November 04, 2021
Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common dental surgeries. Still, if patients need to get wisdom teeth removal, they might be concerned about surgery and recovery. Most patients only encounter mild discomfort and as long as they follow instructions from their dentist, recovery is relatively quick and free of complications.
Why remove wisdom teeth at all?
The final back molars are the last adult teeth to grow in. Typically they come in between the ages of 17 and 21, growing in on the bottom and top of both sides of the mouth. Not all wisdom teeth require removal, but typically people do not have enough room in their mouths to accommodate these last teeth and several things can happen. Because there is no room the wisdom teeth remain trapped in the gums or jawbone, which can be extremely painful. Wisdom teeth might also come in at the wrong angle, or press against the other adult teeth causing them to shift. Or, because wisdom teeth are so far back in the mouth they are difficult to clean and floss properly and often develop cavities or periodontal infection.
What should patients expect after wisdom tooth extraction?
Wisdom tooth extraction requires a single outpatient procedure. To remove wisdom teeth the oral surgeon makes an incision in the gum to gain access to the tooth roots and remove the developing molars. While a minimally invasive procedure, it is still a surgery and patients should prepare for some post-operation bleeding, swelling, and pain.
How long does recovery take after wisdom teeth removal?
On average, blood clots should form in the first 24 hours, swelling should go down in 2-3 days, and any stiffness and soreness should be gone in 7-10 days and the dentist can remove the stitches. That said, some patients experience little to no pain post-operation and can go right back to work while others undergo a much longer recovery time. The recovery period has a lot to do with the development of the wisdom teeth, the level of impaction, and the extent of the surgery. More difficult tooth removal can result in an extended recovery. Recovery will also take longer if patients experience an infection or dry socket.
What should a patient do immediately after surgery?
Everyone responds differently to anesthesia. Patients who only require local anesthesia can drive themselves to and from the appointment. But for moderate to deep sedation the patient wakes up from surgery and they will still feel the aftereffects—some for several hours. This is why it is important to have a responsible adult with the patient to help them get home safely. The dentist or oral surgeon will give the patient-specific instructions on aiding recovery and encouraging the healing process. Patients should keep a gauze pad on the extraction site for 30 minutes and swap it out regularly if it gets soggy. Patients can also use an icepack as soon as they are ready, taking it on and off in 15-minute increments to help reduce pain and swelling. Depending on the patient’s pain tolerance, it is also important to stay on top of pain medications and follow the dentist’s recommendations and prescriptions. The dentist might also recommend antibiotics if there is a higher risk of infection.
What should a patient do when they get home?
Once home the patient should keep up with gauze and icing until the bleeding and swelling subsides. It is also important to keep the mouth and surgical sites clean. If the dentist allows a patient to brush the same night of surgery, it is important to be extremely gentle near the extraction sites so the patient does not dislodge the blood clot. The dentist might also advise several rinses throughout the day. These should be done with warm salt water instead of commercial rinses. Also, the patient will want to rinse gently to promote healing.
What should patients eat after wisdom teeth removal?
Eating healthy and staying hydrated after wisdom teeth removal are important parts of recovery. Patients should avoid hard, sticky, crunchy, or extremely hot foods. For the first couple of days, the patient will want to stick to soft foods like soups, noodles, eggs, and yogurt to help reduce the risk of complications. It is also important to avoid using a straw and too much caffeine. Smoking and alcohol can also slow healing.
Getting wisdom teeth removed is not something to fear. While the procedure is different for everyone, as long as patients follow the after-care instructions from their dentist they should have a smooth recovery.