Wisdom Teeth Recovery

If you’ve ever watched videos of people after a wisdom tooth removal, you may have gotten a good laugh from the off-the-wall comments and overly dramatic responses they give thanks to the anesthesia. However, it’s not quite so pleasant to be on the patient-side of the situation – removing wisdom teeth is a serious oral surgery that requires a great deal of care, especially in the recovery phase.

Wisdom Teeth

Before considering what to do after wisdom teeth removal, it’s important to cover the basics of what those teeth are and why they seem to require so much more attention than the rest.

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people have. A small but very fortunate percentage of the population is actually born without wisdom teeth. This begs the question – if some people don’t even have them, why do we have wisdom teeth at all? Thanks to a diet of chewy plants and meats, wisdom teeth were beneficial for our ancestors. Third molars would have easily fit due to larger jaw size and would have prevented wear and tear on other teeth by distributing the chewing over a larger surface area.

Do You Have to Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth do not always cause the excessive pain they are normally known for. If you do have wisdom teeth, whether they need to be removed depends on your situation. Sometimes they never break the surface (impacted wisdom teeth), partially come in (partially erupted wisdom teeth), or they may come in aligned with your other teeth. Regular visits to the dentist will ensure your wisdom teeth are monitored so a decision can be made regarding removal.

What Are the First Signs of Wisdom Teeth Coming In?

  • There are a variety of signs that wisdom teeth are coming in depending on their position, if there is an infection present, and whether they have erupted or not. Some people experience painful symptoms, while for others, the first sign may be an x-ray from the dentist showing the presence and position of the wisdom teeth. Other common symptoms include:
  • Jaw pain
  • Sore or bleeding gums
  • A foul taste in your mouth and/or bad breath
  • Tender or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Pain when chewing, especially in the molars near the area the wisdom teeth are coming in.

When Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?

Wisdom teeth usually come in during the late teens or early twenties. One would suppose we get increasingly wiser as the years go on, so the third and final set of molars was aptly named “wisdom teeth” to coincide with the onset of wisdom as most people become more independent in the later teen years.

When Do They Stop Growing?

Most wisdom teeth reach their full developmental potential by age 25. However, there are always exceptions to the rule – while it is most common for them to come in between the ages of 16 and 25, in some cases, they may come in before or after those ages.

At What Age Do People Get Them Taken Out?

If wisdom tooth extraction is necessary, it’s best to take them out as soon as possible. Patients who have them removed in their early teen years usually heal better, more quickly, and with fewer complications than those who have them out in later years. It is ideal to have x-rays done by age 16 specifically to identify the presence and development of wisdom teeth. Your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon if necessary for wisdom teeth surgery; removing the teeth before they cause significant problems can greatly diminish the wisdom teeth removal aftermath and the likelihood of experiencing serious wisdom tooth pain.

How Long Is the Recovery after Wisdom Teeth Removal?

If your dentist or oral surgeon determines your wisdom teeth need to be removed, you likely have a flurry of questions about the procedure and recovery – namely, how long does it take for wisdom teeth to heal? The length and process of wisdom teeth removal recovery can vary based on whether the teeth are impacted, partially erupted, or fully grown in. Even if your removal procedure was relatively simple, you would need to dedicate a week or possibly more to wisdom teeth recovery time before going back to your normal habits and daily routines.

The First 24 Hours   

The first 24 hours are crucial when it comes to wisdom teeth recovery. The surgical site will be open and vulnerable, so preventative measures must be taken to ensure proper healing. Knowing what to eat, how to drink, the proper way to stop bleeding, and important steps to avoid infection can make a huge difference in total recovery time.

Tips for the First 24 Hours

  • Bleeding is normal in the first 24 hours – placing a piece of clean gauze over the socket and biting down for 45 minutes should stop the bleeding. As an alternative, bite down on a teabag. Tea has tannic acid in it, which can help with clotting.
  • Manage swelling by applying ice for ten minutes, then removing it for twenty. Continue this cycle of icing to reduce swelling.
  • Don’t drink through a straw, smoke, or drink hot liquids for at least the first 24 hours – these actions can lead to dry socket, which is when the blood clot becomes dislodged and causes a painful condition that can delay healing.
  • Eat a liquid diet until the anesthesia wears off, then gradually transition to soft foods – take care not to eat anything that could easily get lodged in the socket to avoid the risk of infection.
  • Use pain relievers like ibuprofen to ease the pain and reduce inflammation.

After 24 Hours

After the initial 24 hours have passed, the focus will shift from immediate actions like stopping the bleeding to more long-term preventative measures, like keeping the wound clean and free of debris. Facial swelling is normal for several days after surgery, so don’t be surprised if you reach the height of swelling two or three days after the procedure. If your surgeon used stitches that aren’t dissolvable, those would need to be removed about a week after the extraction. Be sure you continue taking the full course of antibiotics if your surgeon prescribed any prior to surgery.

Healing

The length of time needed for complete healing will depend on your specific situation. Your oral surgeon can help set reasonable expectations for recovery and make recommendations for how to speed the process along. Most people are completely healed within a few weeks; however, it can take up to a few months if the teeth were impacted enough to affect the jawbone and a significant amount of soft tissue.

Wisdom Teeth Infections

A wisdom tooth infection can be extremely painful and dangerous to your overall health. It’s important to know the signs of a problem so you can act immediately before the infection spreads and pain increases.

Infected wisdom tooth symptoms include pain at or around the tooth, fever, swollen gums, pain or swelling in the jaw or side of the face, bad breath, enlarged lymph glands, and difficulty chewing or opening the mouth.

A wisdom tooth is most likely to become infected if it has partially erupted. When a tooth has partially broken through the gums, particles of food and bacteria can easily become lodged under the gums surrounding the tooth. Infection can quickly set in, causing significant pain and accelerating the need for removing the tooth to prevent further damage to surrounding teeth and soft tissue.

What Can I Eat After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Knowing what to eat after wisdom teeth removal is extremely important for a successful recovery. Sacrificing your favorite treats for a short amount of time can prevent unnecessary pain and even dangerous infections.

Foods to Eat During Recovery

During the first 24 hours, a liquid diet is key. Cold foods can help ease the pain, so try things like:

  • Ice cream
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Jell-O
  • Chicken broth
  • Mashed potatoes

As your recovery progresses, you can slowly introduce soft foods such as oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and bread. Think along the lines of foods that are mashed, whipped, or creamy and smooth – nothing that could cause excessive pain while chewing or interfere with the healing process. Take it slowly and rinse with salt water after eating to ensure food doesn’t get stuck near the sockets.

Foods to Avoid During Recovery

Until you are completely healed, it’s important to avoid foods that could reopen the incision site or cause trouble and pain while chewing. Stay away from crunchy foods like chips and popcorn; take a break from tough or chewy foods like jerky, nuts, and tough meats. Refrain from eating rice or grains that could easily get stuck in the socket and lead to infection. Highly acidic or spicy foods can be painful at the site of the surgery, so it’s best to hold off on those until you’re further along in the healing process.

Find an Oral Surgeon Near You

Having your wisdom teeth removed is a serious decision that should be made based on the recommendation of a trusted oral surgeon. If you have symptoms that indicate your wisdom teeth might be coming in, it’s time to take action. Use Smile Generation’s Find a Dentist tool to find a highly qualified oral surgeon near you to guide you through the procedure and aftermath of a successful wisdom tooth removal.

References:

https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/wisdom-teeth

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wisdom-teeth/symptoms-causes/syc-20373808

https://www.abcchildrensdentistry.com/wisdom-teeth-removal/

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-to-eat-after-wisdom-teeth-removal

https://www.healthline.com/health/wisdom-teeth-coming-in#signs-theyre-coming-in

https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/wisdom-tooth-infection#symptoms

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-prevent-dry-socket