Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Post-Op Do’s and Don’ts
Wisdom teeth extraction is a nerve-wracking experience for many patients who are less than thrilled by the prospect of dental surgery. If the pre-surgery anxiety and the procedure itself don’t worry you, then perhaps the post-operative pain might. However, as long as you follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions and ask the questions that are on your mind about the surgery, your recovery should be relatively quick.
Follow these tips to promote healing and reduce discomfort in the days following your wisdom teeth extraction.
DO Abide by Immediate Aftercare Instructions From Your Surgeon
Your dental surgeon knows best, so once you’re ready to leave the office with one to four fewer teeth, it’s a good idea to follow their mouth care instructions. At this point, you will likely notice your cheeks are stuffed with cotton swabs to soak up the blood from your wounds. This may be a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable (who wants to look like a loopy chipmunk in public?), but keeping the gauze in your mouth for at least thirty minutes after your surgery will slow or stop the bleeding and allow for the development of all-important blood clots that will be the basis for the rest of your recovery.
Once the blood clots set in the fresh cavities, your cheeks or gums may begin to swell or bruise. This inflammation is normal and can be remedied with a cold compress on the outside of your cheek. If you had an infection prior to the extraction, your surgeon may suggest a warm, moist compress instead. Follow their instructions for best results.
Thirty minutes to an hour after you finish surgery, the numbing agent will likely begin to fade away. Aching, discomfort or sharp pain can be managed with surgeon prescribed pain medications. Often, these drugs will be narcotics, so follow the doctor’s dose recommendations exactly. Avoid driving or operating machinery after you come out of surgery or have taken narcotic drugs.
DON’T Use a Straw, Spit, Exercise or Rinse Vigorously
The blood clots in the surgical cavities are extremely important to ensure the bone and gums aren’t infected and to keep the area moist to promote healing. However, they can be dislodged relatively easily with any sucking or bouncing force. This is called dry socket. If you develop dry socket, contact your surgeon right away for a follow-up appointment so they can properly clean the cavities.
Avoid spitting, using a straw when you drink a beverage, exercising vigorously or rinsing your mouth out forcefully to prevent dry socket. While light spitting is fine, such as when you’re brushing your teeth or spitting out mouthwash, excessive spitting can remove the clots, sending the healing process back to square one.
DO Choose Your Meals and Beverages Carefully
Food and drink can easily irritate the surgery site if you aren’t careful. No matter how much you’re craving some chicken soup to make you feel better, spicy, hot, chewy or crunchy foods are a no-no. Potent spices can inflame the wound and crunchy or chewy food particles can damage the clots or the cavities themselves, potentially making their way to the bone and causing severe pain. Stick to cool, soft foods like pudding, yogurt or applesauce for the first day, and move on to semisoft foods when your discomfort and swelling have subsided. If the pain continues when you eat semisoft foods, go back to soft items until you’re ready.
Beverages are less open to interpretation. Water is the only beverage you should drink. It cools, hydrates and calms swelling, which is helpful when you’ve had your mouth open for surgery for an hour or two. Hot, caffeinated, alcoholic and carbonated drinks can wait until at least 24 hours after the surgery.
DON’T Smoke or Chew Tobacco
Before you even go into surgery, it may be a good idea to try to quit smoking. Not only can smoking impede your healing ability, but it can also irritate your wounds and potentially cause dry socket when you smoke a cigarette or spit out chewing tobacco.
If you still smoke by the time of the surgery, don’t smoke or chew tobacco for at least 72 hours after the procedure. At least a week is ideal. However, if this doesn’t seem feasible, there’s no time like the present to improve your oral health and ensure a quicker recovery by quitting.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction Services in Louisville, KY
Whether your child is due to get their wisdom teeth removed or you’ve never gotten around to the procedure yourself, there are a lot of unknowns that make dental surgery frightening for many people. However, a friendly, honest oral surgeon can make all the difference. At Greater Louisville Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, we are more than happy to put your mind at ease with a warm, welcoming office, a team of experienced dental professionals and a thorough wisdom teeth evaluation. Contact us online or call (502) 459-8012 to schedule your appointment today!