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by Elaine K Howley

October 3, 2023

Though it may be tempting to head straight to the pool after a minor oral surgery, it’s best to give your mouth time to heal

Oral surgery can be a real downer, especially if you’re trying to get back into the pool as soon as possible. And although it might not seem like it, having a tooth pulled is a form of dental surgery. Your dentist may have to cut part of the gum, and you may need a few stitches to close the hole where your tooth had been previously.

As with any form of surgery, having a tooth extracted brings the potential for infection. Immersing yourself in water, whether in the pool or open water, can introduce bacteria into the wound. Therefore, it’s best to stay out of the swim of things until the wound is healed, or your healthcare provider tells you it’s safe to venture back.

Dry socket is another problem that can develop after a tooth extraction. This complication occurs when the blood clot dislodges from the gum after the procedure. Dry socket can be very painful and may result from chewing gum, smoking, even just drinking from a straw. The loss of the blood clot further opens the wound up to infection and can lead to bleeding and further complications. Vigorous physical activity can displace the clot and lead to dry socket, so it’s best to keep your activities gentle while recovering from oral surgery.

The good news is the gums tend to heal quickly. This is because they’re made of cells that turn over quickly and can regenerate faster than, say, a bone cell would. For most routine, single-tooth extractions, 24 to 48 hours is likely enough time for the wound to begin its healing process and for you to get back to normal business.

For more involved extractions, such as multi-tooth extractions or wisdom tooth removal—which often involve removing impacted teeth from the jawbone—you’re looking at a no-swimming period of more like two weeks.

After any dental procedure, it’s important to follow your dentist’s advice and to keep your mouth as clean as possible. To help speed healing after an extraction:

  • Gently rinse your mouth with warm, salty water a few times a day.
  • Brush your teeth as directed (avoiding the extraction area) to remove food debris and bacteria that can accumulate in the mouth during the normal course of the day.
  • Use any medications or post-operative rinses prescribed by your dentist as directed.

If you think an infection has developed, contact your dentist right away. Signs and symptoms of an infection can include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling around the site of the extraction or on the outside of the mouth or face
  • Redness
  • Bad breath

If any of these symptoms develop, it’s important to seek care, as tooth and gum infections can easily become abscessed and lead to bigger problems.


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