Dental surgery isn’t as easy to rest and recover from as a regular check-up. After getting an extraction or other surgical procedure, you'll need to give your body some good rest and relaxation as soon as possible. Sometimes, you might even need to stay home for a good 2 or 3 days before getting right back into work or school. Here are some good pain management and recovery strategies to use the next time you need to get major dental surgery.
Studies have shown that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are more effective and much safer to use than opioids. This is because NSAIDs are better at addressing inflammation—a common cause of pain after dental surgery—and because they carry fewer side effects. Unlike opioids, which can induce analgesia (complete loss of sensation or pain) as a side effect, NSAIDS are specially formulated to only induce painlessness up to a certain degree. Furthermore, people are less likely to abuse NSAIDs since they’re less likely to induce withdrawal or dependence.
Taking NSAIDS and non-opioids at regular scheduled intervals is usually safer and more effective than using opioids. People suffering from mild to moderate pain can benefit greatly from using a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. This is because acetaminophen increases the body’s tolerance to pain, while ibuprofen reduces painful swelling and inflammation. Of course, you should also consult your doctor before taking any medication at home to assess possible side effects first. It’s also important to strictly follow dosage instructions in order to avoid additional health complications.
Opioids are usually prescribed in cases where the pain is severe, or in cases where the patient cannot use non-opioid pain relievers. Though opioids alone don’t cause addiction, they can cause a bit of dependence after at least a week of regular use. If you need to take opioids, you should gradually taper the doses towards the end of use in order to avoid possible withdrawal symptoms.
If your dentist prescribes a product combining an opioid with acetaminophen, be sure not to use more than 4 grams of acetaminophen per day to avoid any possible harm to your liver. You should avoid using opioids entirely if you’re receiving treatment for opioid abuse or if you’re already using opioids for other conditions.
Anesthesia and sedatives can make you quite woozy after a dental procedure. If you feel like you can’t focus as much as you should, it’s best to avoid driving or doing other activities that require complete presence of mind.
Strenuous physical activity should also be avoided since they can exacerbate your wounds and worsen bleeding. You should be cleared to do any needed work after at least a week of rest. If you’ve had wisdom teeth extracted, it’s best to wait for at least 2 weeks before doing any heavy or exhausting activities. When it’s time to sleep, you should elevate your head by putting two or three pillows underneath.
Besides using NSAIDS, placing an ice pack on your cheeks is also a good way to reduce any post-surgery swelling. You can try using an ice pack on each of your swollen cheeks at 20-minute intervals 24 hours after surgery in order to reduce any lingering pain.
Gentle rinsing 24 hours after surgery will help keep the wound site clean in a painless and harmless way. You should mix a teaspoon of salt with a glass of warm water then rinse gently four times a day. You should also rinse after eating in order to keep food debris from digging into your surgical wound.
You might encounter some bleeding after tooth extractions and other similar procedures. You can manage excessive bleeding by biting down on a clean and fresh gauze pad plastered over the wound site. Be sure to do this for at least an hour a day, and to replace gauze pads that have become too bloodied to use.
It’s important to avoid any hard, tender, and chewy food while your surgical wound hasn’t healed yet. During the first few days after your surgery, you should stick to a diet comprised mainly of liquids and soft food. The best food to eat 2 days after your surgery include mashed potatoes, soup, ice cream, refried beans, and milkshakes as they don’t require you to bite down or chew on anything. On the third day, you can eat soft sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and other foods that only require minimal chewing.
Hot food and drinks should be avoided during the first day of recovery as they can pose a danger to your surgical wound. Straws can also dislodge the blood clot and cause complications, so you shouldn’t use them if your wound hasn’t healed yet. After a week of recovery, you can go back to following your regular diet.