Dental surgery and recovery

If you've had dental surgery, you might have symptoms including pain, bleeding and swelling.

There's a low risk of infection after dental surgery. You will not always be given antibiotics to take after surgery.

You can avoid infection by looking after your mouth after surgery. 


If you have stitches, these normally dissolve and you will not need to have them removed. It takes up to 2 weeks for them to dissolve.

If we use non-dissolving stitches these are removed at a follow-up appointment or by your local dentist or doctor.

Stitches can come loose or be lost immediately after surgery but this does not normally cause a problem.

How to look after your mouth

Brush your teeth as normal, but be gentle around the area you had treated. 

Rinsing your mouth with salt water can lower the risk of infection. Do not do this until 8 hours after your treatment.

From the day after your surgery, rinse your mouth with a glass of warm water containing 1 teaspoon of salt. Remember to spit the mouthwash out.


Do this 4 times a day, for 4 to 5 days after treatment.

Do not rinse your mouth on the day of surgery as this might wash out the blood clot and delay healing.

Signs of infection

If you have a tooth removed (extraction) and you think there is an infection, the pain and swelling will usually get worse about 4 to 6 days after surgery.

If you have an infection, you can be given antibiotics. Please be aware that antibiotics can make the oral contraceptive pill less effective. If you are using the pill, you should use another form of contraception while taking antibiotics. 

If you are concerned, contact the dental surgery department or your local dentist for more advice.

Symptoms after dental surgery


It's normal to have some pain after your surgery. This is usually worse in the first 2 to 3 days, before it starts to get better.

Pain is different for each person. It will depend on the type of surgery you had, and how much pain you can tolerate.

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, which you can buy from a pharmacy or shop. We do not automatically prescribe painkillers.

Please follow the instructions given by your dental team, and in the leaflet that comes with the medicine. Do not take more than the recommended amount (dose). 


Having some blood in your saliva (spit) is normal for a few days after surgery.

If bleeding occurs, use one of the gauze packs provided by your dental team. If you do not have a gauze, you can use a clean cotton handkerchief.

Wet it lightly and place it over the area. Bite firmly for at least 10 minutes, or until the bleeding stops.

If bleeding does not stop, contact your local dentist.

If you cannot contact your usual dentist, call the hospital dental team or go to your nearest emergency department (A&E).


After surgery, you might have swelling of the mouth. This is normal, even for simple procedures. 

The swelling might be visible outside the mouth, and you might have some bruising.

This can appear in the first 48 hours after surgery, and usually last for 5 to 7 days before being better.

It is a normal part of the healing process and does not mean you have an infection.

Dry socket

Dry socket is pain and inflammation in the area you have had a tooth removed (extraction). This usually starts 2 days after treatment. 

You might have increasing pain, a foul taste and bad breath.

This is a common problem, but it is more likely in people who smoke. There is also a higher risk of dry socket in people who take the contraceptive pill. 

Dry socket can be treated by carefully washing the area, and having an antiseptic dressing put on. This dressing can be put on in the hospital, or by your local dentist. 

If you are concerned about dry socket, contact the dental surgery department. 

Sensitive or tender teeth

It is common for teeth next to the area you had treated to feel tender, or more sensitive to food and drink. This is more common if you had teeth removed (extractions). This can sometimes be helped by using desensitising toothpaste.

Weak teeth

If the teeth next to the area you had treated are weak due to decay, or have large fillings or crowns, these might break during or immediately after surgery. 

If this happens, you will need to ask your local dentist to check these teeth and treat the problem.

Eating and drinking

Be careful when eating or drinking in the first few hours after surgery as you might be numb from the anaesthetic and can easily bite or burn yourself.

You might find eating solid foods uncomfortable for 1 or 2 days. A soft diet can be easier to cope with. 

Soups, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, bread and mashed potatoes are good examples of soft food. 

Hot food and drinks should be avoided for 2 days, as this could lead to bleeding. 

As well as the warm-salt mouthwashes, it is important that you still brush your teeth as normal, but be gentle around the site of the surgery.


Please avoid exercise for a few days after surgery.

Time off work

After local anaesthetic, most people do not need time off work after surgery.

After a general anaesthetic, most people need 2 to 4 days off work. 

We will normally warn you if it's likely you'll need to take time off work. We can't always predict how long this should be, as it is different for everyone.


Resource number: 2969/VER5
Last reviewed: July 2021
Next review: July 2024

A list of sources is available on request.

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Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, call the oral surgery department.

Phone: 020 7188 3885, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

In an emergency, go to your nearest emergency department (A&E).

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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