Does Your Gum Grow Back After Tooth Extraction?

Your body certainly has the capability to regrow the gums back after a tooth extraction. If it didn't it would be catastrophic because you would have a permanent hole in your gums. That would not be good because food would get continually stuck in there and cause you discomfort.


This article will explain how your gums heal after a tooth removal and how long it takes to do so. We'll also go over some dos and don'ts which may help or delay the healing process.



Table of Contents:



How your gums grow back after an extraction

The vast majority of extractions which includes wisdom teeth removal, the gums heal via secondary intention. This is the oldest method of wound repair and it predates the practice of medicine.


Secondary intention wound healing basically leaves the wound open and lets it heal all on its own. In other words, after an extraction that tooth socket hole is left open and allowed to heal and close on its own. Thus, the gums will grow back all on its own without any intervention from you.


Alternatively, after tooth removal the gums could grow back via primary intention as well but it is often unable to due to physical reasons.


Secondary vs Primary intention wound healing

Secondary intention wound healing is the default method that your body uses to repair ALL wounds. It requires no effort from you nor any intervention at all. Your body already knows what to do and will do it all on its own.


On the other hand, primary intention wound healing is when you're able to stitch the wound together. This artificially speeds up the healing because it brings the wound closer together and thus your body has less work to do. It has less space to fill in and less of the wound to grow back if it makes sense.


Here is a diagram from teachmesurgery that depicts what primary vs secondary intention healing is. The visual is great for helping you understand what it means by "having less space to fill" in regards to regrowing the wound.


primary vs secondary intention wound healing

Why tooth extractions heal via secondary and not primary intention

Unfortunately, for tooth removals it will heal via secondary intention and not primary because it simply can't use primary intention. There is not ENOUGH gum for your dentist to stitch together after the extraction. Even if they put in a suture, there will still be a gaping hole and your body will still default to secondary wound healing.


It may be hard for you to understand what we're talking about so here is a picture of a wisdom tooth before an extraction as visual aid. As you can see the gums are already pretty taut around the tooth.


wisdom tooth with cavity

Now imagine taking the tooth out. There will be a gaping hole but there is not enough excess gum for you to stitch them together for the hole to close. Here is a picture of after a wisdom tooth has been taken out.


after wisdom tooth extraction hole

Basically there is no gums to pull together for your dentist to stitch it close enough for it to heal via primary intention. In case you were still not convinced, here is a picture of a tooth removal with stitches after a week of healing.


extraction socket with stitches

Do you see how even with the stitches in, there is STILL a hole in the gums even a week later? That is because there isn't enough gums for your dentist to stretch it close enough to heal by primary intention. This is one of the main reasons why your dentist won't put in stitches after most wisdom teeth extractions.


Related content: Here is an article about dissolvable wisdom teeth stitches in case you wanted to know about how long it takes for them to go away.


Therefore, the vast majority of gum healing after an extraction is done by secondary intention healing. That extraction hole will be left open and allowed to grow back all on its own. Yes, it will close up all on its own and we'll describe how long it takes next.




How long it takes for the gums to grow back after an extraction

After an extraction the gums should grow back on its own via secondary intention healing over the course of 4-6 weeks. That is a baseline average because some people can heal faster while others can take more time. It all depends on the individual's health and concurrent medical conditions.


Here is a good extraction healing timeline with pictures of an extraction socket healing over the course of 4 weeks by animated-teeth.


extraction healing timeline
Credit: Animated-Teeth

As you can see in the visual above, the gums slowly regrow back after the extraction. It closes up more and more with each passing week. It basically looks barely noticeable by the end of the fourth week. The gums should be fully regrown by around the sixth week.


However, just so that you know even though the gums may look regrown and the hole looks closed. The bone underneath still takes about 3-4 months for it to fill back in.




Tooth removal aftercare - Dos and Don'ts

Despite your body regrowing the gums all on its own without any intervention from you, there are still aftercare guidelines for best healing. If you follow these, it will help speed up the healing. If you don't follow them it will delay healing and slow down the rate your body regrows the gums after an extraction.


Dos after an extraction:

  • Rinse with salt water starting the day after the procedure. Do it vigorously after ever meal so that food doesn't get lodged into the extraction hole.

  • Soft food diet for the next 5-7 days. You may slowly reintroduce harder and harder foods with each passing day.

  • Do brush and floss your teeth. It is not an excuse to not do it after an extraction.


Don'ts after tooth removal:

  • Don't rinse, spit, or drink through a straw on the day of the procedure.

  • No smoking for at least 3 days but it would be best if you quit permanently.

  • Don't play around with the hole in the gums.

  • Avoid spicy and acidic foods.

  • Avoid small hard foods that can get lodged in the hole such as seeds, popcorn, nuts, and etc.


If your dentist prescribed you antibiotics, you should finish the entire course of it. Also follow any additional instructions that they may have given you because each case is unique on its own. If they told you something it is because it is necessary for you.




Takeaway

After a tooth extraction you will be left with a hole in your gums. Fortunately the gums will regrow and fill in the socket all on its own without you doing anything. It will heal via secondary intention which happens to be the default healing method for open wounds.


You shouldn't have to worry about the hole not closing because the gums will regrow whether you want it to or not. The healing should be uneventful and will be complete by the 4-6 week period.


However if you notice anything out of the ordinary or suspect an infection you should check back in with your dentist. Some signs to look out for are a foul odor or presence of purulence. Nonetheless, if you are ever unsure at any point you should just make a follow up appointment anyway. It never hurts to be safe than to be sorry!

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!