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Using Anbesol After Tooth Extraction: Yea or Nay?

Updated: Feb 8

It's not recommended to use Anbesol after a tooth extraction because it can create undesirable side effects that delay healing. If you're having pain after having a tooth removed, there are better alternatives which won't hamper your recovery.


Anbesol on the floor

Table of contents:


Can I use anbesol after tooth extraction?

It's not that you can't use anbesol after the extraction because it is a legitimate oral analgesic. That means if the tooth socket hurts from your surgery, it can help alleviate some of the discomfort that you're experiencing.


After all, the primary numbing agent in this product is 20% benzocaine which is the same exact ingredient as the numbing gel that your dentist uses. If they can use it, there is no reason why you can't as well. We do have a full visual guide on how to use anbesol.


Generic benzocaine
Generic benzocaine

Anbesol vs generic benzocaine:

  • Anbesol ingredient - 20% benzocaine

  • Generic benzocaine ingredient - 20% benzocaine

  • Essentially they're identical and will elicit the same effects.


However, you should be aware that using a numbing cream isn't a part of the standard extraction aftercare protocol. From the dental community's perspective it is not necessary and we can think of a couple of reasons as to why that is so.


Side effects from using it

Using anbesol after tooth removal can potentially disturb the blood clot and also delay healing. These unintended consequences may not be life threatening but they can prolong the time it takes for the tooth extraction socket to close.


Blood clot disturbance

Immediately after the tooth removal, the socket will be bleeding profusely and your main priority is to achieve hemostasis. Getting it to stop bleeding involves biting down on gauze for at least 2-3 hours.


Gauze given after extraction
Gauze given after extraction

Gauze biting should be the only thing that you're doing and nothing else. What that includes is fiddling with the socket such as putting numbing gel into it. If you're opening your mouth to apply anbesol, all that you're doing is simply delaying the formation of the blood clot.


biting on gauze model demonstration
How it looks when biting on gauze

Aside from that, it isn't really practical to do this because your mouth is probably full of blood and saliva. All of that fluid will simply dilute and wash away the anbesol you just placed into your mouth. You also won't be able to see too clearly since the socket is full of blood. You might as well just leave it alone.


Delayed socket healing

The tooth socket will naturally heal on its own and there isn't much that you can do to speed it up. However, there are quite a few things which you can do that may DELAY it's healing.

If you're constantly playing around with the socket and placing foreign substances into the it, it will interfere with the body's healing process


Think about it, your body is trying to close the hole but you're putting stuff into it. Your body can't close it until it gets rid of whatever you put in it. Essentially you'll be spending energy on clearing out the socket instead of growing gums to close it.


The key point we wish to emphasize here is to keep the tooth extraction hole as clean as possible.

  • When it's impeccably clean, that is when the hole will close up the fastest.

  • When it's not clean, that is when healing is delayed.


It is this cleanliness principle that your dentist advises you to rinse with salt water vigorously after each meal. It prevents food from getting stuck in the hole and helps to keep it clean. Sometimes it may take as long as 1-2 weeks before you can stop worrying about food getting stuck in the socket.


Alternatives for post-extraction pain relief

The best way to manage pain after having a tooth extracted is to follow the aftercare protocol, which includes all that you need to manage pain.


Pain management guidelines:

  • Take prescribed medications. Follow the pain medication dosing schedule and also remember to take your antibiotics IF you were given them.

  • Rinse with salt water. Salt water rinsing is the most important aftercare step that minimizes healing delay but is often overlooked. The rinsing keeps the socket clean and prevents food from getting lodged in there. A perk is that salt is also antiseptic which helps to reduce inflammation and swelling in the surgical site.

  • Cold compress. Alternating 15 mins on and 15 mins off can help numb the area with cold. The pressure will also help reduce facial swelling if you're swollen.

  • Avoid chewing on that side. The affected side will be tender to chew on which is why we recommend chewing on the opposite side more while its healing. You can slowly introduce harder and harder foods as the days go by.

  • Avoid irritating foods. Minimize the spicy, sour, and acidic foods because they can irritate the hole and slow down healing. Ever put anything acidic on an open wound? It burns and hurts doesn't it?


If you do all of the above, it should be more than sufficient and adequate to control the pain for routine extractions. However, if it's not working it may be an indication that there is a complication that is brewing. Also, in case you were hoping that orajel would have a different effect, no it is the same!


When will the pain improve?

Typically, the pain after an extraction should begin to improve after 2-3 days because that is when the pain peaks. Once you pass those days, you should begin to experience a decrease in pain.


post-tooth extraction pain distribution - left skewed bell curve

What we're trying to say is that you just need to make it through the first 2-3 days and after that you should be in the clear. The amount of discomfort will be significantly less after that.


However, if you're experiencing increasing levels of pain after 3-4 days, you may have a complication. There is a good chance it may be infected or you've developed a dry socket. In that case, you need to contact your dentist right away to begin treatment.


Takeaway

It is preferred if you do not use anbesol after an extraction because having the gel in the socket can delay the closure of the wound. It interferes with your body trying to heal and recover since it is a foreign substance and does not aid in wound closure.


It is best to stick with the pain management protocol that your dentist gave you. The most important one to ensure a speedy recovery is to actually keep the socket clean by rinsing with salt water. It prevents food from getting stuck and reduces inflammation.


Overall, you should expect to have an improvement after 2-3 days but if it doesn't, you may have a complication. In that case you should contact your dentist or if you're in Long island city, our office can help you!

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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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