Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. But, because the human jaw is smaller than it once was and because there’s no real need for the teeth any more, many people do end up having theirs taken out, often before the teeth have a chance to cause any issues or pain.
If your dentist has recommended wisdom tooth extraction, there are a few things to know that can make the surgery and the recovery afterwards go more smoothly. Your dentist and oral surgeon should be happy to provide you with details to help you prep for the surgery and to help you enjoy a comfortable recovery afterwards.
How Many Teeth Will Be Removed
Although humans are supposed to have four wisdom teeth, not everyone does. Your dentist will take an X-ray before your surgery and let you know how many teeth you have and how many should be removed. For example, you might be missing one of your wisdom teeth, meaning you only need to have three taken out. Or, you might only have teeth on the top or bottom row.
The fewer teeth you have, the lower the cost of your surgery and the less time it will take. Knowing how many teeth are going to be extracted can also help you decide to have local anesthesia on its own or some form of sedation during the procedure. If all the surgeon needs to do is extract a single wisdom tooth, you might be comfortable being awake for the procedure. But, if it will be a longer and more involved process that involves removing all your teeth, you’ might opt for sedation or general anesthesia instead.
You’ll Need a Friend
Having a friend or relative to drive you to and from surgery and to be by your side afterwards is a must. Your friend won’t only supply moral support. You’ll most likely really need his or her assistance when it comes to getting home safely, getting any prescriptions, and resting comfortably once you’re back home.
Make sure you pick someone who’s pretty reliable to accompany you to and from the surgery. You don’t want someone who will be late or who will forget to pick you up. Additionally, you won’t want a friend who will leave you alone during the first few hours after the surgery, when you’ll be at your groggiest and won’t really be in any condition to do things on your own.
Soft Foods are a Must
You’ll have to alter your diet a bit after your wisdom teeth are removed. For one thing, chewing will be difficult if not downright painful. You’ll want to stick to soft foods for as long as two weeks after the procedure.
Typically, foods to eat after surgery include mashed potatoes, ice cream, oatmeal or other mushy grains, and smoothies. Along with sticking to a diet of soft foods, you’ll want to avoid foods that can aggravate the surgical site. Steer clear of spicy foods, for example, as well as other very flavorful foods and foods that are served at a very hot temperature. Acidic foods and drinks, such as orange juice or tomato sauce, can also irritate the surgical site and are best to avoid for a few weeks after surgery.
You’ll Need Time to Recover
Even if you only received local anesthesia during your wisdom tooth surgery, you’ll still need some time to recover fully from the procedure. A number of activities, from brushing your teeth to running around, need to be limited after your surgery. Your surgeon will most likely advise that you wait at least 24 hours before you try to brush your teeth or clean your mouth. You’ll also want to avoid hot drinks, alcohol and caffeine and most foods for the first hour.
When you can go back to your normal activities depends on your temperament. Some people are fine heading back to work a day or two after surgery, even though they might look a bit a like a chipmunk and have some discomfort. If you’re taking some types of prescription strength pain medication, you might want to wait until you’re off the medication to go back to work.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that some activities, such as working out or anything particularly strenuous, should be off of your schedule until your oral surgeon or dentist gives you the all clear.
Dr. Juan Arroyo is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon with more than 15 years of experience. He performs wisdom tooth extraction and other oral surgeries at the Miami practice of Gallardo & Lamas. To learn more about wisdom teeth removal and find out if it’s the right call for you, call (305) 447-1447 to schedule a consultation today.