Before and After Your Wisdom Tooth Removal
This impacted tooth is erupting at an angle that will make it difficult to remove. (Illustration by Katie Carman)
At some point, most people have to get a wisdom tooth, or teeth, removed. If you have infected or impacted wisdom teeth, the extractions will be difficult. But the more you know and prepare for the oral surgery, the faster you will recover.
Questions to ask
Your dentist will likely give you adequate information before your procedure. However, if you have questions, ask before the surgery. You'll want answers to these common questions:
How many teeth will you remove?
Will you use general or local anesthesia?
How long will the oral surgery take?
Is there a possibility that I will get nerve damage?
How long will my recovery take?
Prepare for the day of surgery
If your dentist uses general anesthesia during your surgery, someone will have to drive you home. Make these arrangements beforehand. Ask your oral surgeon if you need to avoid eating or drinking before the surgery. General anesthesia can make you vomit, so your dentist may recommend that you fast starting at midnight the night before the procedure. If you are on prescription medications, find out which ones you can take before your surgery begins.
You will need pain medication and a cold pack to control your dental pain after having wisdom teeth surgery. Buy a few cold packs before your surgery. If your dentist plans to prescribe a pain reliever, ask him or her to let you fill the prescription a day early so you can avoid a trip to the pharmacy when you are still groggy. If your dentist doesn't give you a prescription, buy enough over-the-counter pain relief to get through your recovery. In this case, the stronger options are the best ones, but always take any medication as directed.
Resting at home
After wisdom tooth surgery, you're going to need to rest. Prepare a comfortable area in your home where you can rest and enjoy some form of entertainment, like watching TV. The effects of the anesthesia can take up to 24 hours to wear off completely, so you may fall asleep while relaxing. The day after the anesthesia wears off, you'll likely be too uncomfortable to perform normal activities, so don't go to work or school.
Avoid strenuous activities for a week so you don't dislodge the blood clot from the socket and get a dry socket. This painful complication that can occur after a tooth is removed which leaves nerve and bone exposed and can lead to infection.
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 because the sucking motion can create a dry socket. Choose soft foods first when you feel hungry, and avoid hard or overly chewy foods that can get stuck in the socket. Remember, you won't be able to brush the area until it 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 the incision.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on October 24, 2012.