Recover from Wisdom Tooth Extraction Surgery

Edited by Bobby-Jo Keats, Eng

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Wisdom teeth are commonly known for the dental problems they can cause. They are the last permanent teeth to develop and often begin to break though the gums during a person's late teens or twenties. However, removing them is often required in order to eliminate pain or discomfort as well as to prevent future problems. The following are some simple ways to manage wisdom tooth extraction surgery and recovery.

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Before and After Surgery

  1. 1
    Understand why they need to be extracted.
    It is very common for people's jaws to be too small for the wisdom teeth to grow in properly, which means they become impacted. This means, they may come in angled or sideways and may push against molars which can make it difficult to reach them or clean them properly. This can lead to all kinds of problems such as tooth decay, pain, cysts, infection and gum disease.
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  2. 2
    Talk to your dentist and oral surgeon.
    Everyone's situation is unique and some extraction surgeries can be far more difficult or risky than others, so it is very important to understand the risks involved and discuss the process in detail. Before surgery, your dentist should fully evaluate your situation with x-rays and an examination of your teeth and jaws. If it is a particularly difficult surgery required, your dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon who specializes in the mouth and jaw and will further evaluate you.
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  3. 3
    Recognize the risks involved.
    Impacted wisdom teeth can grow in almost any direction. Wisdom teeth which have grown straight upward or angled toward the teeth aren't quite as difficult to remove as those angled away from the other teeth or parallel to the gum line. The older you are during the removal procedure, the more difficult it can be as well. This is because over time, the roots continue to grow and become more solidly fused within your jaw and the risk of complications increase with age. These include soreness in your jaw, joints and muscles and problems opening your mouth, a dry socket, infection, anesthesia side-effects, sinus problems, weakening of the jaw or nerve injury, either temporarily or permanently. This is because of how close the tooth or its roots might be to a major nerve in the jaw which transmits feeling from the chin, gums, teeth and lips. Many nerves and blood vessels enter and exit the tooth through the roots.
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  4. 4
    Prepare yourself for surgery.
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    Regardless of the measure of difficulty expected from the extraction, it will hurt afterwards... a lot, and you will need to take off time from school or work in order to recover. The time following your recovery can greatly impact if and when you regain feeling of your teeth, gums, chin and lips, so don't rush it. You need to take time to properly care for yourself after surgery and it is different for everyone. You will be expected to provide a list of all medications you currently take and you will be given instructions regarding when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. You will also be advised to wear loose comfortable clothing and you must have arrangements for a ride home. Most surgeons will not perform the surgery unless your ride home is in the waiting room for the entire procedure and if it is a difficult procedure, they will require you to make arrangements for that person to remain with you for the remainder of that day. You will not be allowed to drive or take public transportation and more than likely, you will not want to.
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  5. 5
    Choose which type of anesthesia will be used.
    There are different types of anesthesia and which one you will receive may depend on factors such as insurance coverage or previous reactions to anesthesia. These include local anesthetic used to numb the area around the tooth and it's usually used even if another type is administered. Another is a sedative which helps you stay relaxed while awake during surgery. These can be given in pill form, as a gas you inhale (laughing gas) or by IV. Another type is general anesthesia which will put you to sleep during surgery and is used during more difficult procedures. Regardless of the type used, the procedure should take approximately 45 minutes to 2 hours, including recovery time.
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  6. 6
    Follow your surgeon's advice after the extraction.
    After the extraction surgery, bleeding, swelling and bruising are very common so your surgeon will give you instructions on how to properly care for the extraction site which will likely contain a few stitches which will dissolve within the first 10 days after the procedure. These instructions will include getting enough rest, eating and drinking nutritious foods to promote healing.
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  7. 7
    Protect the extraction site.
    Do not brush your teeth or rinse your mouth for the first day or two and do not drink through a straw. This could pull the blood clot which is forming and could cause a dry socket. Also, do not smoke or this could not only cause a dry socket, but increase your risk of infection.
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  8. 8
    Control the bleeding.
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    Immediately following surgery you will need to bite down on moist rolled-up pieces of gauze providing constant pressure. It may take hours for the bleeding to completely stop but change the moist gauze every 15-20 minutes and if you are think it is taking longer than it should to stop, try putting a moist, room-temperature tea bag on the site gently providing pressure and the tannic acid it contains will help to constrict bleeding vessels.
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  9. 9
    Take medication as directed.
    Your surgeon will likely prescribe you an antibiotic in order to help prevent infection and will prescribe you pain killers so you can manage the pain and discomfort and get the rest you need to start the healing process.
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  10. 10
    Reduce swelling.
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    You will need to apply an ice pack to your cheek(s) for 10 minutes at a take and take it off for 5 minutes between applications. Immediately following surgery you may need to use it for 20 minutes on and 10 minutes off. Also, do not drink hot liquids because the heat may increase swelling and bleeding.
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  11. 11
    Drink healthy liquids.
    Once bleeding has stopped, drink vegetable juice, 100% fruit juice, milk and protein drinks. There are protein and vitamin filled milkshakes designed for seniors which will help coat your stomach while you take pain medication which can be particularly hard on your stomach when you haven't eaten.
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  12. 12
    Get lots of rest following your surgery. Sleep will help you heal faster and help you to avoid the pain temporarily so you will probably want to get as much rest as you can.
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  13. 13
    Call your surgeon if you experience difficulty.
    If the bleeding doesn't stop within 2-6 hours or is getting worse, call your surgeon immediately. Also, if you are having problems breathing or swallowing or if you have a fever of 100.4 or higher or if swelling gets worse, give your surgeons office a call. If you experience ongoing nausea or vomiting or have a rash or are itching, this may be an indication of an allergic reaction to your medication, so call your surgeon and let them know.
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  14. 14
    Keep the extraction site clean.
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    After the first week, your surgeon will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to assess your progress. Then, your surgeon may give you a special syringe to use for the next 4 to 6 weeks. You may be asked to fill the syringe with warm water into the extraction site.
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Recent edits by: Bobby-Jo Keats

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