After a tooth has been extracted or other oral surgery has been performed, you may be instructed to use gauze in the area. This will help to stop the bleeding from the surgery site and usually remains for a half hour or so, after which it is removed. It is not recommended to keep it in place for an extended time or to sleep with gauze in your mouth as we explain here. Sleeping with gauze in your mouth may also set back your recovery, as we show you below.
Gauze After Tooth Extraction
Once a tooth has been extracted a dentist will put gauze in place and ask you to bite upon in. This will apply pressure to the gum in the area of the extraction and help to stop the bleeding. This also applies to oral injuries sustained to the mouth, gums, and cheeks, or if an infection has occurred and gauze is being used to apply treatment to the area. Gauze holds the space, and will both collect any blood, but also will help to slow the bleeding faster, so it stops sooner.
After-care instructions will include when to change the gauze and how long it should be used for. In general it is usually changed after the first 20 to 30 minutes, and not used past 4 hours. If bleeding continues then you should contact your dentist for a follow up. Failure to change the gauze appropriately can also increase the risk of infection.
For those who have to be sedated for the procedure, gauze will be put in place by the dentist at the end of the procedure and the patient will be constantly monitored until they are fully awake and recovering. The gauze will be changed every half hour to ensure that it is indeed slowing the bleeding and to reduce risk of infection.
To remove the gauze, either for changing or to remove it for the last time, simply hold it gently with a finger and thumb and gently pull it straight from your gums. You can then insert a new rolled piece or leave it empty. Dispose of the used gauze in the garbage.
Healing After Dental Surgery
It can take a few days for healing to firmly start, but the gums do begin to heal soon after extraction. It is often recommended to keep the head elevated slightly for the first few hours, and even over the first night. Soft foods should be eaten, and the use of straws should be avoided. If pain continues it should be addressed quickly to avoid infections and other complications. (Recommended: How to Sleep After a Tooth Extraction: The Eight Steps You Must Take).
The Risks of Sleeping With Gauze in your mouth
So can you sleep with gauze in your mouth? There are some significant risks that would come from sleeping with gauze in your mouth, and most of them will result in choking. For this reason, if a sedated person is given gauze they are closely monitored and woken to change the gauze at least twice each hour. This prevents them from entering a deep sleep with gauze, and reduces the chances of choking.
When sleeping there is a risk that the gauze could fall out of place. This increases the risk of dry socket and may remove a blood clot that was forming – that would then begin the healing process again and allow the bleeding to recommence. Interrupting the healing when the gauze falls out can set back the healing process and increase recovery time.
If the gauze falls out when someone is sleeping there is also a large risk of choking. Choking can happen to anyone when they are in a deep sleep, and has several possible disastrous outcomes. If you wake up in time to dislodge it while choking there can still be damage done to the throat and the respiratory system.
Gauze that has become loose and out of place during sleep can also be swallowed. As the material is created to absorb liquids and becomes swollen when it does, it can be dangerous when swallowed. Increased anxiety, discomfort, and even pain can occur, and while increasing fluids may help it pass through the body more quickly, it is not a process that anyone wants to experience and it may cause complications.
Alternatively, many people will grind or grit their teeth during sleep. This can cause increased pressure on the gauze and lead to pain on the site as well as cause damage to any stitches that may be in place.
Where swelling increases after tooth extraction or other dental surgery, there will be increased pain and discomfort and the healing process will be slowed. These effects may interfere with regular daily tasks, can make sleeping more difficult, and cause pain to last longer. By remaining in an elevated position, rather than laying down to sleep, there is a better supply of oxygen to the area, as well as improved blood circulation and therefore faster healing.
When a piece of gauze is removed after an extended time, longer than a half hour or so, it can remove the clot with it. The gauze is in place to allow a blood clot to form in the area, which will stop the bleeding and keep the space filled and healing. If the gauze is in place too long it will allow the clot to form on the gauze rather than on the gums, and it can be dislodged when the gauze is removed. This can lead to dry socket, which causes high levels of pain and discomfort, and can risk infection and slow the healing process. This is another reason why you should never seep with gauze in your mouth.
It is never safe to sleep with gauze in your mouth, and so it may be best to schedule a tooth extraction early enough in the day that you will be awake for a few hours after the procedure. Changing the gauze regularly as directed is imperative to proper healing, and remaining awake with the head elevated will improve healing and reduce risk of injury.