Getting your wisdom teeth removed is a common oral milestone, and usually not as bad as you think. Recovery time depends on your general oral hygiene, your body's ability to heal, and other factors, such as your age and how long the extraction itself takes. Some discomfort may occur for the first few days, though some people have little to no pain after surgery, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
However, smoking after wisdom teeth removal is definitely not a good idea — it can cause complications leading to infection and extended recovery time.
How Smoking Leads to Complications
In addition to the act of smoking which can interrupt the healing process, any use of tobacco products after oral surgery can delay healing and increase the risk of complications. This is because chemicals in cigarettes or other forms of tobacco may prevent or slow healing and contaminate the wound site. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you smoke or use tobacco, don't do so for at least 48 hours after surgery, and as long as you can after that.
How Does Smoking Increase Dry Socket Risk?
Smoking can also increase your risk of a particular type of tooth extraction complication called dry socket. What is dry socket? After a tooth is extracted, a blood clot forms in the empty socket to protect the bone and underlying nerves and to promote healing. If anything interferes with or prematurely dislodges the clot forming, (such as the physical action of sucking on a cigarette), intense pain can result within a few days after the surgery.
The pain may extend from the socket to your ear, eye or neck, and you may experience a foul taste in your mouth, bad breath and a slight fever. Looking in a mirror, you may see just an empty hole: this is called dry socket.
If you have any of these symptoms, immediately call your dentist, who will need to clean out the socket and place a medicated dressing. They may also give you pain medication, antibiotics and specific home care instructions.
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, but the addictive nature of smoking can make it especially difficult.
If you know you're going to be getting your wisdom teeth removed, it's a great motivation to quit the habit! There are numerous resources available to help you manage cravings and successfully quit tobacco. This is necessary to ensure a healthy recovery from your wisdom tooth extraction, but is also the healthiest choice for your whole body.
To help your extraction heal more quickly, limit heavy activity and avoid alcohol, hot beverages, hard foods, and, of course, smoking. Don't clean the area for the first 24 hours and make sure you're using a soft-bristled toothbrush. If you suspect something's not quite right post-surgery, don't hesitate to contact your dentist. With the right care — and no smoking! — your recovery should go smoothly and you'll be back to smiling in no time.