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How to Recover after Wisdom Teeth Surgery

Two Parts:Making Preparations Before Your SurgeryTaking Care of Yourself After Surgery

Most people between the ages of 17 and 24 begin to grow wisdom teeth. However, in some people, the wisdom teeth don't push through the gums, which could cause pain, swelling or gum ulcers. Impacted wisdom teeth can also push on nearby teeth or damage your jawbone.[1] If your wisdom teeth aren't coming out of your gums, then having surgery to remove them is a good idea. With a little preparation and proper treatment, you will recover quickly after wisdom teeth surgery.

Part 1
Making Preparations Before Your Surgery

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    Set your appointment with your dentist or oral surgeon. Make sure you make your appointment on a day that allows you to recuperate after the surgery. For instance, make your appointment on a Thursday or Friday so that you can recover over the weekend.[2] If you have a uterus and you are on birth control, schedule the surgery after you menstruate to help prevent dry sockets from developing.
    • Your menstrual cycle can affect your likelihood of postoperative nausea and vomiting.[3] Women who take oral contraceptive pills are more likely to have postoperative nausea and vomiting on days 9-15 of their cycle.[4]
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    Go to the grocery store the night before. Buy soft, easy-to-eat foods like applesauce, chicken soup, yogurt, canned fruit, gelatin, pudding or cottage cheese.[5] You'll need to skip foods that require chewing or foods that are served either extremely hot or extremely cold for a while after your surgery.[6]
    • Also remember that you should not drink alcohol, soda, coffee, or hot beverages the first few days after surgery.[7]
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    Stock up on movies, games and books. You may be in a lot of pain, so you want to make sure you have a lot of resources around to keep your mind off of your discomfort. You'll need to take it easy for a few days.[8]
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    Find someone to drive you to the clinic. You'll be groggy after the operation, and you'll need someone to drive you home and help you pick up your painkillers at the drugstore.[9]

Part 2
Taking Care of Yourself After Surgery

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    Leave the gauze on the surgical site for at least 30 minutes. Do not attempt to change the gauze as it will disrupt the clotting process. Once the first gauze pad has been taken off, keep the area clean and leave it alone. Do not attempt to spit blood out frequently as the pressure change in your mouth will inhibit clotting. Instead, use fresh gauze to absorb the blood.
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    Use tea bags. If your wounds are still bleeding at a steady pace after 12 hours or so, stop biting gauze and start biting moist tea bags. The tannins within tea leaves promote clotting, and for some people, the caffeine increases circulation. This process encourages the build-up of clotting platelets within the stitched area, which speeds up healing and recovery time.[10]
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    Rinse your mouth with salt water. Combine 1 teaspoon of sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Take the liquid into your mouth, gently let it soak for a moment then let drizzle out into your sink or toilet. Do not gurgle or spit as this may dislodge the blood clot in the wound. The salt water will promote healing and decrease irritation.[11]
    • Be sure to rinse extra-gently on the first day after surgery.
    • Use only the salt water rinse to clean your mouth for the first 24 hours after surgery. Wait until your doctor recommends to start using a toothbrush again (usually safe by the second day).[12]
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    Use an ice pack to ease pain and swelling. Ice may be applied to your cheeks to help prevent swelling for the first 24 hours.[13]
    • After 24 to 72 hours, ice may continue to help ease the pain, but will be useless in prevention of swelling.[14] If you don't have tools for an ice pack, use a bag of frozen vegetables.
    • When enough time has passed, according to the guidelines given to you by your dental surgeon, apply a heating pad to your cheeks. Your body's natural response will cause additional swelling if the ice pack is reapplied.
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    Elevate your head. Whether you're sleeping on your couch or on your bed, place 2 or more pillows beneath your head to elevate your mouth. Elevation will decrease swelling.[15]
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    Keep your supplies close by. You'll need your water, gauze, painkillers and antibiotics close to you so that you don't have to get up and go to the bathroom to get the things you need.[16]
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    Avoid using straws to drink liquids. The vacuum created within your mouth can dislodge your clots and slow down the healing process.[17]
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    Skip cigarette smoking and alcohol. Both of these activities can inhibit the healing process. You should wait at least 72 hours after surgery to use tobacco products (but longer is better).[18]
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    Control your pain. You can take prescribed painkillers, or you can take over-the-counter ibuprofen to prevent pain, inflammation and swelling. Skip the aspirin because it could make you bleed and slow your healing.[19]
    • Make sure to take painkillers as soon as you leave the dental clinic. Take them with a small meal to prevent nausea and vomiting. You may still be numb from the anesthetic, and you may think that you don't need painkillers. However, when the anesthetic wears off, you may find yourself experiencing a high degree of discomfort.
    • Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery for at least 24 hours. The anesthetic along with your pain medication can make these activities hazardous.
    • Talk to your doctor if you experience severe nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different pain medication that doesn't make you sick.[20]
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    Ask for help. Count on your spouse, your friends or your family to take care of you while you're recovering. Have them take your phone calls, help you with chores, bring you food and keep you comfortable while you heal.[21]


  • Keep your lips well-lubricated, as they will become very dry.
  • Stick to soft foods for a week after your operation.
  • Put a towel over your pillow at night to prevent blood from getting all over your bed.
  • Continue brushing your teeth and tongue after surgery. Just be careful, and avoid rinsing with mouthwash.
  • Use frozen peas for icing the pain area as it curves around your face more easily.
  • Set timers on your phone to remind you to take your medications at the times needed.
  • Gargle with salt water every time after you eat.
  • Swish some olive oil in your mouth. It will break down plaque - something that there will be more of since you need to brush your teeth gently.
  • You might say something weird due to the gas or other painkillers they give you. Don't be embarrassed if you say something weird.
  • Baby food is also a good alternative. Don't forget to season it if you want to!
  • Nutritious dinner could be mashed potatoes, hummus, and goat cheese. Great dessert: Greek yogurt.
  • Usually, local anesthetics (the ones you receive per syringe) don't impair your perception as gas anesthetics do. Ask your dentist about different options and their side effects.
  • Use an antiseptic mouth wash!
  • Try to avoid crunchy (ex. chips,cereal) and spicy food for at least a week. This will only irritate the extraction site. Hard food may cause damage, so avoid those types of food too (for the same amount of time as crunchy and spicy foods).


  • Contact your dentist or dental surgeon if you are still bleeding after 24 hours; if you have difficulty or severe pain associated with opening your jaw; if you have damage to crowns, bridges or the roots of nearby teeth; if you develop dry sockets or if your mouth and lips are still numb 24 hours after the surgery.
  • Make sure that you get a prescription for an antibiotic if you have a suppressed immune system or if you have difficulty fighting off infections. Consider antibiotics if you have artificial heart valves or congenital heart defects.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft, easy-to-eat foods
  • Movies, games and books
  • Gauze
  • Tea bags
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Ice pack
  • Heating pad
  • Pillows
  • Painkillers

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Teeth and Mouth