Article review by:
Dr Ho Kok Sen • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Our previous blog post covered what you need to know before a wisdom tooth removal process. We answered commonly asked questions such as why wisdom teeth hurt, will wisdom teeth pain go away, why there is a need to remove wisdom teeth, when is the best time to do so, and whether wisdom teeth removal is painful.
This blog post focuses on what you need to know after a wisdom tooth removal process. We trust this will help you better understand how to care for your operation site after your wisdom tooth removal.
How to brush teeth after wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
Do not brush the operation site on the first day of your surgery to encourage the blood clots to form. The blood clots will protect the tooth socket and start the healing process.
On the second day after your surgery, you can resume brushing and flossing the teeth next to your wisdom tooth. Most toothpaste and toothbrushes can be used. Remember to brush gently and brush your tongue as well. Your tongue harbours bacteria and can leave an odd taste in your mouth.
When to use mouthwash after wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
For the first 24 hours after surgery, do not rinse or spit, as that would cause further bleeding. After that, you may use the prescribed antiseptic mouthwash that has anti-bacterial properties to keep the operation site clean. Alternatively, you may want to use warm salt water to gargle gently after meals and before going to bed. Avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol as that would sting the wound.
When can I resume exercise after wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
It is recommended that vigorous physical activity is resumed only after the operation site has fully healed.
For the first 24 hours, it is recommended to limit all strenuous physical activities as any activity that raises your heart rate, which in turn increases blood flow, will make it difficult to control bleeding.
There may be some swelling and discomfort experienced for the next three to five days. Hence, do rest as much as you can during this period. After your wisdom tooth has been removed, a blood clot forms over the space which previously held the tooth (socket). If the blood clot has been knocked out of position during physical activity, the nerves and bone will be exposed, resulting in pain and discomfort and the risk of infection.
After a week, there shouldn’t be any more swelling or discomfort, and most patients can resume light or low-impact physical activities. During your post-surgery review, your dental specialist or dentist would advise if your wisdom tooth operation site has fully healed.
What can I eat after wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
Immediately after the surgery, you should only consume soft and cold (or lukewarm) foods. As the operation site would still be feeling numb, you may unknowingly burn yourself if you consume hot foods and drinks.
After surgery, continue eating soft foods to facilitate the healing process for the next few days. Try not to chew on the side where the wisdom tooth surgery occurred when eating. This reduces the chance of irritating the operation site and the risk of infection.
In terms of drinks, avoid alcohol and hot beverages. Instead, hydrate yourself with lots of plain water as proper hydration facilitates healing. Consume your drinks from the cup instead of using a straw as the suction created can disrupt the blood clot and cause a dry socket.
Do I have to finish the medications after my wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
You need to complete the course of antibiotics prescribed to you.
As for anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications, do refer to the instructions given by your dental specialist/ dentist. In most cases, patients take them if they are feeling any discomfort and would recover before finishing the medications.
What are some complications that may occur after wisdom tooth extraction or surgery?
As with any surgery, wisdom tooth removal procedures have risks involved. However, the benefits of removing a wisdom tooth often outweigh the risks. Severe complications after wisdom tooth removal are also not common. Here are some of the complications that may occur.
Dry socket is one of the more common wisdom tooth removal complications. This condition occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the tooth socket or if the blood clot becomes dislodged prematurely. The operation site would look like the bone is exposed rather than covered with a blood clot. Along with an unpleasant smell or taste, there will also be an intense ache or throbbing pain in your gum or jaw.
You can avoid this condition if you follow the post-operative instructions given by your dental specialist or dentist after the wisdom tooth extraction or surgery. It is also essential to stop smoking and tobacco use for as long as possible as smoking is detrimental to the healing process and increases the risk of dry socket.
If you think you are suffering from this condition, do visit your dental specialist or dentist so that he can help to alleviate the pain that you are experiencing.
Infection can sometimes happen after wisdom tooth removal. Signs of infection include continued swelling, pain, and discomfort. You may find that you have a fever (high temperatures), and pus may be found at the operation site.
If you find yourself experiencing this, visit your dental specialist or dentist for a clinical examination to find the cause of the infection. The pus will also be drained, and the operation site cleaned.
Nerve injury is a rare complication of wisdom tooth surgery. Wisdom teeth are sometimes found near a nerve that supplies sensation to the lips and tongue sometimes. Damage to nerves (such as the inferior alveolar nerve and lingual nerve) near the operation site may cause tingling, numbness, or loss of feeling in teeth, gum, cheeks, lips, chin, tongue, and around the upper and lower jaw.
If the nerve is bruised during the surgery, it will eventually recover in about a month or two. However, if the nerve is cut, it cannot be repaired and will not heal naturally. The sensation lost will not return.
If you have a wisdom tooth near a nerve, you may be referred to an oral & maxillofacial surgeon. An oral surgeon is specially trained in this aspect of dentistry and would answer any questions you may have about wisdom tooth surgery near a nerve and its risks.