How to Recover from Wisdom Tooth Surgery

Three Parts:Doing Home Treatment Immediately After SurgeryRecovering from the Surgery at HomeSeeking Medical Care

Getting your wisdom teeth removed requires serious mouth surgery, so post operation treatment is very important. During the surgery, you will likely be under anesthetic as the oral surgeon makes an incision on your gum tissue and removes bone and tooth from your mouth. You may receive stitches and/or gauze over the incision to control the bleeding.[1] After surgery, you will likely experience swelling around your mouth, a sore jaw, bleeding from the incision, and pain in your mouth and your face. It usually takes about two weeks to fully recover from wisdom teeth surgery.[2]

Part 1
Doing Home Treatment Immediately After Surgery

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    Lie down and rest if you received general anesthetic. Once you are discharged from the dentist’s office, you should lie down with your head elevated on a pillow to allow the effects of the anesthetic to subside. The time it takes for the anesthetic depends on the individual, so you may feel drowsy for an hour or several hours.[3]
    • Take this time to rest at home. Do not operate any mechanical equipment or drive a vehicle for at least 12 hours to allow the anesthetic to wear off. Avoid any vigorous activity, as this can lead to excessive bleeding in your mouth from the incisions.
    • You may feel dizzy when you get up or try to walk around. Move slowly and take your time getting up and sitting or lying down. You may experience nausea if you move too quickly.
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    Bite down gently on the gauze pads in your mouth for the first hour. This ensures the gauze pads stay in place to soak up the blood from the incisions. If the bleeding is minimal and controlled, let the gauze pads stay in your mouth for an hour and then change them. You can also reposition the gauze in your mouth carefully if you feel they have moved or are not staying in place over the incisions.[4]
    • Avoid disturbing the surgical area by rinsing your mouth, spitting, or brushing your teeth roughly. Don’t probe the area with your tongue, your fingers, or any objects.
    • It’s normal for there to be bleeding and blood tinged saliva in your mouth for the first 24-48 hours after surgery. If the bleeding seems very severe and does not subside after the first hour, the gauze pads may have moved. Check that the pads are on the surgical site, not clenched between your teeth. Reposition them and continue to bite down on the gauze for 30-60 minutes.
    • If the bleeding seems to get more severe from the incisions after another 60 minutes, you should call your dentist to ensure there are no issues with the incisions.
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    Use cold packs on your jawline and cheeks to minimize the swelling. Your mouth and the area around your mouth will likely be swollen or bruised for about two to three days after the surgery. To keep the swelling down, apply cold packs or wrap a bag of ice in a towel and hold it on the bruised or swollen area. Do this in 20 minute intervals, applying the ice pack to one side for 20 minutes and then switching to the other side for 20 minutes for the first 24 hours after surgery.[5]
    • After 24 hours, switch to a warm compress to help reduce the swelling and bruising. Use a warm washcloth or a heating pad wrapped in a cloth.
    • If there is any bruising on your face, it should clear up after a week. You may also experience tightness around your jaw area and have a hard time opening your mouth. This should go away after seven days.
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    Take the prescribed pain medication two hours after the surgery. This will prevent you from experiencing intense pain once the anesthetic wears off. If the prescribed pain medication doesn’t seem to control the pain, you can take an additional 600mg of Ibuprofen every six hours.[6]
    • Try to have the medication with soft food and water to prevent nausea or an upset stomach.
    • If you have been prescribed antibiotics, follow your dentist’s instructions and do not drink alcohol while on antibiotics, as this can lead to other health issues.
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    Eat soft foods and drink lots of liquids. Though it may not seem very appetizing to eat with a sore, stiff mouth, it’s important to drink lots of liquids, especially water, and stay hydrated on your first day at home after surgery.[7][8]
    • If you feel nauseous right after the surgery, have sips of water or suck on ice chips. Once you start to develop an appetite, drink clear liquids like broth, apple juice and tea. Do not use a straw to consume any liquids. Instead, sip slowly from a glass or bowl.
    • Do not drink any alcohol or caffeine as the pain medication can react badly with alcohol or caffeine and do not smoke for at least 72 hours after surgery. If you chew tobacco, do not use it for at least a week after the surgery. Tobacco products can prevent the incisions from healing and can lead to other risks or complications.[9]
    • After 30 minutes of liquids, move on to having full liquids like pudding, yogurt, milk, applesauce and smoothies.
    • If you can drink fuller liquids, wait 24 hours and then try having soft foods like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, soft pasta, rice, or baked fish.[10] Progress to eating more solid foods over the next several days, as proper nourishment will help you to heal.
    • Do not eat foods that can get lodged in the incisions, like nuts, seeds, or popcorn, and spicy foods, as they can irritate your mouth.

Part 2
Recovering from the Surgery at Home

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    Avoid strenuous activity for at least seven days after the surgery. Skip your weekly workout or run, and do not try to lift or move heavy objects. This can cause the incisions to bleed and slow down your recovery.[11]
    • Take at least two days off from work to recover properly from the surgery and stick to bed rest during these days to help with your recovery.
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    Rinse your mouth with warm salt water every two to three hours and after meals. Do this the day after surgery. Then, rinse three to four times a day for the next one to two weeks. This will help to keep your mouth clean and remove any plaque, food or debris that could lead to an infection.[12]
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    Brush your teeth gently, especially around the surgical site. After 24 hours, you can resume brushing your teeth three times a day. Be very careful when brushing near the incisions as you do not want to irritate them. Do not spit when you brush your teeth. Instead, tilt your head to one side and let the fluid drain out of your mouth.[13]
    • You may have a hard time cleaning your mouth due to swelling and bruising, but try your best to give your mouth a gentle, thorough brush. This will help to speed up your recovery and prevent infection.
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    Apply Vaseline to your lips to prevent chapping. Your lips and the corners of your mouth may feel dry or chapped while you recover from the surgery. Keep them hydrated with Vaseline to prevent bleeding or sores.[14]
    • Your throat may also feel sore or raw during the first few days post surgery. This is not uncommon and should go away after several days..
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    Do not panic if you feel sharp edges in the incisions as they heal. Once the bleeding stops and the incisions start to heal, you may feel hard or sharp edges in the surgical site with your tongue. These are not roots or leftover teeth. In fact, they are the bony walls that used to support the extracted teeth. Small slivers of bone may appear as the incisions heal.[15][16]
    • If these cause any discomfort or pain, you can call your dentist and request for them to be removed.
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    Be prepared for numbness around your mouth and jaw, as well as dry sockets. After surgery, you may experience numbness on your lips and chin, as well as your jawline. This is temporary and will go away after a few days or a couple of weeks. Sometimes, numbness can persist for months, as the surgical site is close to the nerve endings of the roots of your teeth.[17]
    • You may also experience dry sockets in the surgical site on the third to fifth day after surgery. When this occurs, there will be a distinct and persistent pain in your jaw area, moving toward your ear and along your jawline. There may also be a foul odor coming from the dry sockets. These should heal on their own after a few days, but if the pain or smell persists, call your dentist for a check up.
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    Schedule a follow up appointment with your dentist for one week after the surgery. The oral surgeon may have used stitches that will dissolve in your mouth after a few weeks, or no stitches at all. If she used stitches on your incisions, you will need to schedule a follow up appointment with your dentist to have them removed about a week after the surgery.[18]

Part 3
Seeking Medical Care

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    Talk to your dentist if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing. You may have an infection or a serious complication due to the surgery.[19]
    • If you also have a fever and persistent numbness or loss of feeling in the surgical area, you should contact your dentist.
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    Speak to your dentist if you experience excessive bleeding or severe pain from the incisions. If you are taking the prescribed pain medication and are using the gauze pads correctly, but there is still excessive bleeding and pain, there may be an issue or complication that requires medical attention.[20]
    • As well, if you have a bad taste in your mouth or an odor that will not go away after rinsing your mouth for several days with salt water, this could be a sign of infection. Speak to your dentist.
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    Inform your dentist if there is pus or discharge in the surgical site. These are signs of an infection and will need to be looked at immediately by your dentist.[21]

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Categories: Pain Management and Recovery | Teeth and Mouth