Most patients feel a great sense of relief after a surgical procedure upon realizing that it was not as bad as they had anticipated. Next, however, patients wonder, “now what? What is normal and what is abnormal? Should I be worried about [fill in the blank] . . .?” This article briefly explains what a postoperative patient should expect as a normal part of the healing process, what a patient should do to best facilitate rapid and full healing, and what to do if unusual pain occurs.
There will almost always be discomfort and aching after the anesthesia has worn off. In fact, the pain could last a week or more. This is normal, and your healthcare professional can prescribe pain medication. Moreover, some patients have found that over the counter medication works just fine for them instead.
Some bleeding and/or oozing in the surgical area for the first day or two is also not unexpected. If bleeding or oozing occurs, resist the urge to poke around the area, since doing so may exacerbate any existing irritation. Also, swelling may occur. If so, it may reach its peak on the second or third day after the surgery before it begins to subside.
If bleeding or oozing persists, a patient can gently hold a moistened gauze over the area for about twenty minutes. Another useful trick to help stop bleeding is to moisten a black or green tea bag and gently press it onto the area. This lessens the bleeding because the tea contains tannic acid, an ingredient that constricts blood vessels, aiding in the formation of blood clots.
To combat swelling, use an ice pack on the day of surgery in ten minute intervals. Also, in the period following the surgery, do not smoke. Smoking impairs the flow of blood to the gums, preventing the normal restorative process from occurring. Smoking can also weaken the oral bone structure, and smoking speeds up the process of gingival recession.
Regarding diet, I usually recommend that patients consume only liquids and soft foods for the first week after the surgery. In the next few weeks after that, it is best to avoid chewing on the side of the mouth where the surgery was performed. Furthermore, during those weeks, try to avoid spicy foods, acidic foods, and substances that contain small granules such as chia seeds, nuts, and popcorn.
If the pain becomes unbearable despite the adherence to the protocols discussed above, it is a good idea to contact your oral health professional to find out what additional steps should be taken. However, some discomfort, pain, and swelling is normal after an oral surgical procedure. Luckily, such symptoms can be managed by prescribed pain relief, gentle suppression of any bleeding or oozing, proper diet and careful eating habits.
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