If your dentist suggests it’s time to remove your wisdom teeth, don’t worry too much. The recovery timeframe for wisdom tooth surgery is often pretty quick for most individuals. Provided the patient adheres to their dentist’s pre-operative advice, is in general good health at the time of the procedure, and takes care of themselves appropriately after the actual surgery, having your wisdom teeth removed doesn’t have to be a painful ordeal.

That being said, it is important to recognize that it is still surgery. Always follow your dentist’s guidelines before, during, and after surgery to ensure the best outcome. Here are ways to make the recovery process as quick and painless as possible.

Schedule the Surgery

Working with your dental office to schedule the surgery at an appropriate time will do wonders for your recovery. If possible, schedule your procedure for a Thursday afternoon. This allows for extra recovery time over an extended weekend. You’ll be less likely to introduce the stress of having to balance your recovery with your normal day-to-day responsibilities. However, keep in mind, the immediacy of your appointment will depend on the individual situation. For example, if there is an infection or impacted teeth are causing pain, you’ll want to have your appointment scheduled sooner rather than later.

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Stock the Fridge

A night or two before the surgery, take a trip to the grocery store and load up on all of the foods your dentist recommends post-surgery. Often this includes foods like applesauce, gelatin, cottage cheese, broth, yogurt, and other similar foods that require little to no chewing. Nothing too hot or too cold should be consumed for several days after the surgery, as the extraction site may be quite sensitive. Remember that coffee, soda, and alcohol must also be off-limits for at least three days after the surgery.

Appoint a Driver

You’ll need someone to drive you to the dental office and wait until your surgery is complete, since you’ll feel groggy for several hours post-surgery. Whoever you choose to drive you home may need to take you to the drugstore to fill a prescription or even tuck you into bed to start the healing process. Make sure you employ the services of someone you trust.

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Follow After-Care Orders

Your oral surgeon will provide you with a comprehensive regimen of after-care activities to prevent complications and promote swift healing. For example, leave gauze over the surgical areas for at least 60 minutes or as recommended by your dental office. Switch out the gauze pads every hour or when they become saturated. The first few hours following your surgery are when bleeding is heaviest, but over time it should subside. If you continue to experience heavy bleeding, contact your doctor with concerns.

Manage the Pain

A prescription for painkillers commonly accompanies wisdom tooth surgery. Take the medication as directed, but incorporate other methods that can help minimize pain and swelling, while advancing the healing process.

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  • Gently bite down on tea bags 

    This home remedy helps promote appropriate clotting in the surgery site almost immediately. As an alternative, put away the gauze and try biting on moistened tea bags for 20 minutes. The tannins found in tea helps contract the vessels to aids in having the blood clots set.

  • Salt water rinse

    After 12 hours, combine a cup of lukewarm (never hot) water with a teaspoon of sea salt. Rinse your mouth with the solution, but don’t swish aggressively or gargle the salt water as this may loosen the blood clot in the extraction site. Salt water is an effective and easy-to-use method to help minimize irritation and implement oral care while you in recovery mode.

  • Use an ice pack

    Before your surgery, ensure you have an ice pack in the freezer that will be ready to use once you arrive home. If you wait too long to use an ice pack after surgery, you’ll miss out on the window of time in which the ice is truly effective at minimizing swelling in the face. Talk to your dentist about their specific recommendation for using the ice pack. Most will suggest using one for the first two to three days, then switching to a warm, damp washcloth after at least three days of recovery time.

Other Care Recommendations

When recovering from oral surgery, elevate your head by using two or more pillows to create a steeper-than-normal angle for your head and neck. This will promote better management of blood flow around the surgical site and reduce swelling in the face and mouth.

Another best practice is to refrain from using straws to drink liquids for at least a week. The vacuum created within your mouth when using a straw can easily tear out a newly-formed blood clot and dramatically affect the healing process.

Also, don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes for at least three days after surgery. The longer you can wait, the better. Both of these substances will lengthen the healing process and can get in the way of the body’s natural ability to fight infection and heal naturally.

Now that you know a little more about recovering from surgery following wisdom tooth extraction, you’ll be better able to minimize the potential for pain and discomfort. Talk with your dentist and create a personalized care plan that will help you recover more quickly and feel back to normal in no time at all.