“Wisdom teeth” is the name given to a third set of molars that erupts directly behind a person’s adult molars in the back of the mouth. Not everyone gets wisdom teeth, but many people who do will end up having them extracted. The reason is simple: most people don’t have enough room in their mouths to accommodate a third set of molars, and often these teeth don’t fully erupt or they erupt at an angle, which can cause a variety of problems. If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, you’re not alone. In fact, wisdom teeth removal is a very common oral surgery that is performed by countless dentists and oral surgeons throughout the US. That’s why we’ve compiled the information in this article – to explain some of the do’s and don’ts after wisdom tooth extraction. But before we talk about that, we’ll provide some basic information about wisdom teeth removal.
Why Wisdom Teeth Cause Issues
People who have wisdom teeth normally don’t start to notice them until their late teens or early twenties, after all of their normal adult teeth are well established. When wisdom teeth erupt, they often do so in a manner that is far from normal, which causes a variety of problems. What follows is a list of how these third molars may grow in and why it’s often necessary to have them removed:
- Wisdom teeth that only partially erupt – When the molars only partially break through the surface of the gum tissue, it creates an opening where bacteria can enter; bacteria that is very difficult to remove. As a result, the person can experience swelling of the gums, pain, and eventually infection.
- Wisdom teeth that erupt but are misaligned – This can result in the gum tissue between the last molar and the new wisdom tooth becoming swollen and painful.
- Wisdom teeth that come in at an angle – When this happens, the erupting wisdom tooth can push or “crowd” other molars, resulting in pain and a variety of dental issues.
Most dentists recommend that people have their wisdom teeth removed as soon as it becomes obvious that they will cause dental problems, which means that most patients who undergo wisdom tooth extraction are between 18 and 24 years old. But there’s another reason why dentists recommend the procedure to people in this age group: the procedure is easier when the patient is younger and the roots of the wisdom teeth have not yet fully formed. Extracting the teeth in younger patients is not only easier for the dentist or oral surgeon; it’s also less of an ordeal for the patient.
Do’s and Don’ts After Extraction
It’s important to remember that having your wisdom teeth pulled is major oral surgery. That means that you’ll need to plan ahead and set aside time to recover and heal after the procedure.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide a full set of instructions on how best to care for yourself after the procedure. What follows are some of the most common do’s and don’ts after this oral surgery.
What To Do
- Keep your head elevated. This will help to keep swelling to a minimum. This is particularly important for the first 24 to 48 hours after the procedure.
- Use an ice pack on your face periodically for the first couple of days after your surgery to help reduce pain and minimize swelling. If you don’t have an ice pack intended for this purpose, you can just as easily wrap some ice in a clean washcloth and use that. Even a frozen bag of peas works! After the first 48 hours, switch to a heating pad, placing it on your face directly over the extraction sites.
- It’s normal to experience a certain amount of bleeding after the procedure. To keep this to a minimum, bite down gently on clean gauze until the bleeding stops.
- Eat only liquids and soft foods until you begin to heal. Your dentist or oral surgeon can provide more specific suggestions on foods that are best for your recovery period.
• Drink plenty of fluids, but don’t use a straw. The simple act of sucking on a straw can cause problems at the extraction sites and slow down your healing process.
- Take whatever type of pain medication is prescribed by your dentist. It’s important that you do this not only to reduce any pain or discomfort, but also to get an adequate amount of rest after surgery. Rest is vital to your recovery, and you can’t get enough rest if you’re in pain.
- Gently exercise your jaw by opening and closing your mouth periodically throughout the day. But remember to do so slowly and gently.
- The second day after your procedure, you can begin to brush your teeth, taking care to avoid the extraction sites.
- Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you have a fever, or if your pain and/or swelling persists.
What To Avoid
- Certain actions can disrupt the blood clot that forms in each of the extraction sites, and it’s important to keep those blood clots intact in order to heal properly. So, for that reason, avoid sucking, smoking or spitting, each of which can damage a clot and increase the chances of forming a “dry socket.”
- Don’t eat crunchy or hard foods for at least 7 days after your procedure.
- Avoid rinsing your mouth out too vigorously as this may disrupt a blood clot. If you do rinse your mouth out, do so very gently.
If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, it’s normal to have some amount of anxiety over the upcoming procedure. But keep in mind that your dentist or oral surgeon has most likely performed this procedure countless times with great success. And thanks to modern dental technology and sedation methods, you’ll feel no pain or discomfort at all during the procedure. By closely following the advice of your dentist regarding do’s and don’ts after wisdom teeth removal, you’ll be able to recover fully at home within just a few weeks.