Your dentist has certain protocols in place to protect your health and the health of others in the office.
However, once you leave the office after a procedure, you still need to be careful about infection.
In-Office Standards and Your Actions Play Key Roles in Preventing Infection
Similar to any other medical setting, there are a variety of rules in place in your dental office for infection control. While your dentist can give you specific information about recovering from your treatment, there are some general guidelines you can follow to prevent infection from occurring. Keep in mind that once an infection begins, it can easily spread to other areas of your body. Infection control is crucial to both your oral and overall health after a dental procedure or oral surgery.
Standard Precautions for Infection Control
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has certain guidelines in place that apply to all patient care in all settings where health care is provided. These infection prevention practices help keep everyone involved safe from health issues. According to the CDC, standard precautions include:
- Hand washing
- Wearing protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, and eyewear
- Good cough etiquette
- Work practice controls for sharps safety
- Safe injection techniques
- Sterile instruments and devices
- Clean and disinfected surfaces
The CDC also requires that dental unit waterlines use water that meets drinking water standards and are regularly cleaned to prevent buildup. These methods represent the baseline your dentist must meet to control infection within their practice.
At-Home Care for Preventing Infection
Infection after a dental procedure is rare, especially when you follow proper steps for preventing infection. After your procedure, your dentist will provide you with specific post-operative instructions based on the type of treatment you received. Your oral health is dependent on how well you follow these directions. Some general tips for avoiding infection include:
Manage bleeding with gauze
You may experience some bleeding after a dental operation. Elevating your head and biting gently on damp gauze can help your body form a clot and speed the healing process.
Take all prescribed medications
Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, painkillers, or another type of medication. It is important to take them exactly as prescribed and not stop prematurely.
Get plenty of rest
In general, patients should rest and avoid strenuous physical activity for a couple of days after surgery.
Care for your sutures
Depending on the type of procedure you receive, you may have sutures placed and require a second trip to the dentist to remove them. Avoid chewing on your sutures or eating popcorn or foods with small seeds, as these can become lodged in the sutures.
Avoid smoking or the use of other tobacco products
Tobacco inhibits your body’s natural healing process and can cause a painful condition known as dry socket. Until the surgical area has completely healed, avoid smoking or using chewing tobacco.
Maintain Your Oral Hygiene
Unless your dentist tells you otherwise, you should gently brush and floss following your surgery. In some cases, your dentist may recommend using a salt water rinse to dislodge any food particles and help your surgical site heal properly.
Some swelling and minor bleeding is normal after a dental procedure. However, if these conditions persist, you should contact your dentist.
Warning Signs of an Infection
Keep an eye on your oral health in the days following your procedure. There are several symptoms you can look out for if you are concerned about an infection, such as:
- Increased pain three to four days following surgery
- A fever of over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pus developing in the surgical site
- Increased swelling of the face, jaw, or gums three to four days after surgery
- Issues opening or moving your jaw
- Prolonged bleeding
Report Distressing Symptoms
Keep in mind that some degree of swelling, bleeding, and pain is normal. Your dentist can explain what to expect after your specific procedure. However, if symptoms seem excessive in any way, contact your dentist immediately. They can assess your oral health and determine if an infection is present.