Oral Surgery Aftercare: How to Plan Ahead and What to Expect

Posted on January 6, 2019


The good news is, the most difficult part is over! You've booked in your surgery, turned up on the day, are on the other side of the anesthetic and surgery, and you're ready to be picked up and taken home.

Here's the part where a lot of people go wrong - oral surgery doesn't end once you leave the clinic. To make sure you get the best results and give your body the best chance at recovering without any further complications, you've got to have an aftercare recovery plan in place.

We've put together a quick guide to help you tackle the immediate days post-surgery, and speed up your recovery process. There's even a little checklist included so you can do your shopping beforehand! Turns out five-star aftercare and a speedy recovery don't have to drain your wallet or take a lot of extra effort at all.

On the day of surgery

This is the time when the site of surgery is most sensitive and needs to be treated with extra care. No matter what your surgery was specifically (eg. wisdom tooth extraction, root canal, implants), taking care of yourself in the first few hours will determine how smoothly your recovery process goes.

Here's what to look out for once you get home to recover:

What to drink

Keeping your fluids up is the number one priority. Your body has experienced trauma and dehydration will slow the recovery process and make you feel worse.

  • Make sure not to drink any hot or extremely cold water - the ideal temperature is lukewarm, so not to irritate the extraction site or dislodge the clot.
  • We'd also recommend avoiding using straws or sipping drink bottles post-surgery. The suction movement of air and cheek muscles can quite easily dislodge the blood clot and result in unnecessary bleeding and slowing recovery.
  • No vigorous rinsing or spitting as this can quite easily dislodge the blood clot and result in unnecessary bleeding and slowing recovery.

What to eat

Just because you've been through oral surgery, doesn't mean you're not going to be just as hungry as usual. You're also going to need to get the most nutrients possible out of the food you do eat while you're recovering, so finding the perfect food after surgery can be tough.

  • Same as with your fluids, make sure that nothing you eat is too hot or too cold. Consuming room-temperature or warm food is recommended post-surgery.
  • The softer the food, the better. You'll want to consume foods that don't require much chewing and that won't break off and get lodged in the surgery site, as this may cause infection. Soups, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, mashed bananas, and smoothies are great aftercare foods. After the first 24 hours post-surgery, you can slowly progress towards a normal diet based on your comfort level.
  • Make sure to keep nutrition in mind. The body needs nutrients, proteins, and minerals to efficiently recover and repair, so reducing your diet to only softened ice-cream isn't going to do you any favours. Look into what you're eating and pack in as many nutrients as possible into each soft meal.

What to do if you need pain relief

Depending on the extent and complexity of your surgery, some people will experience more pain than other post-surgery. Fortunately, your oral surgeon will be able to prescribe you painkillers, such as ibuprofen, that will help to relieve your pain.

Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Take your prescribed pain killers ASAP. The numbing experience from your anesthetic won't last long post-surgery so, if you can, beat the timer and take your pain relief medication as soon as you get out of surgery to ease the numbing transition.
  • Always read the box and take as directed. Taking more medication than is prescribed can actually have some adverse effects and make you feel worse. Always read the label and take the recommended dosage.
  • Rinse and repeat. If you stop taking pain relief, you're going to slowly experience pain symptoms. Make sure to take your pain relief as frequently as your medication label suggests - make it a routine!
  • As always, if pain persists longer than you feel is normal or something feels wrong - get in touch with your oral surgeon ASAP.

What to expect regarding bleeding and swelling

There are a few things to be expected post-surgery. Slight swelling, oozing or mild bleeding and pain are completely normal and will likely last a new days after surgery. Your oral surgeon will place necessary gauze pad over the extraction site on your gums, however you may have to reapply them yourself once you're home.

  • If bleeding persists, place a gauze or cotton pad on the site, and apply pressure by biting down firmly. This will help to stop the bleeding and form a clot.
  • Minimise the swelling. Depending on how soon after surgery, you can help to reduce the swelling of your gums and surrounding facial area. On the day of surgery, we recommend wetting a cloth with warm water and applying to it the side of your face. For the days following, we suggest the same processes with a bag of peas or ice pack.
  • Remember to rest. Give your body time to recover and allow the swelling to go down and bleeding to stop. Try and avoid exercise or vigorous activity, get lots of sleep and take it easy for the first few days.

How to keep the site clean

The biggest cause of issues after oral surgery is an unclean wound due to plaque or food residue. If you're not carefully keeping the site clean, you may risk infection.

  • For the first 24 hours, make sure you're rinsing your mouth with a saline solution (1/4 tsp of salt in a glass of warm water). Gently rinsing is the key - any vigorous rinsing may disturb the blood clot.
  • After a day, brush your teeth very gently, including teeth around the wound. Any build-up of plaque or food remnants could dislodge and become stuck in the wound, delaying recovery.
  • Diluted chlorhexidine mouthwash (such as Listerine) is a good way to get rid of any unwanted bacteria, but make sure to hold off a day or two before using this to wash your mouth. Mouthwash in an open wound does not mix well!

Aftercare Checklist

Before you head off to your appointment, a little preparation will go a long way to ensure your speedy recovery. Head to the supermarket with this list in hand and make sure you have a cosy spot to rest when you get home from surgery!

Food & Drink

  • Prepacked soups
  • Potatoes (for mashing later)
  • Yoghurt
  • Eggs (for scrambling later)
  • Table salt for mixing a saline solution

Pain Relief

  • Ibuprofen - please note, often your surgeon will prescribe you this so there may be no need to pre-purchase
  • Flannel or cloth (for wetting with warm water), will be provided with your post-op pack.
  • An ice-pack (or frozen peas if you'd rather), will be provided with your post-op pack.

For your teeth

  • A soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Chlorhexidine mouthwash


  • A cosy blanket, pillow, and spot to curl up and rest!


Think it might be time to check-in on your oral health? Book an appointment with the friendly North Shore Oral team today.

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Topics: Lifestyle, Surgery