Is It Safe To Go Swimming After A Tooth Extraction?

A tooth including the root of a tooth.

I was watching my kids swim when they asked me to join them in the swimming pool, but I started thinking is it safe to go swimming immediately after having my tooth extracted?

The family and I enjoy going swimming almost every evening and we usually think nothing about it, however earlier today I had a tooth extraction.  After I did some research I discovered that I probably should avoid swimming for at least 24 to 48 hours to allow my gums to heal in my mouth.  When swimming you risk water entering your mouth which may not be sterile and allowing bacteria to gather in or around the unhealed area where the surgical extraction occurred increasing chance of infection. 

Why should you not swim after having a tooth extraction?

When you have your teeth extracted you are actually having a minor surgery performed inside your mouth.  This involves a number of different instruments and in some cases even the doctor cutting parts of your gums with a scalpel.  Some patients may even need stitches after the extraction has been completed.  While most people don’t think of having a tooth extracted as a major operation, it does open your gums up to some vulnerabilities.  I will discuss some of these that I have learned of below:

  • An increased chance of infection is one of the main reasons avoiding any swimming is crucial.  This includes swimming at your local community pool, home owned pool, or even a splash at the lake.  When you enter these waters, there is a great risk water will enter your mouth and reach the area that has had the recent operation performed.  Since this wound is fresh and not yet healed completely, any non-sterile water or bacteria present will likely cause an infection if it reaches the wound.
  • Dry socket occurs when the blood clot becomes dislodged from your gums after your procedure.  This is an extremely painful condition that you will want to avoid at all costs.  Dry socket is a condition that can develop from various reasons such as drinking from a straw, smoking, chewing gum, and presenting the area to bacteria which is a risk when swim water that is not sterile enters a persons mouth.
  • You should really limit exercise kind of activities and sports following a tooth extraction.  This for many would include swimming as they begin to engage in activities with others which is exactly what just about any dentist will advise against.

How long should I refrain from swimming if my tooth has been extracted?

A swimming pool.

The absolute minimum from what I found during my research is to avoid swimming after the tooth extraction for 24 hours.  The first 24 hours is the most important as that is when your clot will form to start the gums healing process.  Of course each person’s procedure has different variables and if you are truly concerned about whether or not swimming is safe for you I would suggest contacting your dentist if possible.

Some tooth extractions are quick and easy without any complications or struggles by your dental surgeon thus allowing your gums to heal quite fast.  If you are one however that required a longer procedure and the tooth had to be removed with multiple tools and took a lot of time, or you had multiple tooth extractions at once, the healing process is not going to be nearly as quick.  For patients that had the lengthier procedure, additional days may be best before thinking about that diving board and taking a splash.

For the most part if swimming is part of your daily routine, or you are an athlete and need to hit the waters, wait at least 24 hours after your procedure if possible.  You need to allow your gums to heal and this is the best way for that to happen.

If it were me, I would wait a few days before entering the pool to allow the healing process to improve drastically.  Even after those few days I would swim only above water and avoid water near the mouth area as much as possible.  In most instances however, from what I have read after 3 to 5 days your swimming activities should be back to normal.  Of course if your dentist tells  you otherwise, follow there after care instructions and do not use this advice as a second opinion.

Getting in a hot tub after having my tooth pulled.

This could be one of your best alternatives if you have an itch to relax in some soothing waters while avoiding the swimming pool.  Hot tubs are usually just a few hundred gallon of water to not much more than 1,000 gallons for the larger ones and the water depth is usually under 35 inches deep.

When you enter a hot tub you are more likely to avoid water coming in contact with your mouth as the depth of the water is much more shallow than that of most swimming pools.

Once you are lying in your hot tub you will be able to relax, have a gentle message with the power jets and keep the water from entering your mouth area with very little effort.   This could also be a way to help take your thoughts away from that tooth and any pain currently associated with it and enjoy a nice spa treatment.  Just remember that while you are in the hot tub, avoid water contact to the mouth area and you should have no issues or risk of having an infection from the spa.

What to do if you have already been swimming after having a tooth extraction.

If you have already exposed yourself to the pool water after having your tooth extracted and had water come in contact with your mouth and gums area, you risk getting an infection.  There are however a few things I discovered to minimize the risk and the quicker you implement these steps, the more likely they are to help your gums continue to heal without gaining an infection.

Standard mouth and tooth hygiene are key to keep your tooth extraction healing on the right track.  Also these steps should only be performed if it has been 24 hours after your tooth extraction.  Otherwise contact your dentist or do these steps without coming in direct contact with your tooth extraction location as your blood clot needs to develop within the first 24 hours.

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salty water for at least one minute.  It would be a good idea to go ahead and do this at least two or three times with one glass of water at least 2 separate times a day.
  • Brush your teeth well and remove any foreign particles, food and other debris that has become stuck to the inside of your teeth, mouth or gums.  If it hasn’t been 24 hours since your tooth extraction, you can still brush your tongue and teeth that are not affected – do this carefully avoiding your extraction area.
  • Continue following your dentists post procedure guidelines until the healing process has been completed.  If you think you may have an infection developing in the area in which your tooth was removed, contact your dentist as soon as possible.

Symptoms of a tooth or gum infection in the mouth.

If feel that you may have received an infection in the area of the mouth where surgery was performed because you were swimming or any other reason contact your dentist.  I have came up with a short list of the most common things that occur when getting an infection.

  • Extraordinary sharp pain is one sign of an infection.  Now this can easily be identified if you have received this infection before any tooth extraction, but may not be easily identified if you have recently had a procedure and are experiencing pain from the surgery.  If your pain has subsided for quite some time and pain returns, this may be a sign you need to have it checked out by a professional just in case.
  • Swelling around the surgery area is another tricky one once again.  Swelling can be common for a day or two after an extraction (even longer for some people), however if you feel the swelling is non related, you could be getting an infection especially if you had contact with non sterile water.
  • Swelling on the outside of the mouth or face.  I have actually had an infection one time that was so bad the right side of my face had grown to the size of a baseball.  This wasn’t related to swimming, but I had been camping with the family for a few days which may have helped induce the symptoms.  If you notice this, you need to get to the dentist as soon as possible.  This could lead to a serious condition if left untreated and could happen quickly.
  • Bad breath can be a great way to identify an infection.  If you have caught an infection in the mouth area, chances are your breath will become fowl to yourself and others.

Tooth infections can become abscessed and if left untreated cause serious health problems.  The only way to reverse the damage being done by the infected area is to have it treated by a dentist.  The infection will not go away on its own.  Schedule a dental appointment immediately if you are unsure of the cause of any symptoms mentioned in this post or otherwise.  This post is not meant to diagnose and should only be used for informational purposes only.  Contact your dentist for your individual care and needs.

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