathing difficulties following a tooth extraction, this is an emergency situation. Difficulty in breathing can be a serious sign, possibly indicating a severe allergic reaction or spreading infection.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Seek immediate medical attention if you have trouble breathing. Don’t wait, as this could be life-threatening.


Factors That Affect Healing

Healing time and comfort after a tooth extraction vary greatly due to several influential factors. Key elements include existing medical conditions, any medications you may be taking, and your unique biological profile.

Medications or Conditions

Certain medications can significantly impact your recovery. Anti-inflammatory drugs and blood thinners, for example, can affect your body’s ability to form clots, which are crucial for healing. To mitigate these risks, your dentist may advise you to take precautions or adjust your medications under medical guidance.

If you have diabetes, you may experience a slower healing process and face a higher risk of infection. Additionally, conditions like HIV weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to complications.

Oral radiation treatment for cancer patients often compromises the blood supply to the jawbone, increasing the risk of osteonecrosis, a severe condition where the bone tissue dies.

Your age and genetics play significant roles in how quickly you recover. Younger individuals typically heal faster than older adults. As you age, your body’s regeneration capabilities decline, prolonging the healing process.

Overall health is another critical factor. A robust immune system can ward off infections and speed up recovery. Conversely, if you have underlying health issues, healing might take longer.

Genetic predispositions can influence pain sensitivity and tissue regeneration. For instance, individuals with a family history of slow healers may also experience prolonged recovery periods.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and proper hydration will contribute positively to your recovery journey.


Complications following Tooth Extraction

After a tooth extraction, most people experience some level of discomfort that subsides within a few days. However, certain complications can arise, such as dry socket, sinus perforation, and osteonecrosis, each requiring specific attention and treatment.

Persistant Infection

If your healing is not going as you may have expected, there is a chance your socket may be infected. Look out for the following signs, and contact your dentist if you find you have one or more of the below:

Constant Pain: If the pain worsens rather than getting better, it might be a sign of infection. Normal pain typically reduces within a few days.

Increased Swelling and Redness: Look for unusual swelling, redness, or warmth in the area. Inflammation should decrease over time, not increase.

Pus or Discharge: Any pus or unusual discharge from the extraction site is a red flag. This can indicate bacterial infection.

Fever or Chills: A fever that is consistently high may suggest an infection. Chills accompanying fever can also be a warning sign.

Bad Taste or Bad Breath: Persistent unpleasant taste or bad breath may indicate an issue. This is especially true if it doesn’t improve with regular oral hygiene.

Take immediate action if you notice any of these signs. Your oral health has an impact on your overall health, and addressing issues promptly can prevent complications.

Dry Socket: Occurs in 2-5% of Extractions, More Common in Lower Jaw Extractions

Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a painful condition that affects about 2-5% of people after tooth extractions(1). It’s particularly common in lower jaw extractions, especially wisdom teeth.

Symptoms include severe pain starting a few days after the extraction, bad breath, and visible bone in the socket. Treatment usually involves your dentist placing medicated dressings into the socket to alleviate pain and promote healing. Pain management may also include over-the-counter pain relievers.

Sinus Perforation: Possible in Upper Molar Extractions

Sinus perforation is another potential complication, primarily associated with upper molar extractions. The proximity of the upper molars to the sinus cavity can sometimes result in a small hole forming between the mouth and sinus.

Symptoms to watch for include nasal discharge and sinus pain. If you experience these, it’s crucial to seek medical attention. Treatment might include antibiotics to prevent infection and, in some cases, surgical intervention to close the perforation.

Dying Bone (Osteonecrosis): Rare but Serious

Osteonecrosis, or dying bone, is a rare but serious complication that can occur following tooth extraction. This condition involves the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply.

Symptoms include persistent pain and exposed bone in the socket area. Prompt treatment is essential and typically involves surgical intervention to remove the dead tissue and antibiotics to prevent infection. If you notice any unusual or prolonged pain, it’s important to contact your dentist immediately.


Frequently Asked Questions

Tooth extraction recovery varies from person to person, but certain common questions about pain management and what to expect are frequently asked. Here are key points on managing discomfort, what sensations are normal, and what might require further attention.

What can I do to ease the discomfort following a tooth extraction?

You can use over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to manage pain. Cold compresses help reduce swelling, especially within the first 24 hours. After the first day, warm compresses can soothe the area. Avoid strenuous activities and follow your dentist’s instructions to ensure proper healing.

Is it normal for my tooth socket to still feel sore a week post-extraction?

Yes, some soreness can persist for up to a week. If the pain gradually decreases, it’s usually part of the healing process. However, if the pain intensifies or is accompanied by swelling or pus, contact your dentist.

Up to what duration should I expect jaw soreness to persist after having my tooth removed?

Jaw soreness can last up to two weeks, particularly if a wisdom tooth was extracted. This soreness usually diminishes each day. Eating soft foods and avoiding hard, chewy foods can help manage this discomfort.

Which signs should I watch for that might indicate an infection post-tooth extraction?

Watch for severe pain not relieved by painkillers, swelling, pus, a persistent foul taste, or fever. These could indicate an infection and you should contact your dentist immediately if these symptoms appear.

What day tends to be the most painful after having wisdom teeth removed?

The first 24-48 hours post-extraction are usually the most painful. This is when swelling and discomfort peak. Pain management techniques are most crucial during this period.

When should the throbbing pain typically subside after extracting a tooth?

Throbbing pain should start to subside after the first 24-48 hours. If it doesn’t improve or worsens after this period, it could be a sign of complications, like dry socket, and you should seek dental advice.


Conclusion

You now know that pain after a tooth extraction is a normal part of the healing process. While the discomfort usually peaks within the first 24 to 48 hours, it should become more manageable as days go by. Stick to your dentist’s aftercare instructions. Simple steps like avoiding hard foods and keeping the clot in place can make a huge difference in how quickly you recover.

If you’re experiencing severe pain that doesn’t subside or if you notice signs of infection like fever or swelling, it’s essential to reach out to your dentist promptly.

Feel you may need a tooth extracted but don’t have a dentist? Use our dentist finder to locate a qualified professional near you.

Remember, proper aftercare is key to a smooth recovery. Follow these steps, and you’ll be back to enjoying your life, pain-free, in no time.

Picture of Dr Jarri Amini

Dr Jarri Amini

BDS (Honours) London 2012. Jarri has worked as a General Dentist in West Yorkshire for over 10 years. He firmly believes that educating patients about their oral health is one of the most impactful aspects of his job. He has worked on the NHS and in Private Practice.

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