Before and after your wisdom tooth extraction
An angular impaction of an erupting wisdom tooth. (Illustration by Katie Carman)
Most people have to endure getting a wisdom tooth extracted. Being completely prepared, particularly if you have impacted teeth that will make the extraction difficult, will help make your recovery as smooth as possible.
Questions to ask
Your dentist will likely give you adequate information before your procedure, but if you have questions, be sure to ask before the surgery. Common questions you may want to ask include the following:
- How many teeth will you be removing?
- Will the procedure be under general or local anesthetic?
- How long will the procedure take?
- Will I be at risk for nerve damage?
- How long will my recovery take?
The answers to these questions will help you prepare for the procedure.
Prepare for the day of surgery
If your extraction will involve surgery and general anesthetic, you'll need to have someone drive you home after the procedure. Make these arrangements beforehand. Ask your oral surgeon about whether you need to avoid eating or drinking prior to surgery. General anesthetic can make you vomit, so your dentist may recommend that you fast starting at midnight the night before your surgery. If you are on prescription medications, find out which ones you can take these before you go under the knife.
Pain control after wisdom teeth surgery involves pain medication and a cold pack. You may want to prepare for the procedure by buying a couple of cold packs ahead of time. Also, if your dentist will be prescribing a prescription pain reliever, you might want to ask for the prescription ahead of time so you can avoid a trip to the pharmacy when you are still groggy. If your dentist doesn't offer a prescription, stock up on over-the-counter pain relief. In this case, the stronger options are the best ones.
Resting at home
After wisdom tooth surgery, you're going to need to rest. Set up an area in your home where you have some entertainment like a television and a comfortable place to rest. The effects of the anesthetic can take up to 24 hours to wear off completely, so you may fall asleep while resting. The day after the anesthetic wears off, you'll likely be too uncomfortable to perform normal activities, so take a day off of work or school. Avoid strenuous activities for a week so that you do not dislodge the blood clot from the socket and get a dry socket.
Eating, drinking and cleaning your mouth
You'll need to drink a lot of water after surgery, but you won't be able to use a straw for at least a week after surgery because the sucking motion can create a dry socket. Choose soft foods first when you feel hungry but avoid hard or overly chewy foods that can get stuck in the socket. Remember, you won't be able to brush well back there until the area is completely healed, so it's best to eat foods that won't create a problem. Finally, don't brush or rinse your mouth for the first 24 hours. When you resume brushing, be gentle around your incision site.
Wisdom tooth extraction can be simple, or complications can make it quite an ordeal. Preparing properly for the surgery can help limit the risks of complications so you can recover without unnecessary pain or discomfort.