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Think You've a Gum Infection After a Tooth Extraction?

Updated: May 1

It's possible to get a gum infection after a tooth extraction because the surgical site is an open wound which increases the chance for bacterial infection. However, good aftercare can help minimize the chances for adverse outcomes.


tooth extraction hole
tooth extraction hole

Table of Contents:


Signs of a gum infection after tooth extraction

Having a tooth extraction does not preclude you from getting a gum infection. The bacteria do not care about the state that your mouth is in. In fact, you're more prone to getting infections after the extraction because you've an open wound where the surgical site is.


Food, debris, and bacteria can more easily penetrate into the wound since it is wide open and welcoming everything into it. If you do end up with an infection, there are ways to tell.


Signs and symptoms of a gum infection after tooth removal:

  • Purulence. If you see white fluids oozing out of the gums, that is called pus and it is a tell tale sign of an active infection.

  • Foul odor. A bad smell coming from the tooth socket.

  • Bad taste. You notice a bad tasting drainage.

  • Worsening pain. Pain after a tooth extraction typically lasts for a week with the intensity peaking after 48-72 hours. After that point, the pain should gradually decrease. However if you notice a trend towards increasing pain, that is a sign something is wrong.

  • Persistent swelling. The swelling should gradually decrease with each successive day. If the swelling stays the same or increases, it could be an infection.

  • Fever. Rising body temperature means that some type of infection is present.

  • Bleeds easily. The bleeding should stop after the first day of the procedure. If you have continued bleeding from the gums, something could be wrong.

  • Elevated blood pressure. If it is severe enough, it can cause your heart to beat faster.


white stuff in extraction hole
white stuff in extraction hole

Basically when the gums become infected, it will look very different from the rest of your gums. Normal looking gums are taut and light pink in color. If they get infected, they tend to look bright red and swollen. They'll also bleed fairly easy as soon as you touch them. Last but not least they will feel painful.


What caused it?

After an extraction you are at an increased risk for gum infections since you have a wide open wound that is exposed to the oral environment. The reasons are too many to count but here are a couple of common causes.

  • Residual infection. After the tooth has been removed, your dentist will clean the entire socket out. However there are times where some bacteria escape into an unreachable area and re-proliferate.

  • Food lodged in the gums. It may be a coincidence but perhaps you were eating and a piece of food gets stuck in the gums, thus causing it to swell.

  • Inadequate oral hygiene. After an extraction, it is definitely harder to brush and floss since the entire mouth is tender. If you don't keep up with keeping your teeth and gums clean, you can end up with an infection.

  • Did not take antibiotics. You may not always get prescribed antibiotics but if you do, you better take them! Non-compliance may lead to complications like a gum infection.


How to treat it

If there is an infection in your gums after the tooth removal, you will need to see a dentist. There is no at home remedy that can cure this condition. Here are some of the treatments that you may need.

  • Incision and drainage. If the condition is left untreated, the swelling will turn into an abscess. Once it does, it will need to be drained in order for it to deflate. No, you can't pop the abscess by yourself at home.

  • Gingival curettage. This procedure involves directly scraping the inside of the gums. It removes inflamed tissue from the interior of the gingiva.

  • Antibiotics. A gum infection will need adjunctive antibiotic therapy for successful treatment. You'll most likely need to take it for the next seven days.

  • Prescription rinse. Chlorhexidine is one of the most commonly prescribed medicated mouth rinses for gum infections. You use it twice a day for two weeks. The taste may leave much to be desired but it is very effective in getting the gums healthy.


Tips for prevention

Sometimes it may be inevitable but if you follow the tooth extraction aftercare closely, you can at least minimize the chances of a gum infection occurring.

  • Maintain oral hygiene. Despite the soreness and tenderness from taking out a tooth, you still need to brush and floss. That is the only way to keep your gums and teeth free from debris that may get lodged into them.

  • Salt water rinses. Vigorously rinsing with salt water after every meal will prevent food from getting stuck in the extraction hole. Sometimes the gums can get infected if food gets trapped in there the wrong way.

  • Avoid hard foods. The recommendation is to stick to soft foods after your procedure because they are less likely to become lodged in the gums or tooth hole. Small hard foods like nuts, granola, or seeds are very likely to get stuck in the gums.

  • Take prescribed medication. If you were prescribed antibiotics, you better take them. If your dentist didn't think you were at risk for an infection, they wouldn't have given you any.


Takeaway

It is certainly possible to get a gum infection after a tooth extraction. You may even be at a higher risk for one since you have a wide open wound after the surgical procedure.


If you do happen to get your gums infected you will need to return to your dentist to have it treated. There isn't really an effective home remedy to cure this condition! Don't be too bummed out about it because sometimes it is inevitable. Infection is a risk factor for the procedure if you read the consent forms carefully.


Those are all of the tips that our dentists in Long Island City can give you. If you've any further questions you should contact your own dentist for a consultation.

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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!

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