Scientists believe that our third molars (called “wisdom teeth” as they tend to emerge later in life than our other molars) are evolutionary holdovers. At one point in our biological history, these teeth may have been important for chewing up tough plant fibers, but nowadays, they tend to cause us more harm than good when they emerge. Wisdom teeth often crowd the other teeth in our mouth, leading to crooked teeth and other dental problems later on, and some can even erupt through the gum line at an angle that causes pain and potential infection. For these reasons, many dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons recommend extracting wisdom teeth before they have a chance to emerge fully. While extraction surgery is common, wisdom teeth aftercare is a crucial part of the procedure. Let’s take a look at some relevant information about your wisdom teeth and how to recover from wisdom teeth removal quickly and comfortably.
What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Wisdom teeth removal is the colloquial term for surgery to remove the third molars from the corners of your mouth. Most people have four wisdom teeth, and they can be removed either in anticipation of their emergence if they are growing in at an awkward angle (this is usually confirmed with a dental X-ray) or if they are causing severe pain or crowding in the mouth. Extraction of the wisdom teeth becomes most necessary when impaction of the tooth or incomplete eruption results in further oral complications like:
- tooth decay
- gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontal disease
- pericoronitis—an infection of the soft tissue in the mouth due to plaque buildup on the wisdom tooth
- bacterial infection of the cheek, tongue, or throat
- abscess—a pocket of pus that forms under the gum line due to bacteria collecting on the wisdom tooth.
At Great Basin Oral and Facial Surgery, the procedure is straightforward and starts with one of our skilled oral surgeons confirming that wisdom teeth are problematic and then setting a date for the procedure. Once in surgery, the surgeon will usually administer a local anesthetic, meaning that most patients are conscious during their operation but feel no pain. When extracting all four wisdom teeth, other types of anesthesia may be necessary to help keep patients calm and comfortable during their procedure. Great Basin Oral and Facial Surgery offers a range of anesthesia options including nitrous oxide (laughing gas), sedation, or even general anesthesia depending on patient preference and what the surgeon deems to be safe.
When the operation begins, the surgeon may need to gain better access to the tooth by making a small incision in the gum. Afterward, they will rock the tooth back and forth to weaken the ligament holding it in place before eventually extracting the tooth manually. Occasionally the tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces before being removed. Removing a single wisdom tooth can take anywhere from a few minutes to 20 and longer, so plan for your procedure to be at least an hour or two long.
What to Expect After Surgery
Wisdom teeth aftercare begins in the hours and days immediately after your procedure, and proper compliance with your care regimen and keeping an eye out for any complications are the best ways to recover from wisdom teeth removal quickly and safely. Your oral surgeon will close the empty sockets with dissolving stitches that take between 7-10 days to disappear on their own. They may also place gauze over the sites to control any bleeding and may ask you to keep the dressings in place for the next few hours after the procedure. The first thing patients will have to contend with are some of the side effects of the surgery presenting as soon as the anesthetic begins to wear off. These may include:
Expect to feel some soreness around the extraction sites for the next few days as the anesthetic wears off. You may notice some visible bruising and swelling around the face for 1-3 days after the operation, which can be treated with a combination of ice and over-the-counter pain medication. If pain is severe and persistent, contact your oral surgeon for a follow-up examination, wherein they might prescribe a painkiller to take.
Jaw stiffness can be a side effect of swelling around the temporomandibular joints on either side of your jaw. This is temporary, and full jaw function should return as the swelling dissipates. Try not to overexert the jaw with excessive chewing or talking while in this tender state.
Because the Wisdom teeth are removed at the root, there may be some residual sensitivity to the surrounding teeth that comes from contact with the nerve made during the procedure. This and other nerve sensations like tingling, numbness, etc., are all possibilities and are usually temporary. However, there is a small risk of these sensations becoming permanent.
It will take a couple of hours for a blood clot to form in the empty cavities left by your extraction. During this time, you may experience some minor to moderate bleeding from the cavities. Bite down gently on a piece of clean gauze supplied by your surgeon until you notice the bleeding has stopped, at which point the clot has formed. If bleeding continues for more than a few hours or increases in volume, contact your oral surgeon right away for treatment advice.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Wisdom Tooth Removal?
In general, wisdom teeth removal healing should be entirely complete within 2-3 weeks after your procedure. Certain complications can impact the healing timeline, and it’s important to stay vigilant for symptoms in the healing period. The most common of these conditions are general infection of the cavities and a specialized condition called “dry socket.” A general infection is usually characterized by symptoms like prolonged pain, redness of the site, unpleasant smell, pus, and sensitivity. A dry socket has similar symptoms but is caused when a clot fails to form in the cavity or is later dislodged, which can result in a dull, throbbing ache in the gum and soft tissue. A dry socket can be treated by an oral surgeon by flushing out the cavity and placing a medicated dressing in the space, which will need to be changed frequently.
Wisdom Teeth Aftercare
When asking how to recover from wisdom teeth removal, the answer is proper and dedicated aftercare. Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions to follow after your procedure, and how well you follow them will have a profound impact on how to recover faster from wisdom teeth removal. Some of the most common wisdom teeth after-care instructions include:
- Avoid strenuous activity and exercise for a few days. You may want to take a day or two off from work if possible at this time, as bed rest will help the site form a clot faster.
- Do not rinse with any hot liquids or consume any warm drinks for the first day or two after your operation, as this may detach the blood clot.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol for 24 hours, as this will increase your chance of a dry socket forming.
- Gently rinse the extraction site with an antiseptic mouthwash after 24 hours and at least once per day for the next week or so—particularly after eating. This will keep food debris out of the sockets and prevent infection.
You must take any medication prescribed to you after your surgery as well, as your surgeon may want you to take antibiotics in the case of an existing infection or if they believe you are at risk of developing one. You can also treat any pain or discomfort with appropriate pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Confirm with your surgeon which drugs are safe to take at home during the healing process. If you have any questions or need clarification about your aftercare instructions, don’t hesitate to contact Great Basin Oral and Facial Surgery.
What to Eat After Wisdom Teeth Removal
One of the best wisdom teeth recovery tips is to watch your diet following your extraction procedure. Anytime you undergo surgery, it’s important to start fluid intake right away and not allow yourself to become dehydrated. This, along with consuming regular, high-protein, high-calorie meals, will provide more nutrients for your body to repair the surgical site and help you heal faster. In the first 24 hours after your procedure, you may want to stick with liquid foods like smoothies and cold soups to keep the site free of any debris and avoid disturbing it by chewing. It may also feel better to stick with soft foods over the next few days as the swelling goes down. Foods like eggs, oatmeal, well-cooked vegetables, and shredded chicken will suffice. It’s important to avoid anything hard, crunchy, or especially chewy as these foods can dislodge the clot in your cavity, cause additional pain to swollen tissues, and potentially even rupture your stitches.
Wisdom teeth removal surgery is a common, beneficial procedure that can save patients from the unwanted side effects of impacted or infected wisdom teeth. However, the procedure is only part of the overall treatment, and wisdom teeth aftercare is a crucial part of ensuring that your mouth returns to its normal, healthy condition quickly. If you are considering or have been told that you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, hopefully, this post has given you an idea of what to expect for both your procedure and the necessary aftercare. If you are considering wisdom teeth removal in Reno, trust the experts at Great Basin Oral and Facial Surgery with your care. Call today for an initial consultation with one of our experienced oral surgeons.