x-ray photo of teeth

What to Expect After Having Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

Wisdom teeth extraction is serious business and can lead to numerous complications without the proper aftercare.

And while some patients feel better within a few days, it can take others much longer to recover. Therefore, before you go in for this procedure, it’s crucial that you know exactly what to expect after you leave the dental office so you can properly take care of yourself during the recovery process.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Those Extra Molars

What are Wisdom Teeth and Why do They Need to Be Removed?

Wisdom teeth, also known as back molars, are the last teeth that will grow in as an adult, and typically come in between the ages of 17 and 21.

Wisdom teeth come in on the top and bottom of your mouth on both sides, and most people don’t have enough room for them in their jaws without their other teeth shifting.

When your wisdom teeth start growing in, your dentist will likely recommend that you undergo oral surgery to remove them.

Surgery is important because if the situation is not addressed, it can lead to many serious oral health problems.

The Importance of Aftercare

Wisdom teeth removal is a very common procedure, but it is still surgery and requires a recovery period afterwards. Depending on your specific situation, recovery can take anywhere between a few days to one week or more.

If your wisdom teeth are impacted (this is when the teeth don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally), then recovery may take even longer.

The length of your recovery period is up to you as it usually depends on how stringent you are about following proper aftercare instructions. By listening to your dentists’ instructions, you will heal faster and prevent infection from setting in.

Preparing for Surgery

In most cases, before your surgery, you will be given anesthesia that will leave you feeling drowsy and not yourself right after surgery. It’s crucial that you do not drive home under any circumstances and arrange for a friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment and give you a lift home.

Depending on what type of anesthesia you will be receiving, you may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for a certain period of time prior to your surgery.

During the Procedure

Wisdom teeth extraction is considered outpatient surgery, meaning you receive the surgery and go home on the same day.

If you are given a deep sedative or general anesthesia, you will likely wake up not remembering much of the procedure.

If you are given a milder sedative that keeps you awake during the procedure, you will still not feel any pain as you will also receive a local anesthetic.

What to Expect After Surgery

Since wisdom teeth extraction is a form of surgery, you won’t be able to resume normal activities right away. Here are some of the after-effects you can expect

after the procedure.

Pain

You will likely experience some pain and discomfort after your surgery that will lessen a bit more every day.

If the pain is mild to moderate, you can take regular or extra-strength Tylenol or ibuprofen every three to four hours.

For more severe pain, take the pain medication that was prescribed to you as directed. Keep in mind that they can make you feel dizzy, so make sure that anytime you have to stand up that you do so slowly.

Contact your dentist if pain persists past the expected recovery period.

Bleeding

Some bleeding, oozing, and redness in your saliva are all fairly common after having your wisdom teeth removed. You can minimize bleeding by sitting upright and avoiding any exercise.

If you experience any excess bleeding immediately after surgery, place a gauze pad over the surgical area and bite down firmly for a half hour.

If bleeding persists, try biting on a moist tea bag for another 30 minutes, as the tannic acid in the tea can help to form a clot by contracting bleeding vessels.

These symptoms typically improve by the third day after your surgery and are alleviated within a week.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and/or vomiting is a common occurrence after wisdom teeth extraction, so be sure not to eat or drink anything – including your prescribed medication – for at least one hour after surgery.

Oral Hygiene

You will be able to brush your teeth in the evening after your surgery. Be careful around the surgery site though and be sure to rinse gently.

The day after the surgery, you will need to start rinsing your mouth five to six times per day, especially after meals. A saltwater rinse is recommended to keep your mouth clean and prevent infection.

Medications

When you undergo wisdom teeth removal surgery, you will be prescribed pain medication and antibiotics for infection. Make sure you take your medication exactly as directed by your dentist.

Foods to Eat and What to Avoid

While you may not have much appetite after surgery, it’s important to stay hydrated and nourished to aid in the recovery process.

However, you will need to be careful, as there are certain food and beverages you must avoid for the first few days.

Some examples include:

  • Hot food that can burn your mouth
  • Small foods like grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Acidic and spicy food
  • Crunchy or difficult-to-chew foods

It’s important to stick to soft, easy to eat foods that don’t require chewing, such as:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Apple sauce
  • Pudding
  • Soup
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Smoothies

You can slowly begin eating heartier food once you feel you are ready.

Other Potential Complications

After your wisdom teeth extraction, it’s common to have a sore throat and feel some pain when swallowing. This should subside in two to three days. Stiffness of the jaw muscles is also common and may result in you having difficulty opening your mouth.

Here are some other more serious complications that can occur after wisdom teeth extraction.

Dry Socket

Dry socket is one of the most common complications of wisdom tooth removal and can happen 3 to 5 days after surgery.

Dry socket is a result of a blood clot failing to develop in the empty wisdom tooth socket. It can also develop if the blood clot becomes dislodged or disappears.

The empty socket results in throbbing pain in your gums or jaw, which can feel like a toothache. You may also notice an unpleasant smell or taste from the empty socket.

Infection

When proper aftercare procedures are not followed, infection can occur.

Some signs of infection include a high temperature, yellow or white discharge from the surgery site, and ongoing pain and swelling.

Nerve Injury

During wisdom teeth extraction, an injury to sections of a nerve can occur, but is not very common.

The injury can cause pain, tingling sensation, and numbness in your tongue, lower lip, chin, teeth and gums.

Usually, the injury is only temporary and lasts for just a few weeks or months. It can be permanent, though if the nerve has been severely damaged.

Contact your dentist if you experience any of these complications after surgery.

When aftercare is taken seriously, most people heal quickly from wisdom teeth extraction.

Make sure that you follow your dentist’s instructions and eat the right foods to have a quick and easy recovery, so you can get back on your feet in no time.

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