Of all our pearly whites, the wisdom tooth gets the most flak. These late bloomers, which grow at the end of your gums, generally erupt when you are between 17 and 21 years old. When they are healthy and correctly aligned, they can help you chew food. But for a lot of people, wisdom teeth can be quite a pain in the mouth! If you have an impacted tooth because the wisdom tooth hasn’t erupted completely and there is pain, infection, or dental decay because of bacteria and trapped food, your dentist may recommend a wisdom tooth extraction.1
Removing a fully visible tooth is a simple procedure. But wisdom tooth extractions often tend to be surgical when the tooth is impacted. This usually means cutting through the bone and tissue to remove it. And that’s precisely why proper after-care is important for a speedy and hassle-free recovery.
1. Do Use A Gauze Pad
After your procedure, fold cotton gauze and place it over your wound to help bring the bleeding to a stop. Bite down gently on the gauze pad from time to time and make sure you change the pad when it becomes saturated with blood. Just a word of caution here – be careful not to bite your cheek or your lip while your mouth is still numb. Bleeding usually stops around 24 hours after the procedure. Get in touch with your dentist if you’re still bleeding after this period.
2. Do Apply An Ice Pack First Two Days
Applying an ice pack or cold cloth outside of the cheek can help bring down swelling. Apply the pack gently for periods of 15 to 20 minutes during the first 24 hours. After this period, heat works better on the swelling than cold packs. So, for the next 2 to 3 days, you might want to wring out a towel soaked in warm water and apply it to your cheek.
3. Do Keep Your Head Elevated
Lying flat may extend bleeding. So use an extra pillow to elevate your head while you sleep.
4. Do Use A Salt Water Rinse Or Mouthwash After 24 Hours
After 24 hours, rinse out your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash gently. Don’t rinse vigorously as this can loosen blood clots which develop in the empty tooth socket and help healing. A salt water rinse can also help with pain and swelling. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 250 ml of warm water and rinse a few times a day for relief.
5. Do Have Soft Foods
It’s better to stick to soft foods or liquids for a few days after your procedure. Puddings, yogurt, and thin nutritious soups are good options that you can try. Avoid hot drinks initially as they can remove blood clots.
6. Do Follow Doctor’s Orders
If you’ve been asked to take antibiotics, make sure you complete the course. While your doctor will prescribe medication for the pain and swelling, be prompt in reporting any excessive bleeding, intense pain, or unusual symptoms to your doctor.
7. Do Not Rinse Or Spit Vigorously
After your surgery, blood clots begin to form in your tooth socket. These help with the process of healing. For 24 hours after the procedure, it’s important to avoid spitting or rinsing as this can remove blood clots.
8. Do Not Use A Straw
It’s best not to use a straw for a few days as the sucking motion can loosen blood clots and hinder the healing process.
9. Do Not Take Part In Strenuous Activities
Physical activity may mean increased bleeding, so avoid strenuous activities for a few days. Rest and relax to allow your body to heal.
10. Do Not Drink Or Smoke
The sucking motion that smoking involves can dislodge blood clots and hamper healing. Smoking can also reduce blood supply to the area, resulting in delayed healing. Another detrimental effect of smoking is that it can deliver contaminants and germs to the affected area. Researchers have also found alcohol abuse to impair wound healing.5 So it’s best to completely avoid smoking and drinking alcohol while you’re recovering.
Getting Back To Normal
If you’re slated for surgery or just had a procedure, you must also be wondering what the road back to normal looks like. Here what typically happens:
Time Taken For Recovery
It could take a couple of weeks to completely recover from the extraction of your wisdom tooth. During the first few days, you may experience swelling in your cheeks and mouth, which gradually eases off. Your jaw may also be sore or stiff for around 7 to 10 days after extraction. Pain and a disagreeable taste are also common. Though rare, some people also find that their tongue, lips, or face is slightly numb or tingling.
Brushing Your Teeth
For 24 hours, go easy on the brushing, avoiding it if you can. After that, brush gently, taking care not to aggravate the extracted area. Spitting hard and sucking are also not a good idea till the blood clots form properly. You should be able to start brushing normally about a week after your procedure.
Your dentist may give you stitches after your procedure. Some stitches have to be removed while others dissolve automatically. You may be asked to come in for a checkup about a week after your procedure. Any stitches that remain will usually be removed at this point.6
Driving And Working
You may be able to drive immediately after your procedure is completed if only a local anesthetic was used during your procedure. But if a general anesthetic was used, you will need to refrain from driving for 48 hours after your procedure. Most doctors also advise you to take a couple of days off work to recuperate after the procedure. Do remember to check with your doctor about when it’s ideal for you to start driving or work.7 8
|↑1, ↑2||Wisdom Teeth. American Dental Association.|
|↑3, ↑7||Wisdom tooth removal – Recovery. National Health Service.|
|↑4, ↑8||Wisdom Tooth Extraction. HealthLink British Columbia.|
|↑5||Anderson, Kristin, and Rose L. Hamm. “Factors that impair wound healing.” Journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists 4, no. 4 (2012): 84-91.|
|↑6||Wisdom tooth removal – Recovery “Wisdom tooth removal – Recovery”). National Health Service.|