When it comes to getting your wisdom tooth removed, there’s nothing to fear if you go into the procedure knowing what to expect before and after the procedure.
Getting wisdom teeth removed is a rite of passage for many young people. In fact, one study estimates that 10 million third molars or wisdom teeth are extracted from 5 million people in the U.S. annually.
While it’s not exactly a welcome ritual, wisdom teeth removal can spare you the pain of living with an impacted wisdom tooth. Yet even if your wisdom teeth aren’t causing discomfort, your dentist may recommend extraction to prevent future dental problems. If your dentist has advised wisdom teeth removal, you’ll need to know how to prep for the procedure and what to do afterward. This guide will prepare you for the procedure and recovery.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the four molars located at the far back end of both the upper and lower jaw. They’re the last permanent teeth to erupt, usually between the ages of 17 and 25.
However, a wisdom tooth may not always emerge straight up from the jaw like normal teeth. Instead, the wisdom tooth may grow at an angle or stay entirely within the jawbone. In this case, they are called impacted wisdom teeth and most likely need to be extracted to avoid complications, such as gum disease, tooth decay, and damage to or crowding of nearby teeth.
Your dentist or an oral surgeon will extract the wisdom tooth or teeth. They usually advise getting wisdom teeth removed at a young age because the jawbone has not yet fully formed, which makes for an easier recovery and fewer complications from the procedure.
What happens before and during the wisdom tooth extraction?
Removing a wisdom tooth is a same-day procedure, meaning you can go home afterward. Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide detailed instructions about what to do before the procedure and what to expect during it. But here’s a list of how to prepare for your wisdom tooth removal and the procedure itself:
- Talk to your dentist about your prescription medications and whether you can take them before the procedure.
- Arrange to have someone drive you home since you’ll be given anesthesia.
- Don’t eat or drink for a certain number of hours before the operation. Your dentist will provide the timeline.
- Take a few days off from work to give yourself time to recover.
During the procedure:
- You’ll be given local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia to make you comfortable.
- The dentist will make an incision into the gums to reach the tooth.
- Part of the bone blocking access to the tooth may be removed.
- Your dentist will extract the tooth. If needed, they will divide the tooth into sections for easier removal.
- Stitches may or may not be needed to close the extraction site.
- Your dentist will place a gauze over the extraction site to help a blood clot form.
Eight after-care tips for a speedy recovery
After the procedure, you’ll rest in the dentist’s office until ready to go home. For a speedy recovery, follow these at-home care tips:
Eat a soft diet. Chewing may be painful after the extraction. For a day or two, eat a soft diet of applesauce, smoothies, yogurt, and pureed foods. Soups are a good choice, but don’t heat the liquid to a high temperature. Avoid crunchy or spicy foods that could aggravate the extraction site.
Keep gauze on the site. To stop the bleeding and help a clot form, keep gauze on the site for a few hours after the procedure.
Don’t sip through a straw. Sipping through a straw could dislodge the blood clot over the site, leading to a painful condition known as dry socket.
Take pain medications. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications can help reduce your discomfort.
Try hot/cold therapy. Gently press a cold compress to your cheek to alleviate pain and swelling. After 36 hours, apply moist heat from a microwaved wet towel to the affected area.
Wait a day to brush your teeth. Brushing your teeth immediately after the procedure can irritate the area around the extraction or dislodge the clot. Wait a day before brushing; when you do so, be careful around the site. You can rinse with warm water and salt but don’t spit out forcefully.
Avoid strenuous activities. While you can resume your routine within a day, avoid strenuous activities or exercise for a week.
Quit smoking. Tobacco interferes with the healing process, so quit cigarettes for at least three days after surgery. Or take this opportunity to consider quitting smoking altogether.
If you have stitches, you’ll return to your dentist to have them removed. Contact your dentist if you experience any lingering pain, swelling, fever, excessive bleeding, or pus seeping from the site. However, complications are rare, and you should completely recover within a week.
Let Espire Dental guide you through a wisdom tooth extraction
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s La Jolla location today! Our highly trained dentists will make your wisdom tooth extraction as smooth and pain-free as possible. Don’t live near our La Jolla, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.
La Jolla, CA
7776 Ivanhoe Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037