Also referred to as the third molars, the wisdom teeth (located in the back of the mouth) usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. Often, at least one will become impacted (can’t completely emerge), which can lead to pain and infection. The typical solution is wisdom tooth removal. After the procedure is completed, how should you take care of your mouth to encourage healing? Continue reading to get some useful tips that will make the experience much more comfortable.
What to Expect Post-Surgery and How to Respond
After your tooth is removed, here’s what you can expect to happen:
It’s not uncommon for there to be inflammation around the mouth, cheeks, eyes and sides of the face. The swelling usually happens the day following the surgery and will not reach its peak until the second or third day.
To reduce the inflammation, apply ice packs to the side of the face where the surgery was performed. This should be done for the first 24 to 36 hours.
Usually, an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen can be used to help reduce swelling and discomfort. In some instances, the dentist will prescribe pain medication, which could leave you feeling groggy and lethargic. Thus, you should abstain from driving a vehicle or operating machinery while medicated.
Immediately after surgery, you won’t be able to eat any hard or chewy foods. Hot or cold beverages can also pose a problem, as they can trigger pain. You should also avoid sucking on straws, as it could cause the blood clot to dislodge.
For the first 4-7 days after your surgery, you’ll need to stick to a soft-food diet (soups, yogurt, pudding, etc.). This will help to protect the treatment site and encourage healing.
How Long Does It Take to Recover?
Recovery from wisdom tooth removal is a gradual process. As long as the dentist’s instructions are followed, you can expect to see continued improvements as the days go by. Here is the usual timetable:
- First 24 hours – Blood clot formation
- 2 to 3 days – Improvement in any swelling of the mouth and cheeks
- 7 days – Stitch removal
- 7 to 10 days – Decreased jaw stiffness
- 2 weeks – Decreased swelling
How to Speed Up Your Healing
The formation of blood clots in the vacated socket prevents profuse bleeding and encourages healing. Smoking or chewing tobacco can be counterproductive, as the toxins that are released can cause the clot to fail and leave you susceptible to an infection.
After the first few days have passed, you can start incorporating more foods into your diet and eat on a normal schedule. By making healthy choices, which includes eating foods high in protein and vegetables that contain key nutrients, you can speed up the healing process.
Wisdom tooth extraction isn’t your idea of a fun-filled event, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. By taking a calculated and careful approach to your post-surgery regimen, you can recover properly and fully.
About the Author
Dr. James D. Geer earned his dental degree from the University of Texas at Houston. With over 40 years of experience in the dental world, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge. A skilled oral surgeon, he specializes in performing difficult extractions and the removal of wisdom teeth. Dr. Geer helps his patients experience the absolute best in dental health at his private practice, and he can be reached for more information or to schedule a visit through his website.