Can You Smoke After a Dental Extraction?

When you're scheduled to have a tooth extracted, you should start to think about how you plan to replace it. You may have already had this conversation with your dentist, so you might be deciding what's best for you—whether it's a dental implant, a dental bridge, or a partial denture. You may also have other short-term concerns, such as wondering when life will get back to normal after your extraction. The bleeding and discomfort associated with dental extractions will subside quite quickly, but you could be curious about when you can get back to old habits, such as smoking. 

Smoking and Your Oral Health

You won't be happy to hear it, but smoking is one of the worst things you can do after a tooth is extracted. Smoking is a factor in many forms of gum disease, so it could even be that smoking contributed to the need for tooth extraction in the first place. If you've been planning to one day give up smoking, perhaps that one day should be today. Your health (including your dental health) will benefit from such a decision, so if it's in your power to do so (and it probably is), consider using your dental procedure as a chance to give up smoking.

Suction and Clot Protection

Some of the damage you're risking by smoking after an extraction isn't exclusively related to what's in a cigarette, but the way you smoke it. Smoking involves inhaling, and you're literally sucking on the cigarette. This suction can easily dislodge the clot that's forming in the empty dental socket. The clot helps to protect the underlying tissues during this vulnerable time, and a lost clot increases the risk of infection, courtesy of an unpleasant condition called alveolar osteitis (commonly known as dry socket). To avoid alveolar osteitis, you will in fact be instructed to abstain from all forms of suction in your mouth for a brief period, including behavior as seemingly harmless as drinking through a straw.  

Smoking and the Healing Process

Anyone who decides to smoke after a dental extraction must be extremely cautious. Even if a few days have gone by and the extraction site seems to be healing, introducing tar and nicotine to your mouth can disrupt this healing. Smoking reduces blood flow to your gums, and it couldn't happen at a worse time. Red blood cells help the formation of collagen, which your body needs to generate new tissues at your extraction site. Reduced blood flow caused by smoking can lead to delayed healing, which increases the risk of postoperative infections.

If you're a smoker who's about to have a dental extraction, you should consider stocking up on nicotine patches—or, even better, use your extraction as the catalyst for finally kicking the habit.