After your tooth extraction, have you been experiencing a foul or nasty tasting drainage in your mouth? You may need to do something about it but it all depends on a couple of factors in your particular situation.
The best case is that it is simply a normal part of the healing process for an extraction. The worst case would be some type of infection after a tooth extraction.
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How to decide what to do with the drainage
Depending on the combination of different signs, symptoms, and factors the post-extraction drainage could mean different things. Consequently it may require immediate treatment by a dentist or it could mean nothing at all.
How long has it been?
Is it painful?
What color is the drainage?
We've created a decision tree diagram to help you sort out your symptoms and decide what you should do.
White drainage before 3 days
If the foul tasting drainage in your mouth is white in color and it hasn't been 3 days, it may be an infection. Although it may be too early to tell if you only started taking the antibiotics. There is a chance that the infection could be on its way to clearing up.
Nonetheless, you should contact your dentist to follow up with them if there has been no improvement after a day. Pain or no pain is not a good sign at this stage because the tooth socket is just going to hurt since a tooth is missing.
Red drainage before 3 days
If the weird discharge in your mouth is red in color, it is most likely just blood. You just had a tooth surgically removed in your mouth so some bleeding is to be expected. Blood doesn't exactly taste the best so that may be what you're tasting. It may have a metallic kind of flavor to it.
Typically if you use gauze properly, the bleeding should've stopped after 3 hours of biting on it. Small specks of red here and there are normal but you shouldn't be oozing out blood. If you do have uncontrollable bleeding you should contact your dentist.
White drainage after 3 days
White colored drainage 3 days after your tooth extraction is a definitive sign of an infection. It has been too many days and even if you have been taking antibiotics, it should've been working by now. Contact your dentist immediately.
Red drainage after 3 days
Bad tasting drainage that is red in color 3 days post-surgical removal of your tooth is an indication that you've a bleeding disorder. You shouldn't be bleeding anymore after the third day unless you're not clotting properly.
While it is not an infection you still need to see your dentist. They'll most likely refer you back to your primary care physician so that you can be properly diagnosed.
Why the three day cut off?
As a part of our decision making process, we've used three days after the extraction as an important point in time. That is not an arbitrary number because there are reasons why we chose it. Drainage before that point could mean a lot of things and is not an accurate indicator.
Reasons to wait 3 days:
Pain peaks within 2-3 days. You can expect to be in pain after an extraction but the worst of it should happen within 2-3 days. After that the discomfort should gradually decrease with each passing day. Therefore pain is not an accurate indicator for something being wrong during this time period.
Takes time for antibiotics to work. You may have foul tasting discharge in your mouth but maybe the antibiotics haven't started working yet. Once you've given it a good few days, the drainage whether it is an infection should clear up by then.
Maturation of blood clot. Red drainage is most likely just blood. By the end of the third day the clot should've matured enough where you're no longer bleeding. Tiny specks of red are okay but most of it should have stopped.
Red vs White drainage
The color of the fluid which is draining from the extraction site is very important.
Red typically means that it is blood.
White is an indication of an infection because it is essentially pus.
Therefore one means that you're still bleeding and you may have a potential clotting disorder while the other indicates an infection.
Red drainage taste
Since this is essentially blood, it will more or less just taste blood.
Foul and bad tasting
White drainage taste
White fluids coming out of a surgical site is purulence (pus). It is essentially a mix of dead bacteria and white blood cells. They're the casualty of your body fighting an active infection.
Overall it is not a pleasant taste and if you see it, it would be prudent to seek medical help.
Treatment if it's an infection
If you really did end up getting an infection after a tooth extraction you will need to return to your dentist. Home remedies will not be able to make this go away.
Possible treatment options:
Incision and drainage. An untreated infection will turn into an abscess and you'll likely swell back up again. If that happens your dentist will need to make an incision and drain the infection. That is the only way to resolve the swelling.
Change antibiotics. You may need a stronger antibiotic to combat this recurrence of an infection. There may have been an antibiotic resistant bacteria in the mix.
Antibiotic mouth rinse. To ensure that all of the bacteria are dead, you may need to use a prescription rinse instead of the usual salt water.
A foul tasting drainage coming from your extraction site may or may not mean something. It all depends on a couple of factors such as how long has it been and what color is the discharge. Depending on the combination of factors you may need to contact your dentist.
The first thing you need to consider is how many days has it been since the procedure. If it hasn't been three days yet, the infection may still be clearing up from the extraction and also the antibiotics. You may want to give it more time to see if it clears up. You could be making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Although if it has been more than 3 days and you're seeing colored discharge, something may have gone wrong. Maybe the type of antibiotic that you're taking is not working or an infection escaped and has re-proliferated. It would be prudent to get a follow up or consultation along with reviewing the aftercare instructions.
Hopefully that answered everything that you wanted to know. Just as a disclaimer, each situation and condition is unique. That means it is impossible to give advice on what to do unless you're examined clinically. In other words, when in doubt it is best to see a dentist especially if the situation doesn't look like it is improving.