Tooth Extraction Healing: What’s the White Stuff?


Tooth extraction is the most common oral surgery. Each year in the United States, more than 5 million people get their wisdom teeth extracted. Many other people get teeth pulled because of overcrowding, infections, or tooth decay.

If you’ve recently had a tooth pulled, you may notice something white form in your tooth socket. In most cases, this white material is granulation tissue, a fragile tissue made up of blood vessels, collagen, and white blood cells. Granulation tissue is part of your body’s natural healing process and isn’t a cause for concern.

If you’re also experiencing severe pain, the white material in your tooth may be a sign of a complication like an infection or dry socket. Keep reading to find out how you can tell the difference between your body’s natural healing process and other conditions.

If you aren’t experiencing severe pain 2 to 3 days after your tooth extraction, the white tissue you’re seeing likely isn’t a cause for concern. If you are experiencing pain, it may be a sign that you’ve developed an infection or dry socket.

Granulation tissue

After your tooth is extracted, your body will start its natural healing process. Your mouth heals in the same way as other parts of your body.

Within 24 hours of your tooth extraction, a blood clot will form in your socket to stop the bleeding. Once the clot forms, your body will start building granulation tissue to cover the wound. This tissue often appears a creamy white color and consists of collagen, white blood cells, and blood vessels.

What you should do

The formation of granulation tissue is a sign that your socket is healing properly. It shouldn’t be a cause of concern if you aren’t experiencing any other symptoms.

Surgical packing material

After removing the tooth, your dental surgeon will put gauze over the extraction site to control bleeding. It’s possible that a piece of the gauze can get stuck and leave behind a small piece of cotton.

What you should do

Unless the gauze is causing pain, you can leave it alone and eventually your body will take care of it.

Dry socket

Dry socket is the most common complication of getting a tooth extracted. About 1 to 5 percent of people who get a tooth pulled will develop dry socket. It occurs when the blood clot that forms over your tooth socket either fails to develop or falls off before your gum fully heals.

The development of dry socket can expose bone and nerves.

Symptoms of dry socket include:

  • severe pain days after getting your tooth pulled
  • pain that radiates from your socket to your ear, eye, or temple
  • loss of blood clot
  • bad breath
  • unpleasant taste in your mouth

What you should do

If you think you may have dry socket, you should call your dentist or oral surgeon right away. The hallmark symptom of dry socket is severe pain several days after surgery.

Food debris

White spots in your mouth may be pieces of food debris left behind after eating. These food particles aren’t dangerous by themselves, but they do have the potential to dislodge the blood clot while your socket is healing.

What you should do

After at least 24 hours have passed from your surgery, you can rinse your mouth with a saltwater rinse to dislodge food particles. Try mixing half a teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of water.

Infection

In some cases, you may notice white or yellow pus after extraction. Pus is a sign of an infection. Other signs of an infection include:

  • continued swelling past the first 2 or 3 days
  • worsening pain
  • fever
  • bad taste in your mouth
  • bleeding that continues for more than 24 hours

What should you do

If you think you may have an infection, you should see your dentist right away. Your dentist can confirm the presence of an infection and prescribe antibiotics.

If the white material you’re seeing accompanied with pain, you should contact your dentist right away if it falls out. This condition is called dry socket. It’s the most common complication of tooth extraction.

When this material falls out, your bone and nerves become exposed. Exposed nerves cause pain that can radiate from your socket to the side of your head. Exposed bone leaves you at risk of developing an infection.

A 2016 study looking at 2,214 people who had permanent teeth extracted found that 1.8 percent of people developed dry socket.

Any condition (smoking, creating a suction in your mouth, playing with the extraction area with your tongue) that results in premature removal of the blood clot formed in the socket of the tooth could lead to an increased likelihood of developing dry socket.

Plaque is a sticky film made up of bacteria. Normally, brushing your teeth and flossing breaks up this film. However, after several days of not being able to clean your tooth socket, you may notice white plaque forming around the wound. Once you’re able to clean around your extracted tooth normally, the plaque should go away.

You may also notice that your gums turn white around your wound. This is usually caused by the trauma of the surgery and should go away after a few days.

It’s normal to have some discomfort, swelling, and bleeding after getting a tooth pulled. If you don’t have any complications, your socket will likely heal within 10 days after the procedure.

If you think you may have an infection or dry socket, you should call your dentist right away. The dentist can diagnose and treat the issue.

Other signs that you should see your dentist include:

  • trouble swallowing or breathing
  • excessive bleeding
  • pus
  • numbness
  • blood in your mucus
  • persistent bad taste even after rinsing
  • severe pain not relieved by medication
  • swelling that gets worse after 2 or 3 days

After you get a tooth pulled, a blood clot forms over the wound. Shortly after, your body starts to produce a delicate tissue called granulation tissue to fill the hole. This tissue often appears white.

If you aren’t experiencing pain, the white material you’re seeing in your socket is likely part of your body’s natural healing process. If the white tissue is accompanied with severe pain, you may have developed dry socket. If you think you may have dry socket, you should call your dentist right away.



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