What most dentists and patients refer to as “wisdom teeth” are actually a third set of molars that erupt at the far back of the mouth, behind the other adult molars. Not everyone gets wisdom teeth, and as long as you have enough room to accommodate this third set of molars, they probably won’t pose any difficulty. But for many people, wisdom teeth can cause some serious oral health issues. For that reason, your dentist may recommend extracting the teeth. Fortunately, thanks to modern dental technology, it’s very unlikely that you will feel any pain at all during the procedure. But it’s important to remember that having your wisdom teeth removed is in fact oral surgery, and you will feel some amount of discomfort after the procedure. The good news is that your dentist can recommend several effective methods to treat wisdom tooth extraction pain. What follows are some of the most typical ways to alleviate the discomfort you’ll likely feel after the procedure.
First Things First: The Pain Is Normal
Keep in mind that having your wisdom teeth pulled is oral surgery, and most of us realize that it’s normal to feel a certain amount of pain after any surgical procedure. This is especially true when the dentist or oral surgeon has had to cut through gum and bone tissue, which is sometimes the case when extracting wisdom teeth. More times than not, the dental provider will recommend that these molars be extracted because they are impacted (in other words, the teeth either are unable to fully erupt through the gum tissue, or can only partially erupt). But even relatively routine wisdom tooth extraction still involves removing a tooth and its roots – a procedure that will result in some discomfort during the recovery process.
Fortunately, the window of time when the patient feels the most pain after the procedure is relatively short. Most people will begin to feel some discomfort as soon as the anesthetic wears off, particularly at the extraction site(s). Typically, patients will feel what is referred to as “nociceptive pain” during the first 24 hours of recovery. This type of pain is totally normal and caused by the damage done to the gum and bone tissue during the removal of the teeth. This nociceptive pain usually peaks about 6 hours after the surgery and will diminish as the patient continues to heal. Generally speaking, the more complicated the extraction procedure is, the more discomfort the patient will feel during recovery.
Treatment Methods to Alleviate Post-Procedure Pain
Your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend a variety of different methods to treat pain. If the extraction is a simple one, you may only require over-the-counter pain medication. But if the surgery was complex, you may need more to alleviate your discomfort. What follows are some of the most commonly prescribed ways to deal with post-procedure pain:
- Ice packs – Your dentist will likely recommend that you place an ice pack on your face exactly over the extraction site and keep it on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time periodically throughout the first two to three days. An ice pack not only helps to alleviate pain; it also helps to reduce the bruising and swelling that is typical after wisdom tooth removal.
- Over-the-counter pain medication – It’s common for dentists or oral surgeons to recommend that patients take some form of OTC pain medication after extracting one or more teeth. Ibuprofen is the most widely used and is often all you’ll need to alleviate your pain.
- Prescription pain medication – If your wisdom tooth removal was particularly complex, you might experience a higher level of pain during your recovery. In those instances, your dentist or oral surgeon might prescribe more potent prescription pain medication.
Why It’s Important to Alleviate Pain
How Long Will the Pain Last?
Fortunately, the pain that comes as a result of wisdom tooth extraction is usually short-lived. In fact, most people recover from their procedures within 3 to 4 days and are usually able to return to normal activities after that. However, if your procedure was more complex, it may take between 7 and 10 days to recovery completely. The vast majority of the time, however, pain will dissipate 3 or 4 days after the extraction. If your pain is intense, or if it lasts longer than 10 days, you should contact your dentist right away as that could be a sign of infection or a dry socket.
The same holds true for other post-surgery symptoms that don’t subside within the first few days. If you develop a fever, if your swelling or bruising gets worse, if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or if the recommended pain medication isn’t working, contact your dentist or oral surgeon right away.
While it’s normal to feel a certain amount of pain while you recover from wisdom tooth extraction, it seldom lasts more than a few days. And while every type of surgery comes with some risks, keep in mind that this procedure is very common and rarely results in any type of post-procedure complication. Simply follow your dentist’s advice for how to treat wisdom tooth extraction pain, get plenty of rest, and you’ll be back to your normal activities before you know it. If you’re experiencing problems with your wisdom teeth, or to find out more information about the extraction process and recovery, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.