If you're having your wisdom teeth extracted, the recovery time can be greater depending on your oral hygiene, your body's ability to heal, and other extrinsic factors, such as your age and length of procedure time. If you use tobacco, smoking after wisdom teeth removal can cause complications leading to infection and extended recovery time.
Risk Factors to Recovery
Today, extraction of your third molars – more commonly known as your wisdom teeth – is a relatively routine type of oral surgery. On the whole, most patients recover without any major hitches and most complications are minor, according to a study in the Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (JKAOMS). However, the research concludes that when complications do arise, the most common post-operative complication is pain.
Just like any surgical procedure, there are post-operative risk factors to your recovery. Inflammation and pain after the extraction are the predominant risk factors that impede the recovery process. To a lesser extent, nerve damage to the tissue surrounding the extraction area can cause pain and numbness for some patients, notes the National Health Service. Additional factors, such as how impacted your molar is, the length of surgery time, your age and your gender may also play a part in your recovery.
If your molar is severely impacted, it may lengthen the procedure time and increase your post-operative pain. Generally speaking, as you age, complications tend to increase. Some studies point to an increase in pain for women post-surgery. Estrogen levels may increase the possibility the clot that forms over the extraction bursts, exposing bone and nerves (a complication known as a dry socket), according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
How Smoking Leads to Complications
Smoking after wisdom teeth surgery directly delays your healing process, says the ADA, and it can increase the risk of dry socket. JKAOMS notes smoking might reduce blood supply to the alveolar nerve, thus increasing pain after a wisdom tooth extraction.
Likewise, the Mayo Clinic states that substances in cigarettes and other tobacco products are noxious to the extraction site, causing a delay in healing. Additionally, the physical act of smoking a cigarette can burst the healing blood clot, leading to a dry socket. If left untreated, the infected area could lead to a persistent infection in your bone, or osteomyelitis.
Catalyst for Quitting
While you naturally want to avoid increased complications after you've had your wisdom teeth pulled, if you're a smoker, abstaining from smoking may be challenging. You may intend to stop smoking post-surgery, per your doctor's orders, but the addictive nature of smoking can make it especially difficult to do so. However, it's best to quit smoking for good and you may want to consider using the surgery as a jumping off point to help you quit.
Whether you're a smoker or have never smoked, to heal more quickly, limit heavy activity, avoid alcohol, hot beverages, challenging or hard foods, and don't clean the area for the first 24 hours. When you're able to brush again, you can continue using a soft-bristled toothbrush, such as the Colgate 360° Enamel Health Soft Toothbrush for Sensitive Teeth, which has 48 percent softer bristles. If you suspect something's not quite right post-surgery, make an appointment with your doctor.