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Apart from prudence, aging brings along your third molars, also known as wisdom teeth. These molars erupt between the ages of 18 and 24 and are a sign that you’re fully grown. However, since they are the last set of teeth to appear, wisdom teeth do not get enough room to grow properly. Unfortunately, this causes them to surface at an angle or get trapped within your jawbone.
In most cases, when a wisdom tooth is misaligned or has partially emerged, it makes it difficult to floss or maintain basic oral hygiene around that area. This causes food to be trapped in your gums and allows cavity-causing bacteria to flourish.
If your wisdom tooth is a cause of dental complications, your dentist may recommend its removal as a part of preventing further issues down the road.
The thought of getting your wisdom tooth pulled out can be nerve-racking. Yet, knowing what to expect after a wisdom tooth extraction occurs can help you prepare for it in advance.
If you have an impacted third molar and are scheduled for an extraction, the information shared below will help ease your anxiety and speed up recovery.
1) Bleeding and swelling
Since wisdom tooth removal is a form of major surgery, it is natural to experience bleeding and swelling at the site of extraction. Immediately after its removal, your dentist will place one or more sutures (stitches) to cover the wound. They’ll also clean the area and place a moist gauze pack on it, asking you to bite it down gently to control the bleeding.
It’s good to know that the pack may be removed in a few hours. If bleeding persists, you can insert a fresh moist gauze to maintain pressure on the site for another 30 minutes. Continue this until bleeding stops.
During this process, be careful not to disturb the wound. Personally, I recommend that you avoid brushing or rinsing your mouth rigorously. When sleeping, prop your head up using pillows for three days after the surgery to avoid pooling of blood near the wound. Also, use an ice pack on the area to reduce swelling.
Under normal circumstances, the bleeding and discomfort will subside after 48 hours. However, if you experience persistent bleeding beyond that, get in touch with your dental provider for expert advice.
2) Pain and inflammation
Though your dentist will use local or general anesthesia, sedation, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to reduce discomfort and anxiety during surgery, pain and inflammation are a part of the extraction process. Thus, when the effect of anesthesia wears off, you may experience jaw stiffness and pain at the back of your mouth.
As a result, dentists usually prescribe pain medications to alleviate your symptoms during the recovery period. Instead of taking medication after feeling pain, take them proactively as per the prescribed time and dose to manage this avoidable symptom effectively.
For instance, if your dentist has prescribed 600 mg ibuprofen every 6 hours after the surgery, adhere to this duration, whether or not you feel the pain. It is easier to prevent pain than subside it.
Also, applying ice packs to your jaw will help reduce any pain and swelling from surgery. Sip on cold smoothies or feast on your favorite ice cream to soothe the site, speeding up your recovery.
On average, the recovery period from a wisdom tooth removal is around a week. However, if you experience unusual symptoms – like pus formation, foul breath or pain – contact your dentist immediately.
3) Dry socket
Dry socket is an incredibly painful complication of wisdom tooth removal wherein the protective clot over the extraction site gets dislodged. This exposes the underlying bone and nerves to food particles, saliva, and bacteria that can cause an infection and lead to dull and throbbing pain.
Though dry socket is fairly common, it can be easily prevented. After a wisdom tooth extraction, practice oral hygiene after each meal to get rid of the excess bacteria in the oral cavity. To assist with this, your dentist may prescribe an anti-bacterial mouthwash for use after surgery.
Unfortunately, any suction movement can increase your risk of dry socket. Therefore, it is wise not to use straws when consuming fluids.
Also, refrain from smoking for at least a week after extraction as it can pull the clot out of the socket and delay the healing process. If you feel the urge to smoke, talk to your dentist about using nicotine patches during this period.
Dry socket is treatable. Watch out for symptoms of dry socket – like intense pain that radiates to the ear, bad breath, and unpleasant taste in your mouth – and keep your dentist informed about your condition.
4) Bony edges and slivers
Healing is a gradual process. If your surgery was complicated or traumatic, your tongue may have remnants of tiny hard fragments of the tooth or the supporting bone sticking out of the surgical site in a few days.
These sharp bits may also include root tips and bone sequestrum (i.e. bits and flakes of bone that forms the tooth socket). As the wound heals, these fragments work their way to the surface and cause uneasiness and painful tongue sores.
If you discover sharp slivers or bone spur at the site of surgery, get in touch with your dentist for corrective action.
5) A change in diet and lifestyle
During the first few days post-surgery, include pureed foods and liquids in your diet to get the necessary nutrition and reduce discomfort. Food items like applesauce, soup (not too hot), yogurt, smoothies, pudding, custard, and gelatin can be taken with ease.
Avoid solids as the food particles may lodge in the socket, causing uneasiness and delayed wound healing. Also, drink plenty of fluids to keep your mouth clean and free from bacteria.
Smoking and consumption of alcohol and high-sugar foods are strictly prohibited during this period as these can cause complications beyond your oral cavity and slow down your recovery.
Undergoing third molar removal can be stressful. However, if you know what to expect from this major oral surgery, you can take the necessary steps and precautions to alleviate most of its distressing spin-offs.
The information and tips shared in this post will you prepare for your wisdom tooth removal in advance, making it a low-stress experience. Questions or comments? Leave them below!
Author bio: Dr. Sanford Barr is dedicated to excellence in general dentistry such as cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, and same day crowns. He has been serving entire Chicago more than 15 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.