Surgery Instruction After Wisdom Tooth Removal
Having your wisdom teeth extracted may seem like a minor procedure, but it is still important that you know what to expect and follow doctor’s orders related to care after the procedure to have the best experience possible and a fast recovery.
On this page, let’s look at how the procedure is done, recovery time and possible complications of which you need to be aware.
Your procedure is performed in a location that is designed for your safety. All equipment is modern and effective. And our personnel who monitor you throughout are well-trained and committed to your safety.
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The removal of any tooth can cause discomfort and pain. So as a general rule, wisdom tooth removal is done with the use of one of the following to alleviate pain during the procedure:
- Local anesthesia applied directly to the area
- Nitrous oxide gas (AKA, laughing gas)
- General anesthesia, which allows you to “sleep” or “partially sleep” through the procedure.
Each option has its unique benefits but also risks, which your doctor will discuss with you along with any surgical risks (i.e. sensory nerve damage, sinus complications, etc.). Once the anesthesia has been applied and allowed to work, a tooth is removed by your doctor with a special tool. The gum from which the tooth is removed is then sutured (stitched up) so that it can heal properly. Gauze is placed to help prevent excessive bleeding while your body’s natural clotting occurs. This is repeated for each tooth removed. And then you will be placed in observation, during which someone will monitor you to assure that you are experiencing no adverse reactions until you are ready to go home. When you are discharged, you may still feel a little funny and not be able to talk well, but you will be given a kit and instructions for postoperative care. In other words, this will tell you how to take care of your mouth until you are fully healed.
Your doctor will likely write you a prescription for a low-level pain medication, which you may or may not need for 1-3 days. Antibiotics may or may not be prescribed. Everyone is different. And it is a clinical best practice not to prescribe antibiotics if they are not needed. In about a week, you’ll return for suture (stitches) removal, at which time you are most likely fully healed and free of any lingering discomfort.
Remember that everyone is different, but you can expect your next three days to go something like this.
Day 1: You will likely have minor bleeding and pain. To avoid blood getting on your bed or pillow, cover anything on which you will be placing your head and wear a t-shirt that you don’t mind soiling. You will use an ice pack after the procedure to reduce swelling. This is very important as it helps and speeds the healing process.
Day 2: You will likely have some swelling as your body adjusts. But the ice from the day before should prevent excessive swelling.
Day 3: The swelling is normally gone. Your jaw muscles may feel stiff. It may even be difficult to open and close your mouth as you normally would. A moist, warm towel will help, but should not be applied until the swelling is going down, on day 2 or 3. The heat helps relax your muscles so that your mouth can adjust and open wider.
On each day, follow your post operative plan and take it easy. This includes cognitive tasks like working on a computer as well as physical tasks. By limiting these tasks, the body heals more quickly. Most patients will feel that recovery is well under way between days 3 and 5, at which you can resume most activities as normal.
All medical procedures have risks and the potential for complications. The most common, but rarely if ever permanent, complications for this procedure are:
- Dry socket
- Sensory Nerve Damage
- Sinus Communication
Your doctor and/or a trained professional with discussing these with you. Following your post-operative plan closely will help prevent complications. If you experience numbness, tingling of the nose/lips/chin, delayed healing, leaking of air or fluid between mouth and sinuses, your doctor can answer any questions you may have. Let’s look more closely at each of these complications so that you know what to look for.
This is the most common problem. It happens between days 3 and 5 when the blood clot dislodges from inside the socket from which the tooth was removed. The result is a deep aching in the jaw that often radiates down the chin. It most often happens while you sleep. If pain medications may not help, so call your doctor.
Smokers and those on birth control may be at increased risk. If this happens, your doctor may change your pain medication and provide you with a medicated dressing that helps reduce pain. It is very important that food particles that can host bacteria not get lodged in the space. So you may be provided with an irrigation system to flush out the socket after the pain has sufficiently subsided. The pain normally lasts 1-2 days, and the dressings should be used until you have been pain-free for 2-3 days.
This is the main concern, as the nerve is very close to the wisdom tooth root. Doctors often recommend removal of the wisdom teeth at a younger age if they appear that they may cause problems later in life. This is because, between ages 12 and 18, the roots are much shorter and less likely to impact the nerve. Particularly in older patients, nerve damage may occur, which results in tingling or numbing of lips, tongue, and chin. It will rarely last longer than a couple of weeks to months. In rare circumstances, it can be permanent. As a valued patient of our practice, we think you should be aware.
The root of your upper wisdom tooth may extend up near the sinus cavity. When the tooth is removed, it can create a hole between the sinus and your mouth. This normally heals itself. But you may experience air or liquid moving between the two in the mean time.
If this happens, your doctor will give you instructions to speed the healing process like not blowing your nose for a few days and sneezing with your mouth open. This help to avoid pressure building in the sinuses which would make it difficult for a blood clot (the good kind) to form so that the tissue can heal. Let your doctor know if you think you may have this. Rarely, a procedure is needed to close the hole.
Infection: Occasionally, an infection occurs. A dull, throbbing pain after the standard recovery period of 3-5 days, is usually the reported sensation. You may need to come in for a visit. A week’s course of antibiotics will normally resolve the issue. Draining and cleaning may also be needed.
Facial bruising, blood oozing from the socket, cracking in the corners of the lips, jaw stiffness are also common but temporary. Read your post-operative plan to learn how to properly care for yourself after the surgery. And if you do have questions related to the procedure or symptoms you may be experiencing, please give us a call.
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