What are the instructions I need to follow after removing my wisdom teeth?
The most crucial part of your healing after any dental surgery occurs within the first 24 to 48 hours. What you do during this time period can be the difference between an easy or painful recovery. Essentially, this could be the difference between having pain for a few days versus a few weeks after your surgery. Now that you understand how important following these post-operative wisdom teeth instructions are, let’ s take a look at them:
Wisdom teeth instructions following your surgery:
Don’t spit or you’ll end up with a dry socket
Don’t spit after your surgery. This might be the most important of all wisdom teeth instructions. Any form of spitting action will loosen your blood clot and delay the healing process. Without a blood clot forming your healing can be postponed by weeks or even months. Note that not spitting also includes avoiding any type of suction or blowing action such as coughing, sneezing and especially smoking.
Continue to fight the urge to spit after your surgery. If you must swallow blood then do so, after all it’s you own blood! Continue to apply pressure on the surgery sites for at least 45 minutes or until all bleeding has fully stopped. If bleeding does not stop after a few hours then you must contact your dentist or an emergency room for further assistance.
Keep in mind that the less you mess with your surgery site, the quicker it will heal. Continue to bite firmly on gauze to help stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Keep switching out old gauze with clean ones about every 10 to 15 minutes. Just make sure to pace yourself so you don’t run out of gauze packs.
helpful hint – Stopping bleeding after dental surgery with tea-bags
If biting on gauze alone isn’t stopping your bleeding after dental surgery, then a nice trick is to place a moist tea bag on the site instead. Tea contains tannic acid which helps stop bleeding from dental surgery sites. Allow the tea bag to sit firmly on your surgery site for a while while applying firm pressure onto it.
Ice the swollen region
Using an ice pack can help reduce post-operative swelling. Place an ice pack where you are swollen, 20 to 30 minutes on and then 20 to 30 minutes off. You can keep using an ice pack to reduce pain and swelling for the first two to three days after your surgery whenever needed.
Take your pain killers and antibiotics on time
Make sure that you take your medications as prescribed and on time. It’s best to take your first dose of antibiotics and painkillers as soon as you finish surgery. Note that once numbness wears off you will start to feel pain so take your medicine as soon as you can after surgery.
If your medication causes itching, difficulty in breathing or any other serious issues then chances are you’re allergic to one of them. Stop taking your medicine right away and contact your dentist for a substitute. Also make a note of you allergy for the future so you don’t run into this issue again.
Avoid rigorous exercise or strenuous activities
Strenuous activities are forbidden after dental surgery because excess pressure dislodges your blood clot. Without a proper blood clot forming your healing can be delayed by a few weeks. You must avoid such activities for at least two to three days after a difficult wisdom surgery. Pay attention as we are talking about some serious pain here!
It’s normal not be able to eat, swallow or breath comfortably for the first few hours following surgery while you’re still numb. Your breathing and swallowing will improve once your numbness has worn off. So relax and just give it some time. Of course if this ends up being too much for you to handle then you should contact your dentist or an emergency room. However keep in mind that if you weigh it out most likely everything will improve once your numbness has worn off.
Leave the surgery site alone
Avoid brushing and flossing near the surgery site for at least a few days afterwards. Don’t worry too much about cleaning the surgery site while you are still swollen. You can always get a dental cleaning once you’re done recovering from your surgery. In fact, it’s highly recommended to receive a dental cleaning soon after removing your wisdom teeth. Teeth tend to gather more plaque and tartar during difficult recovery periods, so a dental cleaning will be very beneficial to them. In the meantime, continue to leave the surgery site alone so it can heal nice and quickly.
Give your jaw a break
Stick with a soft diet consisting of soup, liquids and mashed food items for the first few days. Your poor jaw needs some rest just like the rest of your body. Don’t worry if you are unable to open your mouth too wide. This is a very common complication and will most likely last for a few weeks or months after your surgery.
If you are concerned then try doing TMJ exercises to help loosen your jaw muscles. You can go see your dentist for more advanced treatment if it doesn’t improve after a few months. But make sure to give it some time first to see if there are any improvements before making any rash decisions.
When should I contact my dentist or an emergency room?
Pain and swelling is your body’s normal reaction to damage it sustains during surgery. So having pain and swelling after wisdom surgery is not unusual. You must follow the wisdom teeth instructions that your dentist or oral surgeon gives you very carefully, if you want to experience a fast and smooth recovery. Having said that, there are special circumstances where you do need to contact your dentist or even an emergency room for further assistance:
Excessive bleeding which doesn’t stop
You should first try techniques such as biting on gauze packs or tea-bags before contacting your dentist or oral surgeon. If you suffer from high blood pressure, bleeding problems or are taking blood thinners then your dentist should not dismiss you until they have your bleeding under control.
It’s best to stay at your dentist until your bleeding level is under control. If there are any bleeding concerns then make your appointment for earlier in the day. This way your dentist or oral surgeon can monitor you for a few hours if necessary and you can also get a hold of them if needed. If you can not get your bleeding levels under control and can’t get a hold of your dentist then you must go to the emergency room.
Swelling to the point that it interferes with your breathing
Should your swelling worsen to the point where you can’t eat or breath then you need require help. You may have to go to an emergency room to receive an epinephrine shot to open up the airways. Keep in mind that this is extremely rare and your breathing usually improves within a few hours once your numbness has worn off.
Severe pain that fails to improve over time
Having severe pain after wisdom surgery is normal and totally expected. Having pain which lasts for more than 3 to 4 days without showing any signs of improvement may be slightly alarming. Pain should gradually subside after a few days so if it remains constant or worsens then there is a possibility that something has gone wrong. We don’t want to scare you but there is always the possibility of some tooth or other material being left behind. You need to see your dentist or oral surgeon right away to see if there is any issues that requires further assistance.
Persistent elevated fever
A highly elevated fever or one which doesn’t subside for more than 3 days despite taking your antibiotics needs to be further evaluated.
Allergic reaction to medications
It’s important that you take your medications and follow wisdom teeth instructions carefully for a speedy and pleasant recovery. However, if taking your medicine makes you feel itchy, dizzy, weak or interferes with your breathing then you’re probably allergic to either the painkillers or antibiotics.
Allergies to antibiotics such as Penicillin allergies are quite common amongst the general population. Some patients can’t handle controlled substance medications and run into problems with Codeine. If you are allergic to any of your medication then stop taking them right away. You need to switch to a different drug or a stronger or weaker medicine instead. Contact your dentist to discuss what is the best route to take should you experience any allergic reactions.