A tooth extraction causes trauma in the mouth, and there are things that must be done to encourage healing. Sleep is an important part of the healing process, so it is necessary to ensure that a good night’s sleep is had after an extraction has occurred. There are a few ways to ensure that happens – as we will show you here.
Sleeping should be done with the head elevated, any pain medication recommended should be taken as directed so there are few interruptions to the sleep cycle. A cold pack can also be used to reduce pain and swelling to make sleep more comfortable, while it’s important to eat enough of the right foods to avoid waking up hungry.
As sleep specialists, we’ve put together eight steps to help you sleep after a tooth extraction. They will not only show you the correct way to sleep after a tooth extraction, but will also help quicken the healing process, and improve sleep quality.
1. Stay Elevated During Sleep
When the head remains elevated the circulation of both oxygen and blood is improved, and this will not only make it easier to fall asleep but will also support the healing process. It also reduces the discomfort that may be felt after a tooth extraction, lower the swelling, and allow for a more comfortable sleep. The head should also be propped up in such a way that it remains higher than the heart.
Options for elevated sleeping include using more pillows to rest upon, either using more regular sleeping pillows or a wedge pillow. If it is more comfortable, pillows can be added below the shoulders and even under the back to slowly elevate the upper body, neck, and head, rather than just using pillows directly under the head. Where an adjustable bed is available then we recommend used any setting that keeps the head higher than the heart.
Where neither of these options (using pillows to elevate your head or using an adjustable bed) is available or comfortable, sleeping in a reclining chair may be a suitable option. As recliners can recline back at different angles you should be-able to find a comfortable position which can subsequently provide a good sleep.
In some situations you can even raise the head of your bed by putting planks under the bed legs at the headboard, or by putting cushions underneath the mattress. Both will raise the top of the bed so it angles down towards the foot, and therefore will keep your head above your heart.
Additionally, body pillows or other pillows can be used on each side of the body to keep your body in the right position throughout the night. This lowers the risk of movement during sleep which would result in the head no longer being elevated as needed.
Simply put, keeping your head elevated is one of the most important steps when it comes to getting the correct sleep after a tooth extraction.
2. Take Prescribed Medication as Directed
A dentist may prescribe both pain medication and an antibiotic during a tooth extraction. It is important to take each of these as directed, and do not skip pain killers or take then further apart for the first day or two.
It is necessary to treat the pain, swelling, and discomfort in order to sleep well and to ensure that healing can continue. It is also vital to track when medication is taken to avoid overdose, which can cause other health risks or result in lasting damage to the body.
3. Use Ice to Reduce Pain and Swelling
When pain occurs an ice pack can be held against the side of the face for up to twenty minutes at a time. It should be wrapped in a cloth or towel to avoid damage and should be used for short periods of time only. This will reduce the swelling and pain caused by inflammation and allow the blood to continue to flow to the area and bring the nutrients needed for healing.
As the swelling and inflammation goes down there will be a reduction in pain and discomfort, allowing you to sleep and get the rest that you need.
4. Eat Soft Foods
It may be tempting to avoid eating for the first few days after a tooth has been removed as many foods will be difficult to chew and can lodge debris in the open socket where the tooth was. However soft foods should be consumed, and enough of them to allow a full night’s sleep without waking for a snack.
Foods like mashed potatoes, smoothies (without a straw), soups and even oatmeal can be enjoyed. After eating be sure to rinse the mouth thoroughly with water to remove food particles and avoid any debris getting stuck in the area of the missing tooth.
The fact is hunger can make it difficult to sleep and can even wake someone up during the night. As it is important to get a full night’s sleep to be-able to heal, it is therefore vital to consume enough food during the day. Other foods that are safe include apple sauce, pudding, bananas, and when needed baby food or blended meals can be used. Meal replacements can be included but should not be the only thing consumed as they will not safely replace each meal. Milk, yogurt, juice, broth, scrambled eggs, hummus, and even soft pastas can be enjoyed. Cereals that become soft when milk is added can be tried the day after the procedure, and over the next few days more foods can be added back into your diet.
5. Reduce Stimuli
Some methods of improving sleep are beneficial both after extraction as well as at any other time. This includes dimming the lights or turning them out completely and creating a dark and cozy space. Electronic screens are recommended to be turned off at least half an hour before bed, and cell phones should be put away. Remove other distractions by providing a white noise or other background noise to drown out any other noises such as cars on the street or neighbors.
Using pillows that are comfortable and keep the head supported will improve sleep while reducing body aches and pains during the day. A comfortable bed will offer support for the full night and allow you to get a good night’s sleep. Adjusting the temperature can also help, as lowering the temperature by a few degrees at night can result in a deeper and more restful sleep that results in a healthier body and faster healing.
6. Increase Hours of Sleep and Rest
While the body requires a certain amount of sleep, and that can vary by individual, when healing is taking place it is recommended to increase the amount of sleep that you are getting. The body heals more during sleep than during waking hours, so the more sleep you can get the faster you will heal, including after a tooth extraction.
For this reason, getting more sleep the first two weeks after surgery, and especially the first two to three days, is important. Eight to ten hours is recommended, preferably ten hours or more, and this can include taking naps during the day as needed.
Increasing quality sleeping hours will improve the reproduction rate of cells, and encourage cells to heal faster, while supporting new cell growth to replace damaged cells. As this occurs the area will be able to heal faster, and the chance of infection will be reduced.
If you are unable to reach the required amount of sleep, then more time should be spent resting when possible. In a resting state the body will divert more energy to healing, though not as much as during sleep, and you will find that you recover from the procedure more quickly.
7. Sleeping Routine
Having a set routine that is used before going to sleep will improve the speed with which you are able to fall asleep and may allow you to get into a deeper sleep faster than without a routine. This can include adjusting the lighting, brushing your teeth and getting a glass of water in case you wake needing a drink. Changing into pyjamas and settling into bed can help signal to the brain and the body that it is time to slow down and prepare to rest, slowing the thoughts and slowly releasing stress from the day.
Meditation can be helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep, and it will also help to move the body towards a state of rest and support healing in that way. Removing distractions such as cell phone screens, email or social media notifications, and others will also prepare you for sleep and help to ensure an uninterrupted rest.
It’s also recommended to have a routine for waking up in the mornings. That boosts energy and signals to the brain that it is time to focus on the tasks of the day. This time of transition, both before bed and in the morning, can help the body to function at its peak ability and this will increase the ability to heal itself too.
8. Remove Gauze Before Sleeping
After a tooth extraction you will be provided with a piece of gauze that has been rolled and placed in the location of the removed tooth. This will help to stop the bleeding and allow the space to remain clear of debris after the procedure. It is necessary to change the gauze as directed until it no longer needs to be replaced – your dentist will explain when that is. Do not go to sleep with the gauze in place, as it may cause pain, damage the extraction site, and even creates a choking hazard.
Going to bed at the same time as you normally do will help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep better. Before going to bed ensure that you have removed the last piece of gauze from your mouth gently, and dispose of it. If the gauze remains in for too long, such as while you are asleep, it can remove the clot that has formed when it is finally taken out, which will set back the healing process.
It may also become loose and cause choking to occur, or even be swallowed. This can cause further complications and anxiety, slowing down the healing and interrupting sleep even more. By removing the gauze you are preparing for a safe and quality sleep cycle.
How to Sleep After a Tooth Extraction: Summing Up
Any tooth extraction is a traumatic event for the mouth and gums. It can take weeks to heal, so it is important to ensure that you are able to get enough quality sleep to encourage the healing process to continue.
It is important to get more sleep than normal, and to get a good sleep the gauze must be removed. You must eat enough of the approved foods so you can sleep through the night, and take any pain killers and other medication you were provided.
Keep the head elevated so it’s above the heart to decrease swelling and pain, and to allow for a safe and comfortable sleep. By following your regular sleep schedule and routine you can help your mind and body know it is time to rest, and you will be able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
It’s during sleep when the most healing occurs, so it is vital to get enough sleep. Following these steps will help you achieve that. Ten or more hours of sleep is the recommended amount for the first few days, with eight to ten hours in the weeks following. As you add more solid foods back into your diet you may find that it is easier to stay asleep longer, but you may also require more water than usual to keep your hydration levels up while your body heals from the procedure.