You probably stumbled upon this article because you’re feeling anxious about getting your wisdom teeth removed. Specifically, the recovery part. You may have heard stories from your friends or read some one’s else horror story online: liquid diets, excruciating pain, dry socket, or other complications.
We’re here to put your worries to rest.
By following some simple steps, you can speed up your post-surgery recovery and feel more comfortable during the process.
So, in the very likely scenario that you or a loved one need to have wisdom tooth surgery, the best thing to do is to prepare for recovery in advance.
Let’s get started!
1. Prevent dry socket
Let’s get the scary stuff out of the way.
Once your wisdom teeth extraction is complete a blood clot will form over the extraction site to protect the tissue and bone underneath—think of it like a scab that protects skin wounds as they heal.
Keeping this blood clot in place is very important. If it is dislodged for any reason, it can cause tremendous pain once the underlying bone is exposed. This condition is called dry socket, and it can be caused by seemingly harmless activities like sipping through a straw or swishing with mouthwash.
Your dentist will give you gauze to bite down on right after the surgery. When it’s time to replace the gauze soak it in water before putting it in your mouth. If you don’t soak the gauze it can lead to dry socket. Our Oral Surgeon will give you detailed, helpful instructions on maintaining the integrity of the blood socket.
2. Keep your head elevated for the first three days
When you sleep, use lots of pillows to keep your head elevated at a 45-degree angle. This can help you recover faster from wisdom tooth surgery because blood vessel tone and blood volume near the wound increase when you’re lying flat, which can make the wound throb. Additionally, keeping your head elevated above your feet can help reduce swelling.
Using an airline pillow is an easy and effective way to keep your head comfortably elevated when you’re in an upright position.
3. Ice the area of the cheek closest to the extraction site for the first day
Cold can help reduce swelling and inflammation, so I recommend applying ice to the area close to the extraction. Wrap the ice in a cloth to protect from ice burns, and only ice the area for about 20 minutes at a time. You can also purchase a head wrap that will give you a hands-free way to keep your jaw iced.
A word of caution, though: Never apply heat to this area. Heat can increase blood flow to the area which, as mentioned, will increase pain and swelling.
4. Don’t let your mouth dry out
Your mouth will probably feel quite sore after wisdom tooth surgery, and depending on how tender you are, you may be tempted to breathe through your mouth. Avoid it if possible, though, as this can dry your mouth out. Dryness can disrupt the pH balance of your mouth, which can allow cavity-causing bacteria to proliferate, increasing the chance of infection.
If you must breathe through your mouth, use an oral cavity moisturizer like Biotene gel to help keep your mouth healthy while you recover.
5. Massage your masseter muscle on both sides of your mouth
During wisdom tooth surgery, your mouth is held wide open for an extended period of time. Having your mouth open for so long can contribute to myofascial pain and cramped or sore muscles. The masseter, which is one of the muscles in your jaw that helps you chew, is particularly prone to soreness.
Massaging this area post-surgery will help you recover faster because it releases some of the unnecessary tension that your jaw may be holding onto. To find this muscle and know where to massage, place your fingers just before the opening of each ear. Massage gently for a few minutes at a time.
6. Drink ice-cold coconut water until you’re able to eat soft foods
Not being able to eat normally is one of the unpleasant side effects of wisdom tooth surgery, but coconut water can help you stay hydrated and satiated during recovery.
Coconut water helps to keep blood sugar stable and replenish electrolytes while you’re unable to eat solid foods. Having these elements in balance allows your body to focus more of its attention on healing from wisdom teeth surgery.
Additionally, drinking your coconut water at a very cold temperature can soothe any lingering inflammation.
If you want to reap the benefits of coconut water but don’t want to drink it straight, try whipping up a smoothie with lots of greens and healthy fats, and use coconut water as the liquid. I’d also recommend adding a dash or two of turmeric to further fight inflammation and speed recovery.
Wisdom teeth surgery is a common and relatively safe procedure. If you follow your dentist or surgeon’s detailed advice and consider some of the above tips—including preventing dry socket, keeping your head elevated, and stocking up on coconut water—you’ll be well on your way to healing in no time. If you’re ready to have your wisdom teeth extracted contact Greater Atlanta Oral Facial Surgery today!