How much time should you take off after having a tooth pulled?
What amount of rest and recuperation is needed after a tooth extraction?
Once your tooth has been removed, you’ll need to set aside some “sick time” for rest and recuperation. After all, you’ve just had an invasive procedure performed and your body will need some time and assistance in setting the stage for the healing process that then begins.
How much time should you allow?
As you’ll discover while reading this page, in some, many, and possibly even most instances, the amount of time you’ll need to take off can be relatively minimal and just measured in hours. But for more involved extractions, the amount of leave you’ll require may be measured in days.
Either way, keep in mind that failing to allow for an appropriate period of recuperation after having a tooth pulled can be an invitation for the development of complications. But there’s no downside in taking things a little too easy for a little too long.
Recommendations about how much time you should take off …
… from work, school, running errands, performing exercise, physical labor, or even your daily routine.
The amount of postoperative rest and recuperation required following your extraction will vary according to the circumstances of your procedure and your health status. Here are some guidelines.
a) With routine extractions, it’s common to take the rest of the day off.
Most patients are probably best served by just going on home after their extraction procedure and taking it easy for the rest of the day.
After your extraction, a recuperation period is needed so the healing process can initiate properly.
- Doing so will provide you with a period of uninterrupted privacy during that awkward interval when your anesthetic wears off and your extraction site’s bleeding comes to an end.
- This downtime will also give you an opportunity to read through and get in sync with your dentist’s post-op instructions. (Nothing is more important in helping to prevent complications.)
If your dentist didn’t give you a written list, our page provides details about what’s usually needed: Post-extraction instructions – First 24 hours.
- And choosing a private location like your home will make it easier for you to adhere to the restrictions recommended in your dentist’s directions since you won’t have as many opportunities for intrusions, surprises, or accidents.
In some cases, even many, a full day of recuperation may amount to overkill.
Admittedly, with the easiest extractions (smaller teeth, unchallenging removal, small resulting wound, performed for a healthy patient with uncomplicated health history), just taking off an hour or two instead of all day maybe all that’s needed. But that’s not to suggest that after a brief duration you can then return to all of your normal activities.
Same instructions and precautions, just an alternate setting.
In all cases, no matter where you choose to continue your recuperation, you’ll still need to implement all of the exact same precautions and restrictions called for by your dentist’s post-extraction instructions, for their recommended periods.
It’s just that with less involved cases, after diligently adhering to all instructions initially until being able to determine that your extraction site’s bleeding is stopped and all seems normal and tolerable with your situation, that continuing on with your needed rest and recuperation can be accomplished equally effectively while being more productive (like sitting at a desk or listening to a lecture) as opposed to just confining yourself at home.
Ideas about where you might settle down for recuperation after your extraction.
Kinds of environments to avoid.
Immediately after having a tooth pulled, what you don’t want is to proceed to an environment where …
- Complying with your dentist’s instructions will be difficult or challenging in any respect.
- There’s potential for events that will raise your heart rate or blood pressure or have any potential for causing extraction site irritation or trauma because all of these things could disrupt your wound and the healing process that has begun.
The ideal post-op location.
The ideal place to take time off following a tooth extraction is one where …
- You can remain calm and sedentary. – Physical activity needs to be avoided. So does a stressful environment.
- Little interpersonal interaction is required. – Your primary focus immediately following your surgery should be concentrating on applying firm pressure (biting) on the gauze that your dentist has placed over your extraction site. Talking interferes with doing so.
- Enough privacy exists that you won’t hesitate to follow all of your dentist’s directions. – Like having gauze in your mouth, which may reveal hints of bleeding or look like a strange bulge to others. Or having an icebag on your face to minimize swelling.
- You have a place where you’ll be comfortable. – For example, reclining on a couch or relaxing in a comfy chair.
Usually, a person’s home environment makes the obvious choice for meeting these conditions. And that’s why it’s the location that’s most commonly recommended. But if you have a different local in mind that can equally meet them, that may work just fine too.
Common guidelines for recuperating following uncomplicated routine extractions –
When can you return to work or school?
Returning to routine non-strenuous activities (going to an office job, attending class, shopping) the next day should present no problem. If you have more aggressive or involved activities in mind (including during the next several days) you should clear them with your dentist.
Generally speaking, for people who are healthy who have had the easiest, most routine kind of extraction performed:
- After a short period of recuperation, you may be able to return to non-strenuous activities even the same day of your surgery.
- With extractions involving small-sized wounds whose bleeding has been easily controlled (think small single-rooted tooth vs. large multi-rooted molar), returning to moderate physical activity the day following your extraction may be permissible too.
Make sure to ask your dentist.
Of course, it’s your dentist who’s your most valuable resource about the subject of how much post-extraction downtime is appropriate for your case.
They’re the person who knows specifics about both you (health status, medical conditions, medicines, reported dental history, etc…) and the procedure you’ve just had performed.
And based on that information, and determined by their experiences with other patients, they can then give you a qualified opinion about the amount of time they feel will be necessary for you to take off. So, be sure to ask (or call back and ask).
b) With difficult or involved extractions, you may need to take off a few days.
In the case of relatively involved or difficult extractions, or cases where some method of patient sedation Common Options has been used, your dentist may feel strongly about the level to which you must limit your activities during the initial 24 hour period following your surgery, and possibly beyond.
Common guidelines for involved extraction processes –
When can you return to work or school?
- As far as participating in routine non-strenuous activities (school, desk work, running errands) the following day, even with your dentist’s OK the way you feel or look (like if pronounced swelling has occurred) may factor into your decision about how active to become.
- In regard to strenuous physical activities, your dentist’s concern about your well-being may extend for some days following your surgery. And as such, they may request that you limit your activities for a day or two after your extraction. You’ll need to ask.
It’s important to follow their recommendations, your safety may be involved. And remember, the way you take care of your extraction site (or not) during this initial period will set the stage for the healing process that follows and influence your potential for experiencing complications during it.
And of course, like stated above, because it’s your dentist who’s most knowledgeable about details pertaining to you, your medical status, and your procedure, they are the one with the most qualified opinion about the level of post-op recuperation that it’s expected that you’ll need, so ask (or call back and ask).
c) Taking time off from school or work. / Sick leave. – What research studies have found.
Here are some examples of what research studies have reported about the amount of time off patients typically require after having teeth taken out.
FYI: You may notice these points about the information in this section.
- Yes, all of the studies we found on this subject are pretty dated. But then again, over the decades nothing especially significant has changed about the way dentists pull teeth (it’s still just using tools to apply leverage to teeth). So, we feel what they report about the amount of sick time patients needed following their surgeries can still be considered valid.
- The following studies only considered wisdom tooth extractions, which you might think is a special, more difficult type of case. And in some ways, you’d be right. As opposed to other teeth in the mouth, no doubt a higher percentage of 3rd molar cases likely are comparatively more involved surgeries.
But that’s not always the case and, in fact, some wisdom tooth extractions can be astoundingly quick and simple (especially upper ones). And since these studies evaluated a full range of types of cases (simplest to most difficult), what’s stated about the shorter end of the amount of time needed for rest and recuperation is probably pretty comparable to what you might expect with a more commonplace (non-wisdom tooth) extraction.
This study followed 201 patients who had third molars (wisdom teeth) removed. The mean number of days taken off for recuperation was 1.07 days (termed in the study as an “inability to work”). However, it also reported that 43% of patients “did not indicate any reduction in working ability.”
As confirmation of this second finding, the authors cited another study (Sindet-Pederson, 1986) that reported 57% of patients reported “no reduction in daily functional ability” following their extraction.
This paper followed the healing outcomes of 522 patients that had 3rd molars removed (from the simplest to very involved surgeries). 81% of the patients took time off from work, for an average of 3 days (with a range of 0 to 10 days). 19% of the patients took no time off.
This study also evaluated patient healing outcomes associated with 3rd molar extractions (about 2000 of them). It found that on average patients missed 1.2 days of work, or were unable to perform normal daily activities.
40% of the teeth removed were erupted ones (had come through the gums into a relatively normal position). Removing erupted teeth typically creates less surgical insult than impacted ones, thus possibly explaining the lower amount of recuperation time reported by this study.
Researchers performing this study evaluated the outcomes of 266 patients who had 3rd molar (wisdom tooth) extractions.
- Patients who had their teeth removed under general anesthesia took on average 5.7 days off from work.
- Patients who had their teeth removed just using a local anesthetic (regular dental “shots”) or else a local anesthetic plus the use of some type of sedation took off 2.9 days.
(As opposed to general anesthesia, these are the kinds of services most likely to be provided in the office of a general dentist or oral surgeon.)
As an interesting side note, this paper found that patients were found to significantly underestimate the number of days that it would take them to recover from their surgeries (estimated 2.7 days vs. 4.7 days actual).
Page references sources:
Berge TI. Inability to work after surgical removal of mandibular third molars.
Edwards DJ, et. al. Impact of third molar removal on demands for postoperative care and job disruption: does anaesthetic choice make a difference?
Hu ML, et al. Development of an oral and maxillofacial surgery outcomes system for anesthesia and third molar removal: Results of alpha and beta testing.
Lopes V, et al. Third molar surgery: an audit of the indications for surgery, post-operative complaints and patient satisfaction.
All reference sources for topic Tooth Extractions.