Sometimes an extraction is necessary. Your tooth is too damaged or maybe it’s in the back and it just seems more cost-effective to have it pulled. What you didn’t count on was your dentist telling you not to smoke and now you are in a panic, wondering ‘When can I smoke after a tooth extraction?’. Today we’ll discuss this so that you know how long you should wait as well as WHY you should wait. We’ll conclude with some tips to help keep you on track so that you don’t risk any complications that can arise from smoking after a tooth extraction. There is a very good reason why you should wait.
Dry socket – Something you want to avoid
Dry socket is the biggest reason why your dentist doesn’t want you to smoke after your tooth extraction. So, what is dry socket and what does smoking have to do with it? Dry socket is a condition where the clot in your healing extraction site becomes dislodged, resulting in exposed nerves in a now-empty socket. Smoking contributes to this in a few ways:
- Suction – Your dentist will advise you to avoid straws and spitting because of the pressure that is created in your mouth. Puffing on a cigarette does the same thing and this is not good. Suction or other high pressure in your mouth can dislodge the forming clot and result in dry socket.
- Blood pressure – Nicotine in those cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobaccos can increase your blood pressure. When you have just had surgery on your mouth, this increase in blood pressure can translate out to more bleeding and less efficient clot formation. This is another good reason why you shouldn’t smoke immediately following an extraction.
- The wound doesn’t stay clean – Let’s face it, smoking is not the cleanest habit. Bathing a wound in smoke is really not the best idea. You might be tempted to try covering the area with gauze but don’t–gauze can stick to the forming clot and remove it as well.
Generally you will want to wait at least 24 hours but optimally, you shouldn’t smoke for 72 hours. We know that this seems impossible but there are a few things which you can do in order to help to pass the time or quell the cravings. Some things to try are as follows:
- Movie marathon – Boredom and force of habit are often temptation points when it comes to smoking. Set up a marathon list of movies or a new tv series that you have been wanting to watching advance and park yourself in front of the TV. The longer that you can keep yourself distracted the more chance you will have of a strong clot forming, so that if you DO break down and smoke you’ll be less likely to end up with dry socket as a ‘parting gift’.
- Invest in nicotine patches – Let’s face it, nicotine is super addictive, so consider feeding that need with nicotine patches. Nicotine patches can help to take the edge off when you are trying to recover, just be sure not to smoke while you are using them or you will put yourself at risk for nicotine poisoning.
- Sleep in – If you put in for a couple of days off for your extraction, why not take advantage of this and get some extra sleep? In these fast-paced times the opportunity to get a little extra rest in doesn’t come often, so don’t waste it. Sleep and give yourself some time to heal, you’ve earned it!
“It will put your cravings to smoke into overdrive.”
- Lay off the coffee – Coffee and cigarettes are so often together that it’s almost a cliché. Caffeine is a bad idea in the first place, as it will increase your blood pressure and it will put your cravings to smoke into overdrive. Give temptation a little less to work with by taking a break from caffeine if you can, it will make things much easier.
How likely am I to get dry socket from smoking after an extraction?
Now that we’ve scared you a little by telling you what COULD happen, in the interest of keeping this article honest we should tell you that your chances of contracting dry socket by smoking after an extraction are statistically around 12%. That said, you really DO NOT want to be one of the unlucky ones. If you have to smoke, you should puff gently to help to keep that clot from dislodging. Ask your doctor if they can put a stitch the extraction site as well to lower your chances even further. While it is best to avoid smoking completely we realize that this may be unrealistic. Just do your best and try to put off that first cigarette for as long as possible.
How do I know if I have dry socket?
If your pain jumps from ‘irritating’ to a throbbing, very noticeable ache that spreads into your face and other parts of your head then you probably have dry socket. Bad breath can be an early warning sign as well so if you notice a foul taste following an extraction then you should make a dentist appointment immediately — you might be able to avoid the pain to come if it IS dry socket. Your dentist will likely gently rinse the area, prepare it again for clotting, and prescribe some medicine for the pain but this can add up to a week to your recovery time.
In this article we have discussed how soon you can start smoking following an extraction as well as the reasons why you shouldn’t do so in the first 2 to 3 days. Dry socket is unpleasant and if you ever get it once we guarantee you’ll find a way not to smoke those first 3 days following your next extraction. Don’t worry, you can do this!