Can you smoke after a tooth extraction? The short answer is no, not for at least 72 hours. Read on to learn how smoking increases the likelihood of needing a tooth extraction, what happens if you smoke after your extraction, what causes dry sockets, and how to safely smoke after your tooth extraction.
There are a number of reasons why you may need a tooth extraction. Most frequently, patients require third molar teeth (we usually call them “wisdom teeth”) removal. Some swelling and pain are expected after a tooth extraction, but the process can be particularly challenging for smokers. Smoking puts an additional strain on the body, which is made worse when the body is trying to heal. Because smoking impairs the body’s ability to heal, it creates problems after having a tooth extraction.
Why Do Smokers Need a Tooth Extraction?
There are a few reasons for needing to have a tooth extracted, including smokers being at higher risk of needing an extraction due to periodontal disease such as gingivitis. This is because smoking causes gum inflammation which in turn increases the production of something called “cytokines” that can lead to periodontal disease, which in turn can cause the need for a tooth extraction.
Wisdom teeth are also one of the primary reasons for a tooth extraction – they are difficult to brush thoroughly so bacteria can build up. Smoking adds nicotine to that bacteria which can cause decay or damage that cannot be repaired.
If tooth decay is bad enough the will need to be extracted, and smoking can lead to advanced tooth decay. When a tooth with a lot of decay is not removed it risks damage to the surrounding teeth, gums, and mouth.
What Happens If I Smoke After a Tooth Extraction
Smoking after tooth extraction can lead to a number of different complications. After tooth extraction, your mouth is very delicate. A blood clot is formed in the empty socket where the tooth used to be, special cells called fibroblasts are helping with the wound healing, and bone creation has started.
Smoking hinders all of these parts of the healing process. When you smoke, your blood pressure increases which can cause bleeding and dizziness. Tobacco damages cell tissues and smoking decreases the amount of oxygen and nutrients your blood can bring to the wounded area which slows healing. Since smoking slows the healing process it means you’ll be in pain longer and are at a higher risk of infection.
To sum up, the possible complications from smoking after tooth extraction are
- High blood pressure
- Slower healing process
- Risk of getting an infection
- Dry socket
Dry Sockets: They Can Be Even More Painful Than the Extraction Process
Having your tooth removed is not a pleasant experience; however, it can be made even worse if a dry socket develops afterward. A dry socket, also called alveolar osteitis, is associated with intense pain around the surgery site, a longer healing period, and is caused by sucking actions such as smoking or using a straw. The socket is a hole in the bone. After the extraction procedure, the blood clot emerges in the socket protecting the nerves from infections. However, sometimes the clot can be broken, causing the nerve and bone to become exposed. Dry sockets are not only incredibly painful, but they increase the risk of infection because the bone is exposed. You should try to avoid creating a dry socket at all costs, as it will be incredibly painful for 5-6 days as well as increase the risk of infection.
You can try to avoid these painful aftereffects by:
- not drinking from a straw
- not smoking after the procedure
- keeping proper oral hygiene
When Can I Smoke After Tooth Extraction?
The best practice is to wait at least 72 hours, or 3 days, after a tooth extraction to smoke. Why wait that long? Because that’s how long it takes to reduce the likelihood of a dry socket. It takes time for a blood clot to form where the removed tooth was, and waiting 3 days gives the clot enough time to form so healing can take place.
However, the longer you can wait the better and the more your body will be able to heal. Try to wait to smoke until you can look in a mirror and see that your gums have started healing.
If you can’t wait the full 3 days before smoking, try to rinse your mouth with warm salt water after each time you smoke as well as after eating and drinking. This does not guarantee you’ll avoid a dry socket, but it does offer some additional protection.
Smoking After a Tooth Extraction With Gauze
You should not smoke after tooth extraction with gauze for at least 48 to 72 hours, and you should confirm with your dentist how long you should wait.
Your dentist may advise you to put sterile gauze where you had the tooth extraction. When you do start to smoke again, it is very important to use gauze to help reduce the pressure on the wound. Gauze helps protect the wound in two ways: it prevents some of the smoke from reaching the wound and reduces pressure on the wound making the blood clot less likely to dislodge and cause a dry socket.
To smoke while using gauze:
- Cut a strip of gauze for each extraction area, and soak the gauze in cold water
- Gently set the gauze over the extraction site(s)
- Seal the extraction by very gently biting down on the gauze, and try not to grit your teeth
- Inhale on the cigarette as gently with as little suction as possible
Why You Shouldn’t Smoke After a Tooth Extraction
It is important to keep your teeth clean. Make sure that no food or debris gets in the socket, avoid any hard foods, and avoid any sucking actions such as smoking or using a straw.
If you smoke after waiting 3 days make sure to watch for the signs of a dry socket, which are pain at the extraction site, bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, ear pain, and swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms call your dentist immediately.
Here at Aesthetic Dental we have a team of Santa Clarita dentists who can help you with all kinds of tooth extractions, natural-looking tooth replacements, and implant dentistry. Please feel free to give us a call for a complimentary consultation.
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