What to Expect During Impacted Wisdom Tooth Removal

In addition to their adult molars, some people get a third set of molars called “wisdom teeth.” Typically erupting in people between the ages of 17 and 25, these teeth come in at the very back of the mouth, behind the other adult molars. If you develop wisdom teeth and have enough room in your mouth to accommodate these molars, then you may have no problem with them. But for many people, wisdom teeth cause all kinds of dental issues. The fact is that most people do not have enough room for these extra teeth, and as a result the wisdom teeth either don’t fully erupt through the surface of the gum tissue (referred to as “impacted” wisdom teeth) or come in crooked. Either way, wisdom teeth can lead to pain, swelling of gum tissue, crowding of other teeth, and even infection and gum disease. That’s why many dentists recommend that patients have their wisdom teeth removed. If you’re one of those, we’ve compiled the information in this article for you. Read on to find out what to expect during impacted wisdom tooth removal.

Man smiling

Before the Procedure

The first step in having your wisdom teeth removed will be meeting with your dentist or oral surgeon to discuss the upcoming procedure. During this appointment, most dental providers will describe the procedure in general terms, talk about the type of anesthesia they plan to use, and tell you what to expect during your recovery. It’s important to remember that wisdom tooth extraction is oral surgery, and just as is the case with any type of surgery, it will take you a certain amount of time to recover at home afterwards. For that reason, you should plan to take time off from school or work, and make sure you have everything you need at home to allow yourself to rest and heal from the procedure. You’ll also need someone to drive you home after the procedure since you’ll be under some type of anesthesia for a certain amount of time afterwards.

During the Procedure

Thanks to modern dental technology and sedation methods, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort at all during the procedure. Depending on how complicated the surgery is, you’ll receive either general anesthesia, oral sedation or IV sedation. Most wisdom tooth extraction procedures take about 45 minutes to complete, but yours could last longer if you have extremely impacted wisdom teeth or other complications.

Once the teeth are removed, your dentist or oral surgeon will suture the wounds together so that your gum tissue is able to heal more quickly. These stitches will dissolve after several days, so you won’t need to have them removed. Your dentist will likely line your gums with clean gauze to help absorb any bleeding.

After the Procedure

Depending on the type of anesthesia administered prior to your surgery, it will take a certain amount of time for your sedation to wear off, which is why you’ll need a ride home afterwards.

As you become more and more alert, you’ll begin to notice some swelling and pain around the extraction sites, as well as a small amount of bleeding.  This is normal for anyone who has their wisdom teeth removed. 

Your dentist will provide you with a full set of instructions on how to properly care for yourself during your recovery, including how to manage your pain. Plan on resting at home for the remainder of the day after your procedure.

It’s vital that you follow the instructions provided by your dentist during your recovery period to avoid getting an infection and to be sure you heal completely. Although the exact directions may vary slightly depending on the complexity of your procedure, typically they include the following:

  • Avoid brushing or flossing your teeth for a full 24 hours after the surgery.
  • You may rinse with salt water, but don’t spit it out – instead, simply release the water into the sink after rinsing.
  • Don’t engage in any kind of activity that could disturb the blood clots that form in the extraction sites. This includes spitting, sucking, or rinsing your mouth out vigorously. The blood clots are vital to the healing process and should be left intact.
  • Avoid any kind of strenuous exercise for the first few days after your procedure, since this kind of activity could dislodge a blood clot.
  • Don’t smoke after your surgery since this can slow down the healing process.
  • Change the gauze inside your mouth as often as necessary to absorb any blood. Just be sure not to bite down hard on the gauze.
  • Follow your dentist’s instructions to manage your pain. Depending on the complexity of your procedure, this might include using ice packs on your face (directly over the extraction sites) periodically, taking over-the-counter pain medication (such as ibuprofen, for example), or taking prescription pain medicine. You may also need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • Get plenty of rest. This is absolutely necessary in order to give your body a chance to heal after your procedure. Remember that you won’t be able to rest if you’re in pain, which is yet another reason to follow your dentist’s directions on how to manage whatever discomfort you’re feeling.
  • Eat only soft foods for the first few days after your procedure, and be careful not to chew on your extraction sites. Foods like smoothies, ice cream, applesauce, pudding and mashed potatoes are the best choices during this crucial time in your recovery. Make sure that whatever foods you eat are not too hot, and avoid any hard or crunchy foods. And remember to drink plenty of water and other fluids as well – but NOT through a straw.

Most people recover from wisdom tooth extraction within 3 or 4 days and are able to return to normal activities shortly thereafter. But if your procedure was more complicated, it could take 7 to 10 days to recover fully. To find out more about what to expect during impacted wisdom tooth removal, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.

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