Are you nervous about your upcoming wisdom tooth extraction?
You’re hardly alone. Dental surgery is no one’s favorite pastime. But your future self will thank you for investing in your dental health.
8 Expert Recovery Tips After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
The surgery itself is relatively quick, and you will be under local or general anesthesia to numb pain. The recovery process, however, is a little more drawn out.
But wisdom tooth extraction recovery doesn’t have to be awful. Follow these tips to promote healing and ensure a smooth, quick recovery.
Follow Your Dentist’s Advice
No two mouths are the same—and only your dentist knows what your mouth needs after surgery.
If you need extensive surgery, encounter complications, or have a preexisting condition, your dentist can tailor your aftercare to your situation. They may also give you specific instructions to prepare for dental surgery.
Your dentist will leave a piece of gauze on the surgical site, which you shouldn’t disturb for the length of time they tell you (usually about an hour). Change the gauze regularly according to their instructions.
Your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics, which you should take according to their directions. Remember never to leave an antibiotic regimen unfinished, even if you feel fine. Stopping your antibiotics before they’re done can cause a much more serious wisdom tooth extraction infection.
Your dentist may prescribe you painkillers. You can also take over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Rinse Your Mouth With Saltwater
Saltwater rinses are an easy yet effective way to promote wisdom tooth extraction healing. It increases your mouth’s PH level, which kills off infection-causing bacteria. It also gently cleans the surgical wound without inflaming tissue.
Your saltwater rinse should include about one teaspoon of salt per cup of water. Using warm water will dissolve the salt better and help soothe the surgical site. Don’t use hot or cold water, either of which could interrupt healing.
Use the rinse a few times a day, especially after eating or drinking something other than water. Be sure to swish the water gently—you don’t want any vigorous movement or suction that could disrupt healing.
When you spit out the water, lean over and let it fall out of your mouth. Don’t spit vigorously.
Your body’s natural response to any trauma—including surgery—is to swell. Swelling evolved to protect your body from further immediate injury. The downside, however, is that it can significantly prolong healing time.
That’s why applying ice packs after your surgery is so important.
Try to apply ice packs to the affected side(s) of your face every twenty minutes. Start applying cold as soon as possible after surgery, even if it seems like the swelling isn’t a problem. Swelling can peak two or three days after the surgery.
Don’t leave ice packs on any longer than 20 minutes. Frostbite is the last problem you need right now!
Then Apply Heat
Applying heat directly after the surgery draws blood to the site. The result is swelling, throbbing, pain, bleeding, and overall slower healing.
After about two days, however, the therapeutic value of ice decreases, and the therapeutic value of heat increases. As your body’s short-term inflammatory response fades, heat can increase blood flow and help with healing.
Your face and jaw may feel stiff and painful after the surgery. Once it’s safe, heat is an excellent tool for reducing stiffness and increasing the range of movement.
Apply a heating pad, a warm towel, or a water bottle to the side(s) of your face affected. Using moist heat (e.g., heating a damp towel) may feel better on your skin than dry heat.
Don’t use excessive heat and risk burning yourself. The temperature should be hot but not uncomfortable.
Exercise Proper Post-Surgery Dental Hygiene
Post-surgery is one of the few times your dentist will tell you not to brush your teeth. In the first 24 hours, any brushing or flossing might disturb the surgical site.
Gentle saltwater rinses can help your mouth feel clean during this first day. After 24 to 48 hours, you can resume brushing—but be gentle and be careful to avoid the surgical site.
Most experts advise against using electric toothbrushes for about two weeks, as it’s too easy to disturb the surgical site while using them. If the surgical site gives you bad breath or makes your mouth feel “icky,” brushing your tongue can help.
Know What to Eat
Eating hard or crunchy foods is the worst thing you can do after dental surgery. Not only do they risk dislodging the blood clot or any stitches, but they’re also likely to hurt the second you bite down.
Foods that aren’t especially hard or crunchy but still require some chewing are best avoided the first few days after surgery, too. These foods can still disturb the surgical site. They can also leave food particles in your mouth, which can get stuck in the surgical site, causing inflammation and even infection.
Try soft, low-chew foods such as soup, applesauce, and eggs. It’s okay to treat yourself to a little soft serve ice cream. The cool temperature will soothe your surgical site and help you feel better!
Avoid Disturbing the Site
After the surgery is done, your body starts forming a blood clot over the extraction site. If the blood clot gets dislodged, you wind up with a dry socket, where bone and nerves are exposed at the surgery site. This is a painful condition that slows healing, so know how to avoid it.
Straws are a no-no after dental surgery, as they create suction that can disturb stitches or pull the blood clot loose. Avoid any vigorous swishing.
Don’t touch the surgical site unless you need to, with either your fingers or your tongue. Passionate kissing is a bad idea, too—though most people aren’t interested in making out right after dental surgery!
Don’t Smoke or Drink
Smoking introduces toxins into your mouth that cause inflammation and disrupt healing. Smokers have a higher risk of getting dry sockets. If you smoke, try to abstain for at least a few days after the surgery.
Most experts advise waiting at least a week before drinking alcohol again. Alcohol can inhibit the body’s healing process and lower your immune defenses, which increases your risk of getting an infection. Alcohol can also have detrimental or even dangerous interactions with any antibiotics or painkillers you’re taking.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction: Educate Yourself
Still worried about wisdom tooth extraction surgery? It may help to educate yourself on how much good you’re doing for your health. Wisdom teeth that don’t get removed when they need to can cause pain, infection, and damage to surrounding bone and teeth down the line.
Want to learn more about taking care of your mouth? Read more dental health articles in our archives.