Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries and can be associated with some painful memories for many adults. Here we explain what to expect and how to help heal through the recovery process.
Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries and can be associated with some painful memories for many adults. It seems like everyone has a story about their experience, whether it's what crazy thing they said while the anesthesia was wearing off or what they wish they would've known about recovery before going under. To help keep recovery stories on the lighter side, we made a quick overview of what to expect after your wisdom teeth extraction and how to make your recovery as painless as possible.
What to Expect
The wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last adult teeth to surface, usually between the ages of 17 and 21. Wisdom teeth are not necessary for a healthy smile, and not everyone keeps them. If wisdom teeth do not grow in properly, which usually happens because they do not have enough room to emerge, they can create serious problems. When this happens, the wisdom teeth can crowd the mouth and cause future oral health problems like pain and infection.
According to the American Dental Association, people should have their wisdom teeth checked before the age of 20 to see how they are growing in and check for wisdom teeth impaction while the roots are developing. Your dentist or oral surgeon will most likely recommend that you have the final molars removed in a single outpatient procedure. Although wisdom tooth extraction is an outpatient procedure, it is considered a form of major surgery. During the surgery, general anesthesia or local anesthesia, will be used to make it more comfortable, but after it wears off, you can expect some discomfort and pain. Ask your dentist which type of sedation to expect so you can be prepared when you wake up from surgery, at which time recovery begins.
Taking Care of Yourself After Surgery
After your wisdom teeth removal, you can expect to have some pain, swelling, and light bleeding. Your dentist should tell you how to take care of your mouth after the surgery, but here are some of the most common suggestions for a healthy recovery.
- Be careful not to dislodge the blood clot form where your teeth were removed
- Avoid brushing, spitting, flossing, rinsing, or drinking from a straw for the first day of recovery
- Do not consume solid foods, alcohol, coffee, soda or hot beverages in the first few days after your surgery
Wisdom teeth recovery usually takes three to four days. However, if your teeth were impacted, it could take as long a week to heal. Pain after wisdom tooth extraction usually lasts from 3 days to one week, unless you experience an infection or dry socket, which happens when the blood clot gets dislodged from the extraction site. You can expect swelling of the mouth and cheeks to go down in 2-3 days and the stiffness and soreness to go away in 7-10 days.
How to Speed Up Healing
There are plenty of things you can do to speed up healing during your wisdom teeth recovery.
- Take it easy for the first few days. In most cases, you can resume normal activities after the first day, but it would be best to wait about a week. You don't want to do anything that could dislodge the blood clot from the removal site.
- Place an ice pack over your jaw to help with swelling. The cold from the ice pack helps reduce inflammation and the discomfort that comes with it.
- For pain management, you can take a prescription pain killer prescribed by your oral surgeon, or you can take a recommended over-the-counter pain reliever.
- After the first day, gently rinse your mouth with salt water a few times a day to help keep it clean and prevent infection.
Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
Staying hydrated and eating healthy after your wisdom teeth removal is an important factor for a healthy recovery. However, you may need to change some eating habits for the first week or so following the procedure. Here are some foods to eat, and some to avoid, during wisdom teeth recovery.
Eat. For the first few days after surgery, start by eating soft foods that don’t require chewing, such as:
- Soft noodles
- Cottage cheese
- Apple sauce
- Mashed potatoes
- Smoothies (TIP: Don’t drink through a straw. It could dislodge your blood clot or ruin stitches.)
Avoid. Some foods can easily get into the sockets and in teeth and cause pain and damage to the healing wounds. Avoid eating foods like:
- Sticky candy
- Chewing gum
- Hard, crunchy food like chips, pretzels, nuts, and seeds
- Extremely hot food
Getting your wisdom teeth removed is a procedure you should take seriously but not something to fear. The recovery period usually takes a few days, and, in some cases, there may still be swelling and discomfort for a week or more. You can help reduce pain and prevent infection by using ice packs, enjoying soft foods, and keeping your mouth clean with salt water. Don’t hesitate to call your oral surgeon if you notice any unusual symptoms after your surgery. They will help get you on the road to recovery and back to a healthy and confident smile.