What to Expect After Wisdom Teeth Removal

Posted on May 17, 2021

X-ray of wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, and most people recover over the course of a week, experiencing some manageable discomfort. There are cases, however, when complications arise. To help you differentiate between normal symptoms of wisdom teeth removal recovery and instances when you need medical attention, here is what you should and shouldn’t expect after surgery. 

What to Expect After Wisdom Teeth Removal

While recovery time is unique to each person, usually individuals recover from wisdom teeth surgery over the course of three to four days. If wisdom teeth were impacted, it could take up to a week to fully recover. 

In the days after your wisdom teeth surgery, you can expect 

  • Mild pain
  • Swelling of the cheeks
  • Light bruising
  • Some bleeding

You can use an ice pack on your face to alleviate the discomfort and swelling. You may be given pain medications. It’s important to take those medications as directed. Some people experience vomiting after surgery, which can happen if you take medicine on an empty stomach. 

Tips for a Healthy Wisdom Tooth Removal Recovery 

While you are healing, it’s important not to suck on anything. Sucking increases your chances of developing a dry socket. This is when the blood clot covering the wound becomes dislodged, exposing sensitive nerves and bone. This is extremely painful, so avoid using a straw or smoking cigarettes. 

When you begin brushing your teeth, usually on the second day of recovery, don’t bush against the blood clots which can dislodge them. To ensure proper cleaning, you can rinse with salt water until your mouth has fully healed.   

It’s also important to rest and avoid strenuous exercise. This prevents your stitches from moving or coming undone. Your stitches should naturally dissolve within one to two weeks. 

When to Call Your Doctor 

Mild pain, swelling of the cheeks, bruising, and bleeding are common as you recover from wisdom tooth removal surgery. But these symptoms should not feel excessive. If they do, you should reach out to your doctor to see if an emergency visit is needed.  

If you experience any of the symptoms below, you should consult your oral surgeon or dentist right away for an emergency appointment:   

  • Severe pain (a possible symptom of dry sockets or the exposure of the nerve and bone below the wound)
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Lip numbness (if a nerve becomes damaged during the oral surgery procedure, it may result in numbness in the jaw or lips) 
  • Excessive swelling
  • Difficulty or pain when opening the mouth 
  • Fever
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing 
  • Blood or pus from the nose

How Long Does the Pain Last After Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

Usually, pain after a wisdom tooth extraction can last from 2 to 7 days. The level of pain experienced can differ based on the difficulty of the surgical process, though the pain may simmer relatively quickly. 

A normal sign of healing is if your pain begins to subside on the second or third day. If the pain persists or gets worse, it may be a sign of a dry socket, in which case you should see your oral surgeon as soon as possible. 

Can I Get an Infection After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Most infections that occur after an oral surgery develop over the course of a few days. That is why hygiene is an important aspect of wisdom tooth recovery. Any amount of bacteria that gets stuck near the surgical site can cause infection and prolong the healing process. 

Usually, you will be instructed to avoid oral cleansing with a toothbrush or mouthwash for up to 24 hours. Rinsing your mouth with salt water in between meals every 2 hours can keep your mouth clean without disrupting the surgical wound. 

However, it is not unusual for someone to experience a post-surgical infection up to 3 weeks after a wisdom tooth operation. You should speak to see a doctor if you experience severe pain, fever, or a bad taste in your mouth. A doctor can prescribe an antibiotic. If symptoms persist even after the use of antibiotics, the affected area will likely need to be drained of pus or fluid and thoroughly cleaned. 

Is There Supposed to be a Hole After Wisdom Tooth Extraction? 

After wisdom tooth extraction, a temporary hole forms in the place of the wisdom tooth. The time it takes for this hole to close may vary, but usually, it takes three to seven days for the holes to close up. 

Immediately after wisdom teeth extraction, you will be given gauze packs to cover the exposed incision points where the wisdom teeth used to be. Bite down firmly on the gauze to make sure they stay in position. After an hour they may be removed gently. If the bleeding continues, place enough gauze over the surgical point for over 30 minutes to control the bleeding. Eventually, blood clots should form and the bleeding will stop. 

In Summary

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure and one that you shouldn’t fear. For most patients, recovery doesn’t last more than a week. Swelling, pain, bruising, and bleeding should naturally subside. If they don’t, or if they worsen immediately after surgery, then you know it’s time to call your doctor for the next steps. 

By Amir Marashi, MD, DDS

Amir Marashi, MD, DDS received his undergraduate training at Mercer University in Atlanta where he was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He attended dental school at the University of Minnesota where he earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree with distinction.
Dr. Marashi completed his oral and maxillofacial surgery residency at Louisiana State University and the University of Rochester. He also attended medical school at Louisiana State University where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree Cum Laude, followed by a year of medical residency.
After residency, Dr. Marashi joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the department of surgery at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, training oral and maxillofacial surgery residents. Dr. Marashi is board certified by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

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