It is natural for patients who have been told they need to have wisdom tooth surgery to be concerned. Having a tooth removed is a worrying proposition in itself, but the term “surgery” can send anxiety levels through the roof. Facing the unknown can always cause apprehension, but by knowing what to expect from these five concerns about wisdom tooth surgery the fear factor can be significantly reduced.
Why Do I Need Wisdom Tooth Surgery?
Wisdom tooth surgery is a minor procedure for oral surgeons, whose expertise is required for a vast range of minor and major surgeries ranging from tooth extractions to dental implants and orthognathic surgery. Wisdom tooth extraction is considered to be a surgical procedure simply because an incision that requires stitches to close the wound is made in the gum to remove the tooth.
Removal of wisdom teeth is not typically required unless they are causing problems, or your dentist recommends it. If they have not grown through properly, or have become stuck (impacted), it may lead to further dental problems, including infected gums, cavities, alignment problems, and damage to surrounding teeth and the jaws.
What Are Any Possible Wisdom Tooth Surgery Complications?
Your dentist will discuss with you any wisdom tooth surgery complications, and how you can take care of the extraction site to reduce risk, avoid complications, and ensure proper healing. Some complications are:
- Dry Socket (Alveolar Osteitis)
A dry socket occurs if the blood clot formed over the extraction site is dislodged, which leaves the nerve under the gum exposed to air or food debris. Symptoms include sharp pain or throbbing, and you will need to get in touch with your dentist so the extraction site can be cleaned and covered.
- Lip Numbness
Lip numbness is an uncommon complication if the nerve in the jaw becomes damaged. Numbness is usually temporary, but in some rare cases, it may be permanent.
What Should I Expect During Wisdom Tooth Surgery Recovery?
The anesthetic injections given during your surgery are likely to wear off 3-4 hours later, but you will be given painkillers that will keep you pain-free if you take them regularly and according to the instructions.
- Swelling and Bruising
Swelling and bruising are likely—particularly in the two days following your extraction, after which they will begin to dissipate. Applying ice packs regularly to the face over the surgical site will help to relieve swelling and may reduce the amount of blood that leaks out of the blood vessels.
- Jaw Stiffness
You may experience difficulty opening your mouth and stiffness in the jaw joint. It will usually begin to subside after a couple of days, but there could still be some degree of stiffness for up to two weeks. Do not force your jaw open—you will just need to be patient for the swelling to resolve to allow full movement to return.
Wisdom Tooth Surgery Aftercare – What Should I Do to Ensure a Good Recovery?
Carefully following the instructions given to you by your dentist will help you have an uneventful and speedy recovery. Your mouth will feel sore, but you must maintain good oral hygiene to minimize the risk of infection. If you can, you should clean your teeth, avoiding the extraction site. It will be helpful if you can regularly rinse your mouth with a lukewarm, saltwater solution—particularly after you have consumed any food or drinks (except water).
After surgery, you will have a cotton gauze placed over the extraction site to help stem the bleeding and help form a blood clot, which will protect the site. You should avoid very hot and very cold food and drinks, as this may start the bleeding again.
After 3 or 4 days gently brush the extraction site to dislodge any food debris from around the stitches, which will start to dissolve after about a week.
What Can I Eat After My Wisdom Teeth Are Removed?
Start with clear liquids—without a straw, because the force of sucking may dislodge the blood clot over the extraction site. If you tolerate the liquids well, move on to soft dairies, such as ice cream, yogurt, and milkshakes before introducing soft food, such as mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, well-cooked pasta, and other foods that require minimal chewing. Gradually start to increase solid foods, but avoid spicy foods, seeds, and hard foods, such as crackers.
While it is right to have concerns about wisdom teeth surgery, the process and recovery should be unremarkable. If you take care to follow the instructions your dentist has provided, you should have no concerns and can look forward to an uneventful recovery.
by Amanda Duffy
Amanda Duffy has considerable knowledge of the fields of dentistry and oral health, gained from a 20-year career in the healthcare sector, including a decade in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and years of experience writing high-quality dental content. Amanda Duffy is currently the lead dental writer at Bond St Dental.