Gauze 101

We get dozens of questions every week about how to use gauze after an extraction.  How long do I leave it in?  Can I eat with it in my mouth?  How many days should I use it?  What if I run out?  Should I moisten it in with anything?  I’ve heard of using tea bags, what’s that about?

Here’s the lowdown: the main reason we have patients use gauze is to apply direct pressure to the extraction/surgery site.  Yes, it absorbs blood, too, but bleeding is usually well under control before we allow patients to leave our office.  By folding the gauze (we use 3×3 size) into a small square, it creates enough thickness so that when the gauze is placed directly over the surgical site, it applies pressure to the wound when the patient bites his or her teeth together.  Pressure is the magic word!  Generally, you only need to leave the gauze in place as long as the site is actively oozing or bleeding.  We recommend leaving the gauze in place, with direct biting pressure, for about one hour.  After an hour, remove the gauze and evaluate the surgical site.  In most cases, the surgical site will ooze slowly for several hours and taper off until you won’t need the gauze anymore.  While the site continues to ooze, just change the gauze once per hour.  You may think changing it more often will help, but actually, removing the gauze too often can dislodge a blood clot and start the bleeding up again.  It’s normal for most patients to use gauze for several hours following surgery, but having to use gauze the following day, is not normal.

In addition to evaluating the surgical site when you remove gauze, look at the used gauze pack as well.  If it’s wet with mostly pink fluid and some red, you will likely not need to use gauze for much longer.  (maybe 1 or 2 more one hour cycles)  Many people misinterpret wet, pink gauze for bleeding, when actually, just a little blood mixed with your saliva turns it pink.  If the gauze is competely soaked and dark red all over, you probably have not been applying enough pressure.  In that case, place a new gauze pack, lie down, and bite continuously, without talking or eating for an hour.  If those actions do not decrease the bleeding, you may need to give your surgeon’s office a call.  We always supply our surgical patients with ample gauze, but if you should run out, just call us and you can come and pick up some more.  If that’s not convenient, you can pick up gauze at any drugstore, some grocery stores, or big retailers like Target, Fred Meyer, and Wal Mart.

When you’re ready to eat or drink something, remove the gauze, consume your milkshake, jamba juice, or jello (or whatever sounds tasty), and then place a fresh gauze pack.  Eating or drinking with gauze in place is not a good idea.

We sometimes get questions about tea bags.  Here’s the deal- black tea contains tannic acid, which can aid in clotting.  If you’re having particular difficulty with keeping your bleeding under control, you can moisten a tea bag, wrap it in gauze and bite on it.  In most cases, plain gauze works fine, but if you want to try the tea route, go for it.

As always, if you think something is not normal, or you’re having difficulties with bleeding, or anything else for that matter, just call us.  We’re glad to help you over the phone, and we always have a surgical staff member on call, 24/7.  Hopefully, this clears up some of those gauze mysteries.