Can You Smoke After Tooth Extraction?
Nicotine is an extremely addictive chemical found in tobacco and many smokers find it relieving to have a cigarette, so it’s natural for smokers to want to smoke following a procedure they may have been nervous about, even if that procedure was in their mouth.
With almost 13% of the UK’s adult population smoking cigarettes at the last estimate, there needs to be concrete advice on when it’s ok to smoke following a tooth extraction, so people can allow their gums to heal following the procedure and get back to their normal lives.
Smoking is detrimental to your health, so if you wish to stop smoking, you can find many useful tips on the NHS website. However, if you smoke and are considering having a tooth extraction and want to know what your aftercare will be like so you can prepare with nicotine patches to avoid withdrawals, here’s everything you need to know about smoking following your tooth extraction.
Risks Following a Tooth Extraction
Almost 75% of adults in the UK have had a tooth extraction, so you may have seen a friend or family member with a swollen cheek after their procedure and wonder about the process. Fortunately, thanks to modern medicine, the process of having a tooth extraction is painless due to anaesthetics, although you may feel pressure on your other teeth as the problem tooth is removed.
After your tooth extraction, however, you will feel some pain as the anaesthetic wears off, and experience some swelling and bruising. You’re advised to take painkillers like ibuprofen according to the packet instructions to relieve pain and help reduce the inflammation once the anaesthetic wears off. However, the biggest risk following a tooth extraction is known as a dry socket.
A dry socket is where no blood clot forms over the hole left by the missing tooth, or that blood clot is disturbed and leaves the extraction site uncovered.
You have a higher chance of having a dry socket if:
- You have had a dry socket before
- You smoke
- You take oral contraceptives
- You don’t follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions
Each of these factors will affect the formation or stability of the blood clot due to its chemical contents or the risk of disruption. So why is the blood clot necessary for healing?
The Importance of Your Blood Clot Post-Tooth Extraction
A blood clot is your body’s response to an open wound; on the outside of the body, we produce scabs, and on the inside, including in the mouth, we produce softer, more jelly-like blood clots. Blood clots help a wound to heal by forming a seal around the open wound to prevent bacteria from entering, increasing the likelihood of developing an infection. They also contain white blood cells to fight any bacteria that may try to enter, and help the surrounding tissue and nerves regrow.
If a blood clot does not form or has been dislodged, it won’t grow back, so it’s crucial you look after the blood clot that forms and maintain good oral hygiene to keep the blood clot in place. It’s like picking a scab off of your knee; your body produces the scab to help the wound heal, and without the scab, the wound is more at risk of infection and will take a longer time to heal.
Dos and Don’ts Following Your Tooth Extraction
Your dentist will tell you what to avoid after your tooth extraction and when you can resume normal activities, however, generally, for at least 24 hours following your tooth extraction, you should not:
- Drink using a straw
- Eat certain irritating food and drink
Some of these factors should be avoided for 24 hours, while others should be avoided for at least a week, as it will usually take 7 days for the wound to heal sufficiently for you to continue your daily activities as normal.
By doing any of the above against your dentist’s advice, you risk preventing the formation of a blood clot or removing one that is forming and developing a dry socket. If you’ve waited months for an NHS appointment for your tooth extraction, paid to have a private tooth extraction, or been suffering from toothache and had an emergency tooth extraction, it’s not worth your time or money to disregard your dentist’s advice.
What Foods to Avoid After Tooth Extraction
You will need to eat after your tooth extraction, even though you may be in pain or find it difficult to open your mouth completely. But you should stick to soft, nutritious foods to make eating more comfortable and aid healing. Some foods will be difficult to eat, cause you pain and may disrupt the healing process so you should avoid them for the first 72 hours following your tooth extraction.
Foods you should avoid include:
- Crunchy foods
- Crumbly foods
- High sugar foods
- Spicy foods
- Very hot or very cold food
You should also avoid certain drinks following your tooth extraction, including:
- Fizzy drinks
- Very hot or very cold drinks
Alcohol, like smoking, can prevent the blood clot from forming and dissolve any blood clot that has formed, so should be avoided for at least 7 days after your tooth extraction for the wound to have sufficiently healed.
Smoking After Tooth Extraction
You should not smoke for at least 7 days following a tooth extraction to enable the socket to heal properly. This advice applies to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, pipes and anything else you may smoke.
The chemicals in tobacco have been shown to prevent healing and increase the risk of an infection developing in the socket, but also the action of inhaling the smoke, similar to drinking through a straw, can disturb the blood clot and cause a dry socket.
Having a dry socket will be very painful as the nerves that would be covered by the blood clot are exposed. This is usually even more painful than breaking your tooth or having a dental abscess that has caused you to need a tooth extraction in the first place, so you should follow your aftercare instructions carefully to help your socket heal well.
Many smokers believe that the act of smoking helps relieve stress, and cannabis smoking may relieve pain, but at least when it comes to tooth extractions, they will both actively exacerbate the wound and increase the pain felt.
If You Think You Need Emergency Dental Care
Toothache can be an unbearable pain, whether it’s before or after your tooth extraction, and may make you feel like you need to see an emergency dentist to recover, but toothache is rarely an emergency.
Usually, if your toothache won’t subside after a few days or after taking painkillers, you should call your dentist. If you’ve had a tooth extraction and are in great pain, you can use a torch and a mirror to look at the extraction site to see if there is a blood clot or a possible infection. Sometimes, a dry socket can cause an abscess, also known as a tooth infection, which should be treated as soon as possible.
Your GP cannot treat tooth infections, nor can hospitals, so you should contact your dentist or an emergency dentist as soon as possible to have your socket looked at and receive antibiotics if necessary. A&E can only see you for dental emergencies if the situation is life-threatening, i.e. if you are experiencing severe bleeding or swelling that is impacting your ability to speak, swallow or breathe.
If you believe you have a dry socket, you should also go back to your dentist to have the socket cleaned and dressed to help it heal without the blood clot.
Didsbury Dental Practice – Manchester’s 24-Hour Private Practice
Private dentistry may be more expensive than the NHS, however, it has numerous benefits that make it worth the cost, including getting an appointment at a time that suits you as well as having expert care with access to high-tech machinery.
If you need routine or emergency dental care in Manchester, contact Didsbury Dental Practice for an appointment!