Tooth extraction complications: Tissue swelling.

The normal type of swelling that takes place after a tooth extraction (due to the tissue trauma caused by the extraction process) typically follows a characteristic path.

Any swelling that does form will reach its peak at that point 24 to 48 hours after your surgery. Then, after this maximum point has been reached, the swelling will slowly start to subside.

How tissue swelling is managed.

Post-tooth extraction swelling is managed in two stages.


Experiencing tissue swelling after an extraction is a very common.

Any tooth extraction has the potential to cause postoperative swelling. So, if you do notice some facial enlargement after your surgery, don't be overly alarmed.

Swelling doesn't always occur.

Swelling doesn't have to be expected in every case. As a rule of thumb, comparatively easier, less involved extractions are less likely to cause postoperative swelling (because they result in less tissue trauma).

What to expect.

As an example, if the tooth you're having removed is reasonably intact and has a relatively normal anatomy and positioning, it's likely that your dentist will be able to tease it out without too much difficulty. If so, you very well may not experience any significant amount of swelling at all.

On the other hand, it's not realistic to expect that you won't have at least some swelling after having an impacted wisdom tooth surgically removed.


Treatment - Stage 1: Minimizing the total amount of swelling that forms.

You can minimize the amount of postoperative swelling that forms by way of applying cold packs to your face in the region of your extraction site. Here's an outline of the typical implementation of this technique.

What to do.

First, fill an ice bag, baggie or even a surgical glove (ask your dentist for one) with ice. Then, hold this ice pack against your face in that region directly adjacent to where your tooth has been removed.

Leave the ice pack on your face for 10 minutes, and then leave it off for the next 20 minutes. Repeat this cycle for a few hours, or even all the way through the first 24 hours after your extraction.

Why it works.

The underlying principle of this technique is the following -

The cold environment created by the ice pack causes the blood vessels in the region to constrict (become narrower). This constriction reduces the total amount of swelling-causing fluids that can be transported to the area. As a result, during that time frame when your body produces swelling (the first 24 hours after your tooth extraction), a lesser amount of swelling will form.

Treatment - Stage 2: Bringing the swelling down as quickly as possible.

During the time frame 24 to 48 hours after your surgery, any swelling that's been triggered by the tissue trauma created by the extraction process should have come to a peak. Once it has, you can bring this swelling down more quickly via the application of warm, moist compresses.

What to do.

A good technique involves the use of a hand towel. Dip the towel in warm water and then wring it out. Now, apply the towel to your face in the region where your swelling is most pronounced.

Leave the towel in place for 20 minutes and then leave it off for 20 minutes. Repeat this routine over several cycles. This process won't bring the swelling down immediately but it will help to bring it down more quickly than it would have otherwise.

Why it works.

The way this technique works is this. The warmth of the towel causes the blood vessels in the region to dilate (become enlarged). While dilated, the blood vessels will be able to carry away the fluids that have caused the swelling more efficiently (a greater volume of liquid per unit of time).


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