After Wisdom Tooth Removal

The removal of impacted teeth is a serious surgical procedure. Post-operative care is very important. Unnecessary pain and complications such as infection and swelling can be minimized if these instructions are followed carefully.

Immediately Following Surgery

  • The gauze pad placed over the surgical area should be kept in place for a half hour. After this time, the gauze pad should be removed and discarded.
  • Vigorous mouth rinsing and/or touching the wound area following surgery should be avoided. This may initiate bleeding by causing the blood clot that has formed to become dislodged.
  • Take the prescribed pain medications as soon as you begin to feel discomfort. This will usually coincide with the local anesthetic becoming diminished.
  • Restrict your activities the day of surgery and resume normal activity when you feel comfortable.
  • Place ice packs to the sides of your face where surgery was performed. Refer to the section on swelling for a more thorough explanation.

Bleeding

A certain amount of bleeding is to be expected following surgery. Slight bleeding, oozing, or redness in the saliva is not uncommon. Excessive bleeding may be controlled by first rinsing or wiping any old clots from your mouth, then placing a gauze pad over the area and biting firmly for thirty minutes. Repeat if necessary. If bleeding continues, bite on a moistened black tea bag for thirty minutes. The tannic acid in the black tea helps to form a clot by contracting bleeding vessels. To minimize further bleeding, do not become excited, sit upright, and avoid exercise. If bleeding does not subside, call our office for further instructions.

Swelling

The swelling that is normally expected is usually proportional to the surgery involved. Swelling around the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and sides of the face is not uncommon. This is the body’s normal reaction to surgery and eventual repair. The swelling will not become apparent until the day following surgery and will not reach its maximum until 2-3 days post-operatively. However, the swelling may be minimized by the immediate use of ice packs. Two baggies filled with ice, or ice packs, should be applied to the sides of the face where surgery was performed. The ice packs should be left on continuously while you are awake. After 36 hours, ice has no beneficial effect. If swelling or jaw stiffness has persisted for several days, there is no cause for alarm. This is a normal reaction to surgery. Thirty-six hours following surgery, the application of moist heat to the sides of the face is beneficial in reducing the size of the swelling.

Pain

For moderate pain, one or two tablets of Tylenol or Extra Strength Tylenol may be taken every 3-4 hours. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) may be taken instead of Tylenol. Ibuprofen bought over the counter comes in 200 mg tablets: 2-3 tablets may be taken four times daily, not to exceed 3200mg daily for an adult. Consult our practice for individuals under 18. Do not take the two medications at the same time.

For severe pain, the prescribed medication should be taken as directed. Do not take any of the above medication if you are allergic to them, or have been instructed by your doctor not to take it. Do not drive an automobile or work around machinery. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Pain or discomfort following surgery should subside more and more every day. If pain persists, it may require attention and you should call the office.

Diet

After general anesthetic or IV sedation only liquids should initially be consumed. Drink from a glass and do not use straws. The sucking motion can cause more bleeding by dislodging the blood clot. You may eat anything soft by chewing away from the surgical sites. A high calorie, high protein intake is very important. Our staff can provide suggested diet instructions. Nourishment should be taken regularly. You should prevent dehydration by taking fluids regularly. Your food intake will be limited for the first few days. You should compensate for this by increasing your fluid intake. At least 5-6 glasses of liquid should be taken daily. Try not to miss any meals. You will feel better, have more strength, less discomfort and heal faster if you continue to eat.

CAUTION: If you suddenly sit up or stand from a lying position you may become dizzy. If you are lying down following surgery, make sure you sit up for one minute before standing.

Keep the mouth clean

No rinsing of any kind should be performed until the day following surgery. The day after surgery you should begin gentle rinsing twice per day, with a teaspoon of salt mixed into one cup of warm water. 

Discoloration

In some cases, discoloration of the skin follows swelling. The development of black, blue, green, or yellow discoloration is due to blood spreading beneath the tissues. This is a normal post-operative occurrence, which may occur 2-3 days post-operatively. Moist heat applied to the area may speed up the removal of the discoloration.

Antibiotics

If you have been placed on antibiotics, take the tablets or liquid as directed. Antibiotics will be given to help prevent infection. Discontinue antibiotic use in the event of a rash or any other unfavorable reaction and contact our office immediately. Call the office if you have any questions.

Nausea and Vomiting

In the event of nausea and/or vomiting following surgery, do not take anything by mouth for at least an hour, including the prescribed medicine. You should then sip on coke, tea, or ginger ale. You should sip slowly over a fifteen-minute period. When the nausea subsides you can begin taking solid foods and the prescribed medicine.

Other Complications

  • If numbness of the lip, chin, or tongue occurs there is no cause for alarm. As reviewed in your consultation, this is usually temporary in nature. You should be aware that if your lip or tongue is numb, you could bite it and not feel the sensation. Call our office if you have any questions.
  • Slight elevation of temperature immediately following surgery is not uncommon. If the temperature persists, notify the office. Tylenol or ibuprofen should be taken to reduce the fever.
  • You should be careful going from the lying down position to standing. You could get light headed from low blood sugar or medications. Before standing up, you should sit for one minute before getting up.
  • Occasionally, patients may feel hard projections in the mouth with their tongue. They are not roots; they are the bony walls which supported the tooth. These projections usually smooth out spontaneously. If not, they can be removed by your surgeon .
  • If the corners of your mouth are stretched, they may dry out and crack. Your lips should be kept moist with an ointment such as vaseline.
  • Sore throats and pain when swallowing are not uncommon. The muscles get swollen. The normal act of swallowing can then become painful. This will subside in 2-3 days.
  • Stiffness (Trismus) of the jaw muscles may cause difficulty in opening your mouth for a few days following surgery. This is a normal post-operative event which will resolve in time.

What Happens Afterwards – What Will I Feel Like?

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of wisdom teeth, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to wisdom teeth are discussed.

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

On the first day after surgery, you may experience some minor bleeding and pain. You should cover your pillowcase with something so that you don’t get any blood on it. Each individual’s reaction to surgery varies, and the sensation of pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. A variable amount of swelling can be expected following the surgery. This swelling usually peaks on the second day and should begin resolving on the third day. You can limit the amount of swelling you will have by using ice for the entire first day. The more ice you use the first day, the less swelling you are likely to have on the second day. Please remember to put ice on the first day even if it is somewhat uncomfortable to have the cold next to your skin. On the third day, you will notice that your jaw muscles are stiff, and it is difficult to open your mouth normally. You can apply moist heat to your face on the second and third day allowing your muscles to relax more and open wider. Most of the time you will want to limit your activities for a few days. We ask that you follow your post-operative instructions closely. Doing so will make you as comfortable as possible during the first few days following your procedure. Please allow time for your body to begin healing before resuming an active social, academic, or athletic schedule. Most patients feel like they are over the hump and on their way to recovery in 3 to 5 days.

Are There Any Problems?

As with any medical procedure, there can be complications or an unanticipated result. Some complications that patients undergoing Wisdom Tooth Extraction may experience include: Damage to the sensory nerve that supplies sensation to the lips and tongue, sinus communication, infections and dry sockets.

After the procedure, our assistants will review your post-operative instructions with your escort. We ask that you follow these instructions closely, as they will make you most comfortable following your procedure. If you were sedated, you will be comfortable and drowsy when you leave the office. Most patients prefer to go home and rest with no other physical or scholastic activities planned for a few days. With any medical procedure, there can be unexpected results. These can include delayed healing, infection and post-operative numbness or tingling in your lip, chin, or tongue. The oral surgeon will review relevant post-operative events with you and answer any questions during your office visit.

A representation of numbness caused by damage to a sensory nerve

Damage to Sensory Nerve:

A primary concern is a nerve within the lower jawbone that supplies feeling to the lower lip, chin, and tongue. This nerve is frequently very close to the roots of the lower wisdom teeth. Having these teeth out between the ages of 12 and 18 usually provides shorter roots so that the nerve is not so close to the roots of these teeth. Occasionally, when the teeth are removed, and especially in older patients, the nerve can become injured. When local anesthesia wears off, you may experience a tingling or numbing sensation in the lower lip, chin, or tongue. Should this occur, it is usually temporary and will resolve gradually over a period of weeks or months. On rare occasions it can result in a permanent alteration of sensation similar to having local anesthesia. We feel that you should be aware of this possibility before consenting to surgery.

A diagram showing the opening that can occur bewteen your mouth and sinuses

Sinus Communication:

The upper wisdom teeth are situated close to your sinuses, and their removal can result in an opening between your mouth and the sinus. Once again, if the teeth are removed at an early age, the root formation is minimal, and this complication is very unlikely. However, if it does occur, it will usually close spontaneously, but we may give you special instructions to follow, such as avoid blowing your nose for two or three days following the surgery. You can wipe your nose, but don’t blow your nose. If you have to sneeze, you should sneeze with an open mouth into a tissue. Pressure should not be created in the sinus area, which may dislodge the healing blood clot. If you sense this condition occurring after the surgery, please contact the office. An additional procedure may RARELY be necessary to close the opening.

A visual of dry socket that developed after the removal of wisdom teeth

Dry Sockets:

Dry sockets continue to be the most common problem people experience following dental surgery. They arise due to premature loss of a blood clot in the empty tooth socket. This seems to occur with greater frequency in people who smoke or are taking birth control pills. While both jaws can be affected, they usually occur in the lower jaw on the third to fifth day. They cause a deep, dull, continuous aching on the affected side(s). Patients may first notice the pain starting in the ear radiating down towards the chin.

The symptoms frequently begin in the middle of the night, and your pain medication regimen may not help. Treatment can involve changing your prescription. Occasionally it is helpful to place a medicated dressing in the empty tooth socket. This will help decrease the pain and protect the socket from food particles. The effectiveness in alleviating the pain lasts for 24-48 hours and may require dressing changes every day or two, for five to seven days. Dressings usually are removed when you have been pain free for 2 to 3 days.

The dressing doesn’t aid in healing. The only reason to place a dressing is for pain control. If medication is controlling the pain, the socket will heal without a dressing. Following removal of the dressing, an irrigation device may be provided to help you to keep food particles from lodging in the extraction site.

A diagram depicting an infection that occurs after wisdom teeth removal

Infection:

Occasionally, post-operative infections occur. This usually requires an office visit and clinical examination. Many times, just placing you on an antibiotic for one week will take care of the infection. If it persists, the area will have to be drained and cleaned. Other temporary problems you may experience in the post-operative period include stiffness of the jaws, chafing around the corners of your lips, facial bruising, and blood oozing from the extraction sites. The post-operative instruction sheet we will provide should answer many of the questions related to these more common concerns. If not, don’t hesitate to call the office.

Finally

Sutures are placed in the area of surgery to minimize post-operative bleeding and to help healing. Sometimes they become dislodged. This is no cause for alarm. Just remove the suture from your mouth and discard it.  Usually dissolving   sutures will be used. 

The pain and swelling should subside more and more each day following surgery. If your post-operative pain or swelling worsens or unusual symptoms occur, call our office for instructions.

There will be a void where the tooth was removed. The void will fill in with new tissue gradually over the next 6-8 weeks.

Your case is unique, no two mouths are alike. Discuss any problems with the trained experts best able to effectively help you: Dr. Feldman, Dr. Sussman, Dr. Paterson, Dr. Gelband, Dr. Meyer or Dr. McElroy or your family dentist.

Brushing your teeth should start 24 hrs after procedure – just be gentle at the surgical sites.

A dry socket is when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket. Symptoms of pain at the surgical site and even pain near the ear may occur 2-3 days following surgery. Call the office if this occurs.

If you are involved in regular exercise, be aware that your normal nourishment intake is reduced. Exercise may weaken you. If you get light headed, stop exercising.