Wisdom tooth removal is something that most people experience at some point in their lives. Knowing what to expect after surgery and what is involved in the recovery can ease some anxiety and can help with planning.
Recovery time after the extraction of wisdom teeth usually varies from person to person and can depend largely on the type of extraction that was required. The greater the impaction of your wisdom teeth, the more complicated the removal will be. This can increase the time it takes to recover from the surgery. Your dentist or surgeon will discuss your particular expectations with you before your surgery.
Broadly speaking, it can take four to seven days to recover from wisdom tooth extractions, although some symptoms can take up to two weeks to resolve completely. Some of the symptoms that you may experience are as follows.
- Numbness: Immediately after surgery you may still be numb from the local anaesthetic for several hours and you should be careful to avoid biting these areas. Sometimes numbness can persist for extended periods of time. Your dentist or surgeon will monitor this.
- Swelling: This usually peaks two to three days after surgery and begins to subside after four to five days. The amount of swelling will depend on how difficult the extractions were. An ice pack can be used to help reduce swelling.
- Discomfort: This is to be expected after surgery. You may be prescribed some painkillers, which you should take as required. Avoid aspirin as this will increase bleeding (see below).
- Bleeding: It is normal to have some bleeding from the surgical site. You will be provided with gauze packs, which can be used to bite down on and apply direct pressure to the sites. If bleeding is persistent or you are worried, contact your dentist or surgeon.
- Bruising: It is normal to have some degree of bruising on your cheeks once the swelling has gone down. These will fade after a few days.
- Infection: Although uncommon, infection can occur. This can present approximately three to four days after surgery – as late swelling, pain, and/or discharge. If you suffer infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics; it is important to complete the course, even in the absence of problems.
There are some things that you can do to make recovery from wisdom tooth removal a little faster or easier. For example:
- You must avoid smoking or consuming alcohol for at least 48 hours after surgery. Otherwise you increase the chance of getting dry socket – a delay in the healing of the site that can cause significant pain and discomfort.
- Avoid hard or crunchy foods so as to prevent trauma to the surgery site and avoid unnecessary discomfort. Hot foods should also be limited as they can increase the amount of bleeding.
- Do not use a straw for 48 hours. Drinking from a straw can disrupt the natural formation of a blood clot at the extraction site and delay proper healing.
- Avoid any strenuous activity for the first two to three days.
- Use an ice pack on the sides of your face to ease discomfort and help with swelling. This should be applied for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off during the first 24 hours.
- Saltwater mouth rinses, used after 24 hours, will help to keep the surgical site cleansed and improve healing.
You may have stitches placed after your extraction(s). These will usually dissolve or fall out after seven days; otherwise they will be removed by your dentist or surgeon.
If you have any questions, difficulties or concerns after your wisdom tooth removal surgery, do not hesitate to contact your dentist or surgeon, as they will be able to advise you.
Dr Kiran Jawanda
BOH, GDipDent (Griff)