Almost any type of treatment requires that you take time to recover, and so it is with wisdom teeth removal recovery. The staff of Mas’ood Cajee, DDS, MPH, in Manteca, CA, want to help you resume routine daily activities as quickly as possible, but we also take your body’s needs seriously. By following our post-care recommendations, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. And if you need guidance, we’re here to help.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery: How Long Does It Take?
Most people recover within three to four days, but if your teeth came in at an awkward angle or were impacted, it could take a full week to recover. The wound created by surgery will take longer to heal, meaning it’s still possible to develop an infection several weeks after surgery. You can avoid this by practicing great oral care (we’ll discuss this more in a moment).
Keep in mind that without the proper care and rest, you will extend the healing process and increase your risk for complications. You can, on the other hand, ensure a speedy recovery for yourself by following specific aftercare steps.
Immediate Care Recommendations
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take it easy the first few days following treatment. You can usually resume normal activities after a day of rest, but it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a little more time. Your body will appreciate it, and you can be sure you’re not doing anything to dislodge the blood clot from the tooth removal site.
After the extraction, it’s important you not rinse, spit, or swish for about an hour. This can aggravate your wound or even rip out sutures. Additionally, if you were prescribed antibiotics, you’ll need to take them as directed.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
Right after general anesthesia or IV sedation, you should stick to liquids. But make sure to only drink directly from a glass; the sucking motion required with a straw could reopen your wound(s). For the next five days or so, you should eat soft foods but be sure to chew away from the extraction site. Cottage cheese, eggs, applesauce, and soups all make great choices.
Also, keep in mind that protein can aid the healing process, so foods high in this nutrient should be on your priority list. You can eat as often as you like, and doing so a little more than usual will give your body the fuel it needs to recover. Also drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
One Last Word on Food
As your wound starts to heal, you can gradually reintroduce the foods you normally eat. Remember to avoid extremely hot dishes and also be cautious with nuts and seeds that can get lodged in your wound.
Your food intake will be limited those first few days of your wisdom teeth removal recovery. It’s important you compensate by drinking more. Aim for a minimum of five to six glasses of liquid every day. This is important so you can regain your strength more quickly; you’ll also heal in less time. And if you suddenly sit or stand from a lying position and feel dizzy, rest for a few minutes with something to drink before standing.
Practice the Best Possible Oral Hygiene
The evening after your appointment, you can brush your teeth but be sure to rinse gently. Also, keep your sutures in mind. You cannot vigorously rinse your mouth until the day after your extraction. At that time, you should rinse at least five or six times a day – especially after eating. Mix one teaspoon of salt with a cup of warm water to keep your mouth free of bacteria. But no swishing; this can disrupt your wound.
If your lips crack or become chapped after your extraction, feel free to restore moisture with Vaseline or another lip ointment. Finally, while resting, try to keep your head elevated to assist with healing.
The Wiser Teeth
They’re called wisdom teeth for a reason, and it’s because they generally wait until you’re between the ages of 17 and 25 to come in. Because you’re older at this point, it’s also supposed that you’re wiser.
As your third molars, wisdom teeth can help you chew food more thoroughly. But this is true only if they come through correctly. Roughly 85% of all people must have these molars extracted, often because there isn’t enough room in the mouth for them to surface or they emerge in the wrong position. If your wisdom teeth are impacted, it means they’re trapped under your gums in your jaw.
Why People Have Wisdom Teeth
Humans in prehistoric times had larger, stronger jaws than we have today. Those extra molars helped with chewing rough foods like plants and raw meat. They served an additional purpose as well: those early people tended to lose teeth, so the space needed for wisdom teeth to grow was never a problem. In fact, they helped replace lost teeth.
Today, however, these molars are less useful than in prehistoric times. The size of the modern jaw combined with the advance of dental care it harder for them to erupt in a beneficial position.
When You Don’t See Your Molars
Just because you can’t see your wisdom teeth doesn’t mean they’re not there. A dental X-ray can confirm their existence, especially if they’re impacted. However, as mentioned a moment ago, not everyone has these third molars – a fact that may come as a surprise to some.
It doesn’t mean something is wrong with your oral health, only that you’re one of the 5 to 37% of our population missing them. The reason for this is unknown, but most researchers attribute it to genetics. If one of your parents lacks wisdom teeth, you likely will as well. Other factors that might come into play include chewing function, diet, and environment.
The Asymptomatic Conundrum
When we think of wisdom teeth, we often think of struggling to manage intense pain as they come in. But some people only experience mild discomfort and, once the teeth are in place, have no other symptoms. This is not to say, however, those teeth are disease-free. Just the opposite, it’s crucial you have them monitored because a silent disease could be in progress without your knowledge.
Take, for instance, periodontal disease – more commonly known as gum disease. Around 25% of the population with asymptomatic wisdom teeth develop this condition that, if ignored, can escalate to the point of becoming life-threatening. Regular checkups can help identify if wisdom teeth move or diseases emerge.
Age Is But a Number
The roots of wisdom teeth usually form during the teenage years. It’s therefore easiest to remove these molars when the roots are around two-thirds developed – which is in your teens. If you miss this window, however, don’t despair. Third molars can be removed at almost any time; the only difference is that as you age, the recovery process might be a little longer.
Even seemingly healthy wisdom teeth may pose one of the following scenarios in your mouth:
- Food becomes trapped and cavity-causing bacteria grow as the teeth aren’t in the right position
- The teeth are too close together, making it difficult to brush and floss the molars next to them
- A cyst develops on or near impacted wisdom teeth that can damage the roots of nearby teeth
While every patient is unique, you’ll likely need your third molars removed if any of these scenarios come to fruition. Gum disease, tooth decay, and infection are additional reasons you might need extractions. Likewise, if you need braces or other dental care, we may recommend removing your wisdom teeth to create the proper space in your mouth.
What To Expect
We’ll start with a consultation appointment where we can discuss your medical history and the process for your extraction. You can also use this time to ask any questions you might have. Once you approve your treatment plan, we’ll schedule your extraction appointment. You will need a friend or family member to drive you to and from the appointment, and you should plan to take a few days from work to heal.
During the extraction, you’ll be numb to eliminate any discomfort. The removal generally takes less than an hour, and once we’ve performed a final examination, your driver can take you home. The extraction itself consists of these straightforward steps:
- We precisely cut into your gum tissue and remove the tooth
- The cut is cleaned and the wound stitched
- Gauze is placed over the cut to protect healing tissues
Preparing for Your Appointment
Earlier we mentioned you’ll need to miss some work, so preparing for your extraction involves making arrangements with your employer. Many patients schedule their appointment on a Wednesday or Thursday and return to work Monday, but you should pick a schedule that’s right for you. Also fill your prescriptions in advance to have them ready.
Stock up on soft foods, like those we listed above, and keep hard foods out of reach. Popcorn, pretzels, and similarly crunchy options will need to be delayed for six to eight weeks. Because you’ll have some free time on your hands, you should also have some entertainment options lined-up. Collect books, magazines, and movies, and plan for a comfortable space with pillows and blankets.
This condition is unlikely – only 2 to 5% of patients develop dry socket during wisdom teeth removal recovery – but we want to mention it because it can be easily prevented. A socket refers to a hole in the bone where the tooth was removed. A dry socket is when the blood clot that formed to protect that bone gets dislodged. The main causes include smoking, drinking through a straw, and eating hard or sticky foods while tissues are healing.
Nothing Out of the Ordinary
Wisdom tooth extractions are considered ordinary in the world of dental care. This doesn’t mean removals should be taken lightly, but instead that you have nothing to fear. Around 5 million people have these molars extracted every year, and by following the guidelines we provide, you can expect to feel more like your old self in about a week. Don’t delay in taking this step to improve your quality of life. Schedule your consultation today by calling the office of Mas’ood Cajee, DDS, MPH, in Manteca, CA.