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The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
Before any oral surgical procedure you should:
- Eat a light and easily digestible meal the night before your appointment
- If you are going to be sedated, DO NOT eat or drink anything on the day of your appointment
- Wear short sleeves and loose-fitting clothing
- Arrange for a relative or friend to stay in the office with you and be ready to drive you home
- You may NOT drive a car on the day of the surgery if you are to be sedated!
Fold a piece of clean gauze into a pad thick enough to bite on and place directly on the extraction site. Apply moderate pressure by closing the teeth firmly over the pad. Maintain this pressure for about 30 minutes. If the pad becomes soaked, replace it with a clean one as necessary. Do not suck on the extraction site (as with a straw). A slight amount of blood may leak at the extraction site until a clot forms. However, if heavy bleeding continues, call your dentist. (Remember, though, that a lot of saliva and a little blood can look like a lot of bleeding.)
The Blood Clot
After an extraction, a blood clot forms in the tooth socket. This clot is an important part of the normal healing process. You should therefore avoid activities that might disturb the clot.
Here's how to protect it:
- Do not smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously or drink through a straw for 24 hours.
- Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day. You should, however, brush and floss your other teeth thoroughly. Gently rinse your mouth afterwards.
- Limit strenuous activity for 24 hours after the extraction. This will reduce bleeding and help the blood clot to form. Get plenty of rest.
- If you have sutures, your dentist will instruct you when to return to have them removed.
Your dentist may prescribe medication to control pain and prevent infection. Use it only as directed. If the medication prescribed does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. Please call your dentist immediately if you have prolonged or severe pain, swelling, bleeding, or fever.
Swelling & Pain
After a tooth is removed, you may have some discomfort and notice some swelling. You can help reduce swelling and pain by applying cold compresses to the face. An ice bag or cold, moist cloth can be used periodically. Ice should be used only for the first day. Apply heat tomorrow if needed. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
After the extraction, drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods. Avoid alcoholic beverages and hot liquids. Begin eating solid foods the next day or as soon as you can chew comfortably. For about two days, try to chew food on the side opposite the extraction site. If you are troubled by nausea and vomiting, call your dentist for advice.
The day after the extraction, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water (teaspoon of salt in an 8 oz. glass of warm water). Rinsing after meals is important to keep food particles away from the extraction site. Do not rinse vigorously!