Wisdom teeth removal is very common and safe. With that said, it is also a serious surgery and requires care during the recovery process. Following these aftercare instructions can significantly minimize your risk of ongoing discomfort or infection.
Immediately Following Surgery
- There will be a gauze pad placed over the incision site. Keep this gauze pad in place for half an hour after surgery. After half an hour has passed, remove and discard it.
- Avoid touching the wound area or any kind of vigorous mouth washing following surgery. Touching or mouth washing may dislodge the blood clot that has formed, which can, in turn, cause bleeding.
- As soon as you start feeling pain or discomfort, take the prescription pain medication as instructed. This will usually happen around the time your anesthesia wears off.
- Try to rest on the day of your surgery. Take it easy and restrict physical activities. Get back to your normal physical activities when you feel able.
- Use ice packs on the side of your face where you had wisdom teeth removed. This is an important way to minimize swelling.
Following surgery, a little bit of bleeding is normal and can be anticipated. Some slight bleeding, or red saliva, is nothing to worry about. If you experience excessive bleeding, you may be able to control it by rinsing and wiping away any old blood clots in your mouth. Then, place a gauze pad over the wound area, and bite down on it for at least half an hour. If bleeding continues, repeat this step, or else try biting down on a wet tea bag for half an hour. You can also minimize bleeding by resting, and avoiding physical exercise or excitement.
Following wisdom teeth removal, you can expect some swelling around the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and side of the face. This is the body’s normal response to surgery. Usually, the swelling does not become evident until the day after surgery and will reach its peak on day two or three. You can control the swelling with the use of ice packs. Place them against the side of the face where surgery was performed, and keep them there continuously while you are awake. Note that, after 48 hours, ice no longer has any beneficial effect. At this point, moist heat (e.g., a warm compress) works best.
Also, be aware that your jaw may become a little stiff following your surgery, especially during the second and third days of your recovery. This is a normal response to surgery and is nothing to worry about. We advise actively stretching to improve your recovery.
If you experience mild to moderate pain, you may take 600mg of ibuprofen and/or 500mg of Tylenol every six hours, or four times per day.
For more severe pain, take the pain medications that are prescribed by your surgeon, and use them as directed. Note that prescription pain medications can cause you to feel groggy, and they may also slow your reflexes. When taking prescription pain medicines, avoid driving, operating machinery, and drinking alcohol.
Following your surgery, pain and swelling will usually peak around the third day, and then gradually improve after the third or fourth day.
After anesthesia or IV sedation, you will want to resume your diet with liquids first. Drink from a glass and avoid using straws. (The sucking motion from the straw may dislodge your blood clot and cause more bleeding.) You can enjoy soft foods, though we recommend chewing on the side of your mouth away from the incision site.
Seek nourishment regularly, and drink lots of fluids to ensure that you avoid dehydration. Over the first couple of days, your food intake may be lower, so compensate by drinking more liquids. Aim for a minimum of five to six glasses of liquid daily.
Try to get plenty of calories and protein, and do not miss any meals. Getting sound nutrition will help you feel better and regain your strength more quickly.
Refrain from strenuous activity for the first 2 to 3 days after surgery to avoid increased swelling, pain, and breakthrough bleeding.
Keep Your Mouth Clean
On the day of your surgery, you may gently rinse your mouth with salt water and brush your teeth with a soft brush. It is especially important to brush the teeth adjacent to the surgical wounds to avoid plaque build up and infection. Continue brushing at least 2 to 3 times per day. Avoid aggressive spitting.
We advise rinsing with a mixture of warm water and salt five to six times daily, especially after eating.
If you were given an irrigating syringe to begin using on the 4th or 5th day, place the tip of the syringe deep inside the incision site, and flush with salt water. Repeat this approximately 3 times per day and as necessary after meals to remove food and debris. Do not worry if it is uncomfortable at first or if you see a small amount of blood. This is perfectly normal and will improve with continued irrigation.
Discoloration / Bruising
Some patients may experience some slight discoloration or bruising of the skin, in addition to swelling. Any black, blue, green, or yellow discoloration may be caused by blood spreading beneath the tissues. This is very normal and may happen within two to three days of your procedure. A warm compress can help manage this discoloration.
Antibiotics can help prevent infection, so make sure you take them as directed. Do not continue using antibiotics in the event of a rash or other adverse reaction. Contact the office if you have any questions.
Nausea and Vomiting
If you experience nausea or vomiting the day after your surgery, avoid taking anything by mouth for at least an hour, including prescription medications. Then, try sipping on ginger ale, tea, or Coke. Sip slowly for 15 minutes or more. When nausea subsides, you can try eating solid foods and taking your medications again.
Sutures may be used to minimize bleeding and expedite your healing. In some instances, the sutures may become dislodged. This is nothing to worry about. Simply remove the dislodged suture from your mouth and discard it.
Most sutures will resorb naturally. Patients do not usually need to return for suture removal.
While infections are rare, they can be one of the more dangerous complications after wisdom tooth surgery. Use the information below as a guide, and call our office right away if you have any questions.
- It is common to experience a mild sore throat that should resolve within a couple of days.
- It is also common to have some mild difficulty opening your jaw for the first several days after surgery. Although it may be uncomfortable, we advise active stretching during the early postoperative phase to avoid further issues. You will heal better if you open widely to stretch your muscles and allow for better cleaning of your surgical wounds.
- If you develop pain or difficulty swallowing, or feel that you are developing fullness in your throat or below your tongue, contact our office immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.
- If you feel that your mouth opening is becoming more limited or more painful to open, contact our office immediately or go to the nearest emergency room, especially if you are having any other symptoms, such as painful swallowing, fever, or difficulty breathing.
- There will be a cavity where the wisdom tooth was removed, and over the course of a month, this cavity will fill with tissue. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket, causing pain in the mouth or even in the ear. If this happens, reach out to our office for further guidelines.