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)

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.

Related: Prices and Options for Sedation Dentistry

Pain control

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.

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After wisdom teeth removal: Tips to speed up the healing process


Dentists say most surgeries to remove wisdom teeth go smoothly. But healing can be delayed if you don't follow your doctor's instructions for after care.  (Photo by Meredith Rizzo)
Dentists say most surgeries to remove wisdom teeth go smoothly. But healing can be delayed if you don't follow your doctor's instructions for after care. (Photo by Meredith Rizzo)

What’s worse than getting wisdom teeth removed? Healing afterwards. If you don't follow your dentist's recommendation, you will be in for a lot of pain.


You didn't answer the questions you said you'd answer!! These: 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? Let ME answer some of these for you: -how many teeth? Well any that are causing trouble or pain, if you want any that aren't bothering you taken out as well, then that is your choice. -will the procedure be under local or general anesthetic? Local if it's only one with minimal impaction. Major impactions or multiple teeth removal usually calls for general. -how long will the procedure take? You can expect anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on the extent of impaction and number of teeth being removed. -will I be at risk for nerve damage? There is a miniscule chance that you could be subject to temporary, or even more rarely permanent, nerve damage. You could gey dry socket that would expose your nerves which could lead to nerve damage but it isn't likely at all. Your dentist will be better fit to answer this one pertaining to your case specifically.

I thank you for the information on the teeth extractions. Now, I am sure my mouth will be alright. Thank you !

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