Wisdom Tooth Extraction: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

After your procedure, you may have some pain and swelling. You should feel better in a few days. Your doctor can give you medicine for pain.

Your doctor will remove the stitches after a few days, if needed.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
  • Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.

Diet

  • Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as you heal.
  • Do not use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot that forms at the surgery site. If this happens, it can delay healing.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.

Incision care

  • Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after your surgery.
  • While your mouth is numb (frozen), be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek or lip, or your tongue.
  • After 24 hours, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Do not rinse hard. This can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.
  • Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.
  • Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.

Ice and heat

  • Try using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours. You can use moist heat-such as a face cloth soaked in warm water and wrung out-for the following 2 or 3 days.

Other instructions

  • Do not smoke for at least 24 hours after your surgery. The sucking motion can loosen the clot and delay healing. In addition, smoking decreases the blood supply and can bring germs and contaminants to the surgery area.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your dentist if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your dentist now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have new or more bleeding from the site.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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