Getting your wisdom teeth removed is one of the most common dental surgeries in the US. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to arrive, usually appearing in late adolescence, and may create complications when they erupt through the gum line. Common issues that lead to the decision to remove a person’s wisdom teeth include overcrowding, infections, and inflammation.
It can take up to two weeks to fully recover from wisdom tooth extraction. However, there are several easy things you can do at home to help speed recovery, and to reduce pain during the process of healing.
How long will it take to recover?
Full recovery may take up to two weeks, but patients should see gradual recovery and improvement every day. Recovery may take longer if the wound becomes infected, or if blood clots come loose (a painful condition known as dry socket).
If your surgery requires a general anesthetic, you will not be allowed to drive for 48 hours following the procedure. If possible, it is usually a good idea to take 1-2 days off from school or work to recover afterwards.
Why are blood clots important?
Following surgery, blood clots will form over the extraction site. These clots are important because they prevent too much bleeding, protect the wound from infections, protect the exposed bone, and allow new tissue to grow.
For these reasons, it is important not to dislodge blood clots, especially during the first 24 hours of recovery. In order to protect the blood clots, you should avoid: chewing, drinking hot beverages, sucking on straws, smoking, rinsing your mouth, and brushing your teeth near the wound.
What foods can I eat?
Stick to soft or liquid food for a few days after surgery to prevent damaging your wounds. Good options include: soup, applesauce, pudding, jello, mashed potatoes, and other soft foods that do not require much, if any, chewing.
In some cases, if you only had one or two teeth removed on one side of your mouth, you may be able to carefully chew on the other side after 24 hours.
Try to avoid hot, spicy, and crunchy foods during the recovery period.
How can I reduce pain after the surgery?
Using an ice pack: Applying a cold compress to your jaw can alleviate pain and swelling. You can either wrap ice in a clean washcloth, or buy a cold pack from the pharmacy. In either case, it is safe to use a cold compress for about 15 minutes, off and on, to numb the area and reduce swelling.
Anti-inflammatory medication: Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen can be used to manage pain and inflammation following your surgery. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication if needed, to be used for a short period of time.
When can I remove my stitches?
Sometimes stitches are required during surgery. If so, you can normally return to your doctor after about seven days to have them removed. If you have dissolvable stitches, they should be gone within a week or so.
Are there any complications to watch out for?
Wisdom teeth removal is very common and complications are rare with proper aftercare. However, if you notice any of the following issues, you should return to your dentist for followup care:
- Infection: There is always a slight risk of infection, which can require antibiotics to treat. Symptoms of an infection include: high temperature, pain, swelling, and yellow or white pus around the wound.
- Dry socket: This is a rare condition caused when a blood clot does not form or gets knocked away from the wound. This exposes the bone and causes an intense throbbing pain. Usually in these cases, your dentist will need to cover the wound with a medicated dressing.
- While more severe complications are rare, you may want to contact your dentist or doctor if you experience fever, intense pain, excessive bleeding, or any unexpected issues following surgery.