It’s not uncommon for teenagers to have their wisdom teeth removed as they come in, especially if they’re getting impacted or crowding other teeth and causing misalignment issues. However, there are also plenty of adults who elect to have their wisdom teeth removed later on.
For some there’s no need to remove them if they grow in fine and have no impact on other teeth. That said, the fact that they’re in the back of your mouth can make them hard to clean, and this can lead to issues like cavities. At some point, it may be in your best interest to have them removed.
Whether you go under general anesthesia for this process or the extractions are simple enough that your wisdom teeth can be pulled like normal teeth with little more than Novocain, you’re going to experience some down time following the procedure. It generally takes at least two weeks for your mouth to fully heal, and for the first 2-4 days following extraction, you’re going to have some swelling.
How can you reduce swelling and speed the healing process after wisdom tooth removal? There are several steps you can take to facilitate recovery and keep pain and swelling to a minimum.
Rest and Recover
This is very important – you need to plan for at least a couple of days to rest following wisdom tooth extraction. It’s best to avoid any strenuous activity to give yourself adequate time to heal. First and foremost, you need to make sure the bleeding subsides and blood clots form so the sockets can start to heal.
If you’re up and at ‘em the same day or the day after, you could reopen wounds and increase bleeding, healing time, and risk infection. Spending a couple of days on the couch, packing your mouth with gauze and taking other precautions is the best way to ensure proper healing and minimize swelling and potential discomfort.
After any surgery, pain symptoms are to be expected. With proper treatment, you can avoid the onset of pain. Anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen will help to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort, but depending on your threshold for pain, you may also want to take the painkillers your dentist prescribes.
Often, you can take them simultaneously or trade off to maximize benefits. Some patients find that they don’t need painkillers at all, that ibuprofen does the trick. You’ll just want to make sure you start taking it before the anesthesia completely wears off and continue taking it at regular intervals thereafter. In other words, get ahead of the pain if you want to control it.
Swelling is a normal bodily response to trauma, such as tooth removal, but you can help to control it in a variety of ways. One of the best options is using ice packs, which will not only address the swelling, but also help to numb the area if you’re experiencing some pain.
You never want to put ice directly on your skin, so wrap your ice pack in a thin towel. You can apply it for about 20 minutes at a time if it’s comfortable, and then remove it for about 20 minutes before reapplying. This could help immensely during the first couple of days after surgery.
Stick to Soft Foods
The last thing you want to do is stab your healing sockets with something hard or sticky, so it’s best to eat only soft foods in the days following removal of wisdom teeth. Cold, soft foods like ice cream, Jell-O, pudding, and yogurt can be especially soothing during the first couple of days, after which you can start adding mashed potatoes, pasta, eggs, and other soft foods that are more filling and nourishing.
You might think sipping milkshakes is a good idea, but you need to avoid using straws for at least a few days. The suction of using a straw could actually damage blood clots in the sockets, cause them to come loose, and set off bleeding again.
Cleaning can be tough for several days following oral surgery, so you’ll want to follow your dentist’s instructions to a tee. For the first few days you’ll use saltwater rinses, after which you can probably begin brushing, as long as you’re careful to avoid the sockets. Your dentist may provide you with a small syringe that you can use to gently flush the area around the sockets to remove food and bacteria until they are fully healed.