One of the most common general dentistry surgeries is the removal of wisdom teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), your third molars/wisdom teeth start to emerge at around the ages of 17 to 21. If they emerge correctly, they can help you chew. However, this isn’t always the case. There’s also a good chance they may need extraction. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), 85% of wisdom teeth must be removed to avoid dental problems. Most dentists recommend they be extracted in your late teens or early 20s as they are still forming.
How Long Do Wisdom Teeth Take to Heal?
It can take up to two weeks to recover fully after wisdom tooth extraction. However, the pain from the extraction lasts from three days to a week, so most people will start to feel comfortable in about three to four days. It should be noted that you still need to be attentive even after recovery because the wound from the surgery will not have healed. The healing process will take months, so if you notice or suspect any signs of trouble, report the incident to your dentist immediately. Complications will considerably increase your “how long do wisdom teeth take to heal” time.
Symptoms of complications include:
- Fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
- Your medication does not relieve you of pain
- Swelling that gets increasingly worse
- Experiencing trouble swallowing or breathing
- Blood or pus oozing from the nose
- Bleeding that does not stop even after applying pressure with a gauze
- Facial numbness
The symptoms above could indicate infection or nerve damage. However, some pain, bleeding, and swelling is to be expected after your periodontics surgery. But by the end of the first week, you should be free of all pain and bleeding. Below are the symptoms you may experience while healing:
- Pain – this will be more intense, especially if the wisdom tooth extraction was difficult
- Swollen mouth and cheeks – this will gradually subside; a cold compress on the face should help reduce the swelling
- A stiff and sore jaw that should recover after seven to ten days
- Your cheek may be slightly bruised and can last for up to two weeks
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Though rare, your face, lips, chin, or tongue may experience numbness or tingling.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Aftercare Guidelines
There are some steps you can take to both prevent complications during healing and also to aid in your recovery. Your dentist will give you precise instructions on how to protect your mouth following surgery to reduce how long do wisdom teeth take to heal. First, you should rest as much rest as you can for the first couple of days. You don’t want to dislodge your blood clot or stitches for at least a week because it protects you from pain and the risk of infection.
Whenever a tooth is removed, a blood clot forms over the removal site to protect and heal the bone and nerve endings underneath. The steps listed below are mostly aimed at allowing the blood clot to form and ensuring that it stays intact as you heal; they also help keep any stitches intact and manage pain:
What Are the Dos?
- Bite down on a gauze pad at the extraction site for up to an hour.
- Place an ice pack over your cheek to help reduce swelling and pain.
- For additional pain management, your dentist may prescribe prescription painkillers, or an over-the-counter painkiller may be enough. Ibuprofen is often recommended. It reduces pain, inflammation, and swelling.
- Take all medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Drink lots of fluids
- Eat only soft foods for a couple of days and when chewing, do so only with your other teeth.
- Rinse the removal site with an antiseptic mouthwash after eating. Rinsing with warm water mixed with a teaspoon of salt a few times a day will also help reduce inflammation and soreness as well as keep the wound clean.
- Only gentle dental care for the first 24 hours. According to the ADA, you should not brush your teeth near the extraction site for 24 hours. When swishing the mouthwash, do so by rocking your head from side to side rather than a vigorous mouth movement. This is to avoid dislodging the blood clot and reduce your “how long do wisdom teeth take to heal” time.
- Change your toothbrush for when you do resume brushing. Brushes accumulate bacteria over time, which can be especially dangerous after any dental surgery, e.g., wisdom tooth extraction or dental implant surgery.
What Are the Don’ts?
- For the first 24 hours, avoid spitting, taking hot drinks, rinsing, sipping from straws, or anything else that might dislodge your blood clot.
- Do not consume hot foods or any foods that may get stuck in the extraction site, e.g., nuts or seeds. Avoid all hard, chewy, crunchy, and sticky foods.
- Avoid strenuous activity for the first 48 to 72 hours. High-impact activities can dislodge your blood clot or raise your blood pressure causing you to bleed at the removal site.
- Avoid laying down flat; instead, use a pillow to support your head while resting or sleeping
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol for at least 24 hours or longer.
Ensure that you follow the instructions of your local dentist regarding aftercare. They will help you reduce the “how long do wisdom teeth take to heal time” and enable you to recover smoothly. Any surgery has risks but wisdom teeth heal just fine for the most part.
Possible Complications After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
This is one of the most common complications after wisdom tooth extraction. A dry socket can increase how long do wisdom teeth take to heal. It occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the tooth socket, gets dislodged, or disappears. As a result, the patient experiences an aching or throbbing pain that radiates from their jaw, a pain that can be very intense. If you were to look inside the tooth socket, you might see a partial or total loss of blood or even exposed bone instead of a blood clot. In addition, an unpleasant odor or taste may also emanate from the empty hole.
You are more likely to have a dry socket if you:
- Do not adhere to the instructions given by your affordable dentist
- Are above the age of 25
- Have suffered a dry socket before
- Had a difficult or complicated extraction
If you believe you have a dry socket, visit your dentist immediately. It is treatable. They can remove debris from your socket by flushing it and cover the area with a medical dressing that can be changed as frequently as needed.
If your nerves (lower alveolar nerve and the trigeminal nerves) are injured during surgery, you could experience a tingling sensation, pain, and numbness in the tongue, lips, chin, and gums. Depending on the damage severity, the symptoms could last weeks, months, or even forever. Your dentist or orthodontist should inform you of the risks beforehand and do their best to minimize the possibility of nerve damage. Nerve damage can interfere with daily activities such as eating or drinking; it can even affect your ability to speak and taste. However, nerve damage is a rare occurrence.
If you experience a fever, white or yellow discharge from the extraction site, or persistent pain and swelling, you may have an infection. An infection will increase how long do wisdom teeth take to heal considerably. You should visit your dental clinic immediately if you notice any symptoms.
Some bleeding is normal. However, you must visit the dentist immediately if you have heavy or persistent bleeding.
Reasons for Wisdom Teeth Extraction
If your wisdom teeth are impacted and are not causing any problems, they usually don’t need to be removed. Your dentist will take an X-ray of your teeth to determine whether the procedure is necessary – the X-ray can also help inform on whether there is a chance that complications could arise in the future. Sometimes, wisdom teeth get partially or fully trapped in your gums or jawbone (impacted). This happens when they do not have enough room to emerge normally and can grow at an odd angle. The condition can be painful. Impacted wisdom teeth also increase the “how long do wisdom teeth take to heal” period.
Another concern is that impacted wisdom teeth can trap bacteria, leading to plaque buildup. Such conditions can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, cellulitis, abscesses, cysts, and benign growths. It is advisable to have a dental checkup every six months to avoid emergency dentistry procedures.
The Process of Extracting Wisdom Teeth
Before surgery, your oral surgeon will discuss the following with you:
- Any health problems you may be having.
- Any drugs you are currently taking.
- Anesthesia options – do you wish to be numb or asleep
- Any lingering questions you may have about the surgery.
- Lastly, plan to take time off from work, school, or other duties. Also, arrange for transport from the hospital if needed.
You will get one of the following anesthesia administered to you for the wisdom teeth removal surgery, so you do not feel pain:
- Local – a shot in your inner cheek or gum. Examples of focal anesthetic shots include novocaine, mepivacaine, or lidocaine. Alternatively, you may breathe laughing gas (nitrous oxide), which will relax you and decrease your awareness and sensations.
- IV Sedation – The oral surgeon will numb your mouth and administer drugs through a vein that will make you drowsy.
- General – The surgeon will administer drugs through a vein, or you’ll breathe gas through a mask. You’ll be asleep for the procedure and may not wake up for an hour or so after surgery.
During the surgery, the surgeon may have to cut gum or bone to extract the teeth. If the wisdom tooth hasn’t protruded from the gum, an incision in the gum will be made to get to it. A small piece of bone covering the tooth may also be removed, and they may also break the tooth into smaller pieces to ease extraction. If the tooth is through the gum, it is less likely that an incision will be made.
The surgeon will rock the tooth back and forth to move it out. You may feel some pressure, but if you experience pain, alert the surgeon immediately to receive more anesthetic. A general anesthetic is rarely given for wisdom tooth extraction. However, you may receive a sedative o help you relax during the procedure.
Once the teeth are removed, they will stitch the wound shut, so it heals quickly. The stitches usually dissolve on their own in about seven to ten days. The surgeon may also stuff gauze pads in your mouth to soak up the blood. The surgery should take less than 45 minutes. Afterward, you may be asked to bite down on the gauze for an hour to help create blood clots and reduce the “how long do wisdom teeth take to heal” time.
If a local anesthetic was used, you can drive home immediately. You should, however, avoid driving for 24 hours if you received a sedative and 48 hours if you received general anesthesia. Note that everybody responds differently to anesthesia. If you feel drowsy or incapable of driving, arrange for another form of transport. Your dentist may arrange for a checkup in a week to see your progress and remove any remaining stitches as well.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a common procedure that aims to fix or prevent any problems relating to your third molars. Speak to your dentist, so you are clear on whether you need the procedure. If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, contact a local professional today.