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.
After a healing period of one to two weeks, you’ll most likely be able to go back to a regular diet. New bone and gum tissue will grow over the extraction site as well. However, having a missing tooth can cause teeth to shift, affecting your bite. You may want to ask your doctor about replacing the extracted tooth to prevent this from happening. This can be done with an implant, fixed bridge, or denture.
How Do You Know If You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?
You may need to undergo wisdom teeth removal if:
- Your wisdom tooth erupts at a wrong angle
- You have cavities or gum disease
- There is no space in your mouth for an extra set of molars
- You experience jaw stiffness, swelling, and pain in the back of your mouth
How Long Does It Take for Full Recovery from a Wisdom Tooth Removal?
Usually, it takes a few weeks to fully recover from a wisdom tooth removal, but the healing time varies for everyone. It may take a long time if your wisdom teeth are impacted. After the procedure, you may experience little to no pain and slight discomfort, bruising, and swelling in your face for 3 to 4 days. You can speed up your recovery process by following your dentist’s instructions properly.
Wisdom tooth extraction aftercare
Since wisdom teeth extraction is a form of surgery, you won’t be able to resume normal activities right away. There are a few things you can try to speed up healing time:
You are likely to experience pain for the first 48 hours, although your mouth may well be sore for up to a week or so after the operation. Local anaesthetic injections given during the procedure ensure that you have no pain for the first 3–4 hours after surgery, but once the anaesthetic wears off, you need to take the painkillers given to you. You should take these regularly to ensure that you sleep well on the first night; this will maximise your recovery. You will normally be prescribed paracetamol and ibuprofen. When these two drugs are taken together, they enhance the effect of each other because they work in different ways. Be sure to follow the directions given to you by your surgeon or the pharmacist. Some patients may not be able to take these medications due to medical problems, but in these cases, alternatives will be provided.
The area around the extraction sites will be sore and you may find it difficult to clean your teeth. Follow the instructions for good oral hygiene as this is very important to minimise the risk of infection. Antibiotics will only be prescribed if there is active ongoing infection. Contact your dentist if pain persists past the expected recovery period.
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.
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.
Exercise and sport
It is important to avoid strenuous activity and exercise for the first few days. While you’re building up your activities, you probably won’t feel like doing much, but walking is the best way to return to fitness. If you play rugby or do martial arts, you should discuss returning to these activities with your surgeon before the operation.
Stitches will dissolve by themselves and do not need removing, but it is important that 3–4 days after surgery you start brushing the sutures away to minimise food trapping.
When the tooth is removed the roots leave a ‘socket’ in the bone. This hole in the gum may last for up to 3 months. As your wound heals, blood clots form over the empty tooth sockets; it is important not to dislodge these.
You may have difficulty opening your mouth and experience pain or stiffness of the jaw joint. This will normally disappear after a couple of days, but can occasionally last for up to 2 weeks. You may need to eat a soft diet for a week or so.
Be careful not to force your jaw open before it is ready and do allow time for the swelling to go down. Ibuprofen will help to relieve this pain.
Sensitivity of the teeth next to the wisdom-tooth socket is common; good oral hygiene will resolve this, although it may last for several weeks.
What can I eat after wisdom teeth removal?
It is wisest to start with clear liquids and soft foods after your wisdom teeth surgery. Think old favourites like ice cream and jelly, plus mashed potatoes and soft vegetables. If you can’t do without a dose of red meat, pop it in the blender to soften it. It is recommended you only return to food after the bleeding stops.
Other soft foods that are safe to eat:
- Mashed bananas
- Greek yoghurt
- Scrambled eggs
- Blended soups, such as tomato or pumpkin soup
- Mashed pumpkin
What foods should I avoid after wisdom teeth removal?
Stay away from soft drinks, caffeinated drinks and foods that run the risk of getting stuck in the extraction site. Ouch! This means no nuts, popcorn, and definitely no chewy sweets.
Be sure to also avoid the following foods:
- Spicy foods – these can inflame or cause irritation in the wound
- Crunchy and crumbly foods – foods such as chips or cookies may crumble in your mouth, causing more harm than good
- Foods with grains or seeds – these can get stuck in the extraction site
Can I drink water after wisdom teeth removal?
dentists recommend drinking lots of water following the surgery. Avoid drinking with a straw for at least a week because the sucking action can dislodge the blood clot from the socket and disrupt the healing process by causing a ‘dry socket’ to develop.
What is a dry socket? After your tooth is pulled, a blood clot will form in the extraction site to protect the bone and nerves underneath. If the clot becomes dislodged or dissolves, that leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth, leading to infection and severe pain which lasts for 5 or 6 days.
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.
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.
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.