Wisdom teeth removal is very common and safe. With that said, it is also a surgery and requires care during the recovery process. Following these aftercare instructions can significantly minimize your risk of ongoing discomfort or infection.
Immediately Following Surgery
- There will be a gauze pad placed over the incision sites intraorally. Keep this gauze pad in place for half an hour after surgery. After half an hour has passed, remove and discard it. Replace the gauze as many times as necessary to control bleeding.
- Avoid touching the wound area or any kind of vigorous mouth washing, following surgery. Touching or mouth washing may dislodge the blood clot that has formed, which can in turn cause bleeding.
- As soon as you start feeling pain or discomfort, take the prescription pain medication as instructed. This will usually happen around the time your anesthesia wears off.
- Try to rest on the day of your surgery. Take it easy and restrict physical activities. Get back to your normal physical activities when you feel able.
- Use ice packs on the side of your face where you had wisdom teeth removed. This is an important way to minimize swelling.
Following surgery, a little bit of bleeding is normal and can be anticipated. Some slight bleeding, or red saliva, is nothing to worry about. If you experience excessive bleeding, you may be able to control it by rinsing and wiping away any old blood clots in your mouth. Then, place a gauze pad over the wound area, and bite down on it for at least half an hour. If bleeding continues, repeat this step, or else try biting down on a wet tea bag for half an hour. You can also minimize bleeding by resting, avoiding physical exercise or excitement.
Following wisdom teeth removal, you can expect some swelling around the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and side of the face. This is the body’s normal response to surgery. Usually, the swelling does not become evident until the day after surgery and will reach its peak on day two or three. You can control the swelling with the use of ice packs. Place them against the side of the face where surgery was performed, and keep them there continuously while you are awake. Note that, after 48 hours, ice loses its beneficial effect. At this point, moist heat (e.g., a warm compress) works best to encourage swelling reduction.
Also, be aware that your jaw may become a little stiff following your surgery, especially during the second and third days of your recovery. This is a normal response to surgery and is nothing to worry about. The stiff muscles in your cheeks will loosen up with time. Daily opening or stretching exercises will help encourage a return to normal.
If you experience mild to moderate pain, you may take one or two tablets of Tylenol or Extra Strength Tylenol. Additionally, you may take two to three 200 mg tablets of Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) tablets every 4-6 hours.
For more severe pain, you may take any narcotic pain medications that are prescribed by your surgeon, and use them as directed. Note that prescription pain medications can cause you to feel groggy, and they may also slow your reflexes. When taking prescription pain medicines, avoid driving, operating machinery, and drinking alcohol.
Once you are 3-4 days post-op, your pain should become less and less pronounced each day. If pain persists or intensifies, contact your surgeon.
After anesthesia or IV sedation, you will want to resume your diet with liquids first. Drink from a glass and avoid using straws. (The sucking motion from the straw may dislodge your blood clot and cause more bleeding.) You can enjoy soft foods, though we recommend chewing on the side of your mouth away from the incision site.
Seek nourishment regularly, and drink lots of fluids to ensure that you avoid dehydration. Over the first couple of days, your food intake may be lower, so compensate by drinking more liquids. Aim for a minimum of five to six glasses of liquid daily.
Try to get plenty of calories and protein, and not miss any meals. Getting sound nutrition will help you feel better and regain your strength more quickly.
If you exercise regularly or play a sport, be aware that your normal nourishment intake will be temporarily reduced. If you become lightheaded, stop exercising.
Keep Your Mouth Clean
On the day of your surgery, avoid rinsing or mouth washing of any kind. You may brush your teeth at night, but be very gentle in your rinsing.
On the day after surgery, start by rinsing with a mixture of warm water and salt five to six times daily, especially after eating.
Some patients may experience some slight discoloration or “bruising” of the skin, in addition to swelling. Any black, blue, green, or yellow discoloration may be caused by blood spreading beneath the tissues. This is very normal and may happen within two to three days following your procedure. A warm compress can help manage this discoloration.
Antibiotics can help prevent infection, so make sure you take them as directed. Do not continue using antibiotics in the event of a rash or other adverse reaction. Contact the office if you have any questions.
Nausea and Vomiting
If you experience nausea or vomiting the day after your surgery, avoid taking anything by mouth for at least an hour, including prescription medications. Then, try sipping on ginger ale, tea, or Coke. Sip slowly for 15 minutes or more. When nausea subsides, you can try eating solid foods and taking your medications again.
Sutures will be used to minimize bleeding and to expedite your healing. In some instances, the sutures may become dislodged. This is nothing to worry about. Simply remove the dislodged suture from your mouth and discard it.
Sutures placed during wisdom teeth removal are almost always dissolvable. These may dissolve anytime within 3-10 days following your surgery.
There will be a cavity where the wisdom tooth was removed, and over the course of a month, this cavity will fill with tissue and gums will close over the top. Use saltwater rinses and tooth brushing to keep this area clean, especially following meals. Twice daily irrigation of extraction sockets may be necessary for 3-4 weeks after surgery to encourage healing and prevent infection.
A dry socket occurs when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket, causing severe pain in the mouth or even in the ear. This usually occurs 2-5 days following your surgery. If this happens, reach out to our office for further guidelines.
- Following surgery, you may notice numbness of the lip, tongue, or chin. This is normal and should prove temporary. However, the numbness may cause you to accidentally bite your tongue or your lip, so be extra careful as you eat.
- You may have a slight uptick in temperature after surgery. This is normal and can be managed with Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
- Be careful moving from a lying down position to standing. You will likely feel weak and a bit dizzy. To avoid lightheadedness, you should sit for one minute before you stand up.
- Some patients feel hard projections in the mouth with their tongue. These are the bony walls that support the wisdom tooth. Most of the time, they smooth out on their own. If they cause an ongoing problem, our surgeons can remove them very easily.
- If the corners of your mouth are stretched out, it may result in dry, cracked lips. Use ointments such as Vaseline to keep your lips moist.
- It is also common to experience a sore throat, especially when swallowing. This is simply the result of swelling in the throat muscles, and should subside within a couple of days.
- Stiffness in the jaw muscles may cause difficulty in opening your mouth for a few days after your surgery. This stiffness is normal and will resolve on its own.