Wisdom teeth, known as third molars, usually erupt between the ages of 17-25. While many people have the space for these teeth to come through, as many as 85 percent will need to have their wisdom teeth removed in their lifetime. Many dentists recommend removing troublesome wisdom teeth as early as possible as these teeth develop longer roots that harden to the jaw, making extraction much more difficult as you get older. Because of these roots, wisdom tooth extraction is much more involved, and recovery can take longer.
Here we offer tips to help make your recovery easier and get you back to your daily routine in no time.
- Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are believed to be an evolutionary answer to our ancestor’s early diet and the fact that extreme chewing took a greater toll on other molars. Erupting later in life, wisdom teeth often replace lost second molars. Now, however, our softer diets and dental hygiene make them unnecessary.
- In most cases, you can expect at least a week or more to heal from wisdom tooth extractions completely.
- Facial swelling and jaw stiffness are common after wisdom tooth removal but can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers and cold compresses.
- After wisdom tooth extraction, it is important to follow after-care guidelines in order to reduce the risk of a painful condition known as a dry socket.
Tips for recovering after wisdom teeth removal
Recovery after a wisdom tooth extraction is different for everyone and depends on various factors, such as your oral health and overall general health. After your extraction, your dentist will provide you with after-care instructions, and it is important that you follow these. In addition to your instructions, we look at some recovery tips that can help ease the pain and discomfort and reduce the risk of dry socket, the most common complication following wisdom tooth extraction.
1. Apply direct pressure with gauze
After your extraction, your oral surgeon will likely ask you to bite down on a gauze pad to stop the bleeding at the extraction site. This process also helps form the blood clots necessary to protect the exposed bone and reduce the risk of a dry socket while promoting faster healing. You may need to replace the gauze pads until the bleeding stops.
2. Keep your head elevated
When you lay flat, blood flow to the extraction site is easier. Lying flat can also cause blood pooling at the extraction site, which often results in increased swelling and throbbing. For the first three days, keeping your head elevated while sleeping is advised to reduce this throbbing and promote healing.
3. Apply ice
During the first 36 hours, applying ice or cold compresses to your cheeks for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off can help to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling.
4. Eat soft foods
A nutritious diet is an essential part of your recovery process. However, chewing immediately after tooth extraction can be difficult and can increase the risk of dry sockets. Sticking to a diet of soft foods, such as soups, mashed potatoes, vegetables, Jell-O, and yogurt can provide the nutrients you need while being gentle on your healing tissue and gums. Foods to avoid until you have entirely healed include:
- Grains and seeds
- Berries with seeds
- Spicy foods
- Crunchy foods
- Foods that require a lot of chewing
5. Get plenty of rest
While you can return to many of your normal activities after wisdom tooth extraction, getting plenty of rest is essential to healing. You want to strive for at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night and not push yourself too much during the day.
6. Massage your jaw
Wisdom tooth extraction procedures can take time, and your jaw must remain open for extended periods. This can lead to cramps and sore muscles around the jaw, causing myofascial pain. Gently massaging the muscles can help release this tension and reduce your discomfort.
7. Keep inflammation levels low
Keeping inflammation low is the key to reducing any pain and discomfort you may feel. Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications can help reduce inflammation and control your pain levels. Follow your after-care instructions for pain medications and antibiotics, which are often necessary.
8. Keeping your mouth clean
Keeping your mouth clean after a wisdom tooth extraction is essential to reduce the risk of infection. While your surgeon may allow you to brush your teeth the same day as your extraction, use care to avoid direct contact with the extraction site, as it can dislodge the blood clot and lead to a dry socket. Instead, rinse your mouth a few times a day with a mixture of salt and warm water.
9. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol hinders your body’s natural ability to heal and also increases your risk of infection and dry sockets. It is recommended to avoid alcohol for at least seven to 10 days after your extraction to allow the tissue to heal completely.
10. Avoid hard foods and sugary sweets
Eating hard or sharp foods, such as potato chips or nuts, can inflict damage to your gums and surgical site, as well as dislodge the clot and lead to a dry socket. This can prolong your recovery time. At the same time, you want to avoid hard candies and other sugary sweets as bacteria and plaque feed on sugar and can increase the risk of infection and the buildup of plaque on your teeth.
11. No smoking or vaping
Smoking and vaping introduce chemicals and irritants to the mouth that can hinder healing and recovery. In addition, the sucking action required when inhaling a cigarette or vape can pull a blood clot out of the socket, leading to a dry socket and severe pain for a week or more.
12. No straws!
Like smoking, the suction action required to drink with a straw can pull the blood clot out of the extraction site, leading to a dry socket. Stay away from straws for at least 48 hours after your wisdom tooth extraction.
13. Stick to cold or room-temperature foods
In the hours after your tooth extraction, areas of your mouth may still be numb. It is important that you avoid extremely hot foods and beverages as they can burn areas of the mouth with little sensation.
14. Avoid strenuous activity
While you can return to many of your normal daily activities after your extraction, you should avoid strenuous activity for the first few days while you rest and allow your body time to heal.
15. Know when it’s time to call the dentist
While experiencing pain and discomfort after a wisdom tooth extraction is expected, there are some signs that can indicate complications. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your dentist or oral surgeon immediately:
- Bleeding that does not stop
- Increased swelling
- Pain that cannot be managed by medication
- Trouble swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
Getting back to your regular routine
Millions of people get their wisdom teeth removed every year for various reasons, such as overcrowding, damaging other teeth, or infection. While there is some recovery time and it is normal to experience some discomfort, these tips will help you boost your body’s healing ability and get you back to your normal activities in no time.
When you need a wisdom tooth removal
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort and believe your wisdom teeth are trying to come through, the New Leaf Rohnert Park team can help. Our team will evaluate your unique situation and help you decide on a treatment plan that helps promote quality oral health, including wisdom tooth extraction.
To learn more, book an appointment with our team today.