If you’re like about 85% of the population, you might be told by your dentist that your wisdom teeth need to be removed. Although it’s possible to spend your whole life with wisdom teeth intact with no problems, there are several reasons why it might be necessary for these teeth to be extracted (e.g. overcrowding, installing implants, damage to nearby teeth, gum disease, or extensive tooth decay).
Wisdom tooth removal is a routine surgery; however, recovering from the extraction will take some time and plenty of rest on your part. It’s normal to experience pain, discomfort, and swelling while recovering, and it’ll take time before things get back to normal. Thankfully, there are ways to take care of yourself after oral surgery to ease pain and get well faster.
- Plan ahead – Start planning for your recovery before the surgery. Discuss what to expect with your dentist or surgeon and ask plenty of questions about how you should expect to feel and what you can do to speed recovery. Also, discuss a convenient schedule for the operation. You’ll need a few days afterwards to rest, so schedule the appointment when you have enough time to recover.
- Get plenty of rest – Take things slow and easy following the operation. Have someone on hand to take you back home. You won’t be in any condition to drive, and taking public transportation is similarly unwise. Get ample rest for a day or two following surgery; your long-term recovery can be made much easier if you get enough “down time.” In most cases, you can get back to work after a day, but full recovery can take up to a week. Whatever you do, avoid strenuous activity for several days to avoid complications at the extraction site. Painkillers can also make it hazardous to perform certain kinds of work (e.g. driving or operating heavy machinery). It’s wise to take time off work to avoid causing harm to yourself or others.
- Keep your head elevated – Elevating your head changes the blood volume and blood vessel tone to speed recovery of the wounds. This also reduces swelling around the area, reducing your discomfort. Use pillows to position your body at a 45-degree angle, keeping the head and shoulders above the heart as much as possible.
- Take your medication – Always take your pain medication as prescribed by the dentist. Have someone remind you (or set a reminder in your phone) to take the first dose. People are often still suffering the effects of the anaesthesia shortly after the procedure. Take your medicine on time to avoid feeling the full force of the pain, even if you have to wake up in the middle of the night. In addition to your prescription, you may want to take over-the-counter medications to help alleviate some of the symptoms; speak to your dentist about safe options; do not self-medicate.
- Stick to soft foods – Good nutrition is always important, especially when healing from something like a wisdom tooth removal. Stick to soft foods for a few days (e.g. smoothies, soups, and scrambled eggs) for something easy to chew and nutritious. Eating soft foods also keeps the blood clots over the site from dislodging and causing “dry socket.” Drink plenty of water, but refrain from using a straw as the sucking action can dislodge the clots. Likewise, when you can chew again, refrain from chewing at the back of the mouth where the gums are trying to heal.
- Rinse your mouth – Gently rinse out your mouth with a warm saline solution (240 ml or 8 oz of warm water plus 5 ml or 1 tsp salt) the day after the operation and three times a day while your healing. Salt kills bacteria in the mouth and helps keep the sockets free of germs and is a natural painkiller. Your dentist may also prescribe an antiseptic mouthwash to bathe the sockets gently to avoid dry socket.
- Control bleeding – Bleeding after the procedure is normal; you’ll be given a gauze to bite on to stop the bleeding. Bite down (applying consistent pressure) on the gauze for at least 30 minutes to slow the bleeding. If necessary, replace the gauze with a fresh one. If the bleeding continues, bite on a moistened caffeinated tea bag instead. The tannin in tea leaves promotes blood clotting, and the caffeine can stimulate circulation to the area.
- Avoid smoking – Refrain from smoking while the wounds in the sockets heal. Cigarette smoke slows the healing process, prolonging your discomfort. Sucking on a cigarette can also dislodge the blood clots over the sockets, causing dry socket.
- Keep the jaw moving – After surgery, it’s normal to feel some stiffness in the jaws. Use some simple exercises to keep the jaws limber (e.g. opening and closing them slowly). This will stimulate blood flow to the extraction sites and promote healing.
- Apply ice packs – In case of extreme pain and swelling, apply ice packs to your face for the first few days. The cold keeps the swelling down and reduces the pain. If you’re short on ice packs, substitute a bag of frozen vegetables. After 48 hours, ice will have no effect on the swelling, and you should switch to moist heat to help reduce the swelling further.
- Monitor your symptoms – Your symptoms should abate steadily, and each day you should be feeling better. Monitor your pain to make sure it stays that way. If your symptoms worsen (e.g. you continue to bleed, develop a fever, or the sites continue to hurt), contact your dentist immediately, as these may point to medical complications.
It can take weeks to recover from wisdom tooth surgery, but following these tips will help soothe pain and discomfort, and help you heal more quickly.
If you need wisdom tooth removal in Oshawa, Simcoe Smile Dental’s caring staff provides patients with personalized care. We offer a wide variety of services to cater to everyone in the family. Give us a call at (289) 312-1482 to make an appointment. We also offer extended hours to accommodate busy schedules.