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After oral surgery


Below are guidelines to help your child recover from oral surgery. By following these instructions, you can reduce the chance of your child having problems after the procedure.


It is common to have some bleeding after oral surgery. To control bleeding, place moist gauze over the surgical site. Have your child bite down on the gauze, putting firm pressure on the site for 35–45 minutes. If the bleeding does not stop, call the hospital at 595-3300. Ask to speak to the dentist. If you are calling after hours, ask for the dentist on-call or the doctor on-call.

During the first 24 hours, do not spit, rinse, use straws, or smoke. The body heals by forming a blood clot in the tooth socket. Spitting, rinsing, smoking, or using straws may dislodge the blood clot and cause the site to become dry. You may hear this called a dry socket. This problem can cause a great deal of pain.


Your child should keep eating while his mouth is healing. At first, your child may need liquids and soft foods only. To keep a normal fluid level in the body, be sure he drinks plenty of liquids. While his mouth is sore, good diet choices may include:

  • Liquid supplements, such as instant breakfast drinks, Boost®, and Ensure®;
  • Milk shakes;
  • Soups;
  • Eggs;
  • Cooked cereal;
  • Flavored gelatin;
  • Mashed potatoes; and
  • Applesauce.

Remember: No straws during the first 24 hours. You may add firmer foods to your child’s diet when he is able to chew more.


The doctor may prescribe a pain medicine after surgery. These drugs can sometimes cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach. To help prevent an upset stomach, have your child take pain medicines with food.

Ask for the Patient Medication sheet for the prescribed drug. The handout will provide guidelines for the drug’s use and list possible side effects. Patients should not drink alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) while taking any pain medicine. Some pain medicines can cause a person to feel dizzy or drowsy. Do not allow your child to drive or use other machines until you see how the drug affects him.


It is common for the face to swell after oral surgery. The swelling could range from just a little to quite a lot. It depends on how complex the surgery was. In cases where surgery took place on both sides of the face, the swelling may not be the same on each side. Swelling may get worse for up to 3 days. It may not return to normal for 5–8 days. The face and neck may look red or bruised. Most often, this will go away in 7–10 days.

You might be able to reduce the swelling and bruising this way:

  • Apply ice packs to the swollen areas during the first 24 hours. Use the ice packs for only 20 minutes at a time. Then, wait at least 20 minutes before using ice packs again.
  • After 24 hours, apply heat to the jaw, using warm, moist towels. Use the warm, moist towels for only 20 minutes at a time. Then, wait at least 20 minutes before using the towels again.

It is also normal for the jaw to feel stiff. This should get better as the swelling subsides.


Do not allow your child to rinse his mouth with anything for the first 24 hours after surgery. Start warm salt water rinses after the first day. Mix a half teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces (240 ml) of warm water. The patient should swish and spit this mixture at least 4 times a day, especially after meals.


If the doctor prescribes an antibiotic, your child should take it as directed. He should not stop taking the drug just because he feels better. Your child should take the antibiotic until it is all gone.

Patients should not drink alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) while taking some antibiotics. Ask for the Patient Medication sheet for the chosen drug. The handout will provide guidelines for the drug’s use and list possible side effects.


The staff’s concern does not end after surgery. If you have questions, please call the St. Jude Dental Clinic. In the local area, dial 595-3622. If you are outside the Memphis area, call toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3622.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).