Wisdom teeth removal is a fairly common procedure today, but that doesn’t mean you should take a smooth recovery for granted. When it’s time to get your wisdom teeth out, choose and contact an experienced oral surgeon. The second step is education about the procedure, what to expect, and steps you can take to make your wisdom teeth extraction recovery a smooth (and hopefully easy) process—steps like:
Ask questions BEFORE the procedure.
Take steps BEFORE the procedure to make your recovery smoother. Ask your oral surgeon questions about your diet after the surgery, any prescriptions you may need to fill, and practices that they’ve seen work for other patients. Listen to your surgeon’s recommendations, follow their advice and take a few days to prepare for the surgery, like stocking your freezer with ice and pantry with the foods and supplies your surgeon recommends. Set up an area for you to rest in with easy access to all the necessities you need (fresh gauze, drinks, medicine, etc.)
Allow yourself time to heal.
Don’t try to tough it out on the job, at school, or at the gym after wisdom teeth surgery. Take a few days off to recover and give your body a time to heal and deal with the swelling and discomfort of oral surgery. Even when you’re feeling better, try to keep your activity light for another week; total recovery time is typically about two weeks. Taking some down time (typically 5 days and a week of light activity) also allows you to take proper precautions to prevent complications—complications that could make your recovery longer and more painful.
Do everything you can to prevent dry sockets.
Dry sockets are a condition when the blood clots that should happen don’t or prematurely dislodge. Avoid straws, smoking cigarettes, vigorous swirling of anything in your mouth, and any action that involves too much suction. In addition to being incredibly painful, dry sockets can also delay your recovery from wisdom teeth surgery.
Be aware of the food ‘don’ts’ of wisdom teeth extraction recovery.
In addition to avoiding straws and cigarettes, cut out other foods and liquids that could cause problems during recovery. Here are a few items to avoid for a smooth recovery: popcorn, alcohol, hot liquids, hard foods (chips, nuts, etc.), solid foods, acidic foods, and sticky foods (peanut butter, marshmallows, etc.). Instead stick to soft foods such as soup, pudding, mashed potatoes, soft vegetables, jello, and smoothies.
We usually tell you to brush and floss your teeth well, but you can disregard this advice immediately after wisdom teeth surgery. Don’t brush for 24 hours after the procedure, and be ready to adjust your brushing technique for a few days.
Remember that ice and gauze is your best friend.
Post-operative swelling is a normal part of wisdom teeth extraction, so stock up on ice to keep that inevitable swelling as minimal as possible. Keep your gauze within arm’s reach during your recovery; you’ll need to replace the gauze regularly as needed. When your oral surgeon recommends, add a mouth rinse to your recovery routine to keep your mouth clean.
Be proactive about pain.
Follow your oral surgeon’s recommendations for pain management closely, and don’t procrastinate taking any recommended pain medications. If you wait too long to take medicine, when your mouth really hurts, it’s going to have to take longer to get the pain back in control.
Be aware that everyone’s recovery is different.
Some patients have very little discomfort and swelling after their extraction. Others have a slow and painful process to navigate through. In general, younger patients tend to have an easier recovery, but your recovery process is yours. Be patient as you recover, and treat each condition as the need arises.
Treat a stiff jaw carefully.
Your jaw may feel stiff and tender, so be gentle about opening it for the first 24 hours—but make sure you do it from time to time throughout the recovery process.
Contact your oral surgeon if…
Make sure to ask your oral surgeon for specific conditions that should make you pick up your phone or laptop, such as bleeding that lasts longer than normal or excessive pain many days after the surgery. Your oral surgeon and staff can answer your questions, advise you of additional care steps to take, and let you know when it becomes necessary for you to come in for a follow-up appointment—everything you need for a smooth wisdom teeth removal recovery.