Anyone who’s gone through a painful wisdom tooth growth and extraction knows one thing for sure — a wisdom tooth doesn’t really make you any wiser, but if proper removal aftercare is any indication, you’ll be out and about in no time, and you won’t even miss having this third set of molars.
In some cases, wisdom teeth aren’t extracted, but as these often erupt close to or in the same space as your other teeth, an extraction may be what the dentist will order. Dentists recommend a wisdom tooth extraction when these third molars start to impact your oral health, such as constant pain or discomfort, as well as increasing the risk of cavities because of their irregular shape and growth.
But don’t fret — with the proper tooth extraction aftercare, you can expect to heal properly and avoid complications, so you can eat, drink, talk, smile, and laugh as you please.
It All Starts with Aftercare
Wisdom tooth extraction is one of the most common dental procedures in Canada, and still, a lot of patients are still scared of the all-too-familiar temporary bleeding, discomfort, swelling, and bruising after oral surgery. Like all side effects, these are manageable with the right medication and aftercare — but not keeping up with them might result in a dry socket.
Dry sockets are the most common surgical complication from a wisdom tooth extraction; the good news is that it’s highly preventable with the right aftercare. Dry sockets develop when the newly formed blood clot inside the socket is dislodged or dissolves, resulting in exposed bone and nerve endings.
As a result, you experience severe pain and constant discomfort, and when these don’t heal properly, bad breath and an unpleasant taste, visible bone, swollen lymph nodes, and a fever. That’s why the best — and simplest — way to avoid dry sockets and prolonged discomfort is good aftercare. Here’s how to manage common side effects and prevent complications:
The first rule of recovery is don’t panic — swelling is the most common side effect after any procedure, especially a wisdom tooth extraction. To reduce swelling, the best thing you can do is to apply ice packs to the outside of your mouth for up to twenty minutes at a time. Alternatively, if your wisdom tooth was impacted or infected prior to removal, your dentist may recommend warm, moist compresses instead — just make sure to pay attention to this distinction.
With swelling comes bleeding, and just like bandaids for small cuts, you will leave the dentist’s clinic with a gauze pad over the extraction site. To manage heavy bleeding, you will have to bite down on the gauze pad and replace it as it becomes soaked — just remember, bleeding should only last for about 24 hours, so call your dentist if it persists for longer than that. Another way to reduce bleeding is to avoid lying flat as this prolongs bleeding — prop your head with pillows. And even if your mouth feels numb don’t bite the inside of your cheeks, lips, and tongue to avoid further bleeding.
Oral Care and Hygiene
A wisdom tooth extraction prevents you from eating, drinking, and talking for the first two hours following the surgery; instead, use this time to sleep and relax for the rest of the day to avoid dislodging the blood clot. By the time you’re allowed to eat and drink, make sure to avoid using straws and refrain from rinsing vigorously after.
When cleaning your mouth, use a diluted mouthwash or salty water to rinse, and avoid running your toothbrush directly over the extraction site. But just the same, don’t neglect your oral health as a whole — keep your teeth and tongue clean after every meal, just as you would every day to prevent other dental health problems, such as bad breath and cavities.
Outside of oral care, make sure to ease back into your daily routine or activities slowly, such as avoiding vigorous exercise or movements for a few days to prevent excessive bleeding. If you are a smoker, refrain from lighting a stick or puffing an e-cigarette for at least 24 hours after a wisdom tooth extraction; not only does the sucking motion loosen the clot and delay healing, but smoking in general impacts blood flow and deliver germs and toxic chemicals to the surgical site.
Once the bleeding stops or is at least under control, you can resume eating regular meals and drinking beverages, but you will have to stick to lukewarm or cold drinks to stay hydrated. As for eating, begin with soft foods, such as eggs, mashed potatoes, thin soups, gelatin and pudding, cooked cereals, and vegetables, meats, and fruits liquefied in a blender.
Some of the biggest diet no-no’s include carbonated beverages or soft drinks, popcorn, peanuts, and pasta, as these can dislodge the blood clot and leave particles in the socket. Depending on the advice of your dentist or the healing progress, you may be able to return to a normal diet of solid foods gradually.
Like any procedure, a wisdom tooth extraction requires post-surgical medication, such as antibiotics to avoid infections. Bear in mind that a lot of post-surgical medications are strong narcotic painkillers, so arrange for a loved one to accompany you or pick you up, as you will not be allowed to drive, much less consume alcoholic beverages while still under medication.
When should I call my dentist?
While side effects are common after any procedure, there are certain warning bells that you need to watch out for. As you recover from a wisdom tooth extraction, pain and swelling should gradually improve as a sign of healing. However, if these only get worse, such as severe, throbbing pain or bleeding that won’t subside even after applying pressure, combined with an elevated and persistent fever, call your dentist right away.
These may indicate complications that need to be addressed right away to ensure proper healing from your wisdom tooth extraction. There might not be wisdom in these pesky extra molars, but there’s definitely wisdom in proper aftercare.
Good oral health and strong, healthy smiles concern the entire family. Bristol Dental Clinic offers dental care for each member of the family, at every stage of life.
To learn more about wisdom tooth extraction and how to recover from it, call Bristol Dental at (866) 623-9216 or contact us here.