While getting your wisdom teeth pulled is no leisurely walk in the park, it’s the post-op experience and aftercare that really sparks fear. Thankfully, the vast majority of side effects are only temporary, which means most patients start to feel like themselves again within just a few days. Here’s a look at what you should watch out for in the days immediately following this surgical procedure:
Pain and swelling
One of the most notorious effects of wisdom tooth extraction are the swollen, chipmunk-like cheeks it produces in the days following the procedure. To help with swelling in the first 72 hours, apply an ice pack to your cheek in 30 minute intervals. Pain usually accompanies the swelling, which is why your doctor will likely prescribe a painkiller or suggest an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Bleeding and infection
The worst case scenario of getting your wisdom teeth pulled is, of course, the risk of infection. While the risk for infection is rare, patients with compromised immune systems may be prescribed antibiotics before and after the procedure as a preemptive measure. That’s why proper post-op wound care is key. It’s not uncommon for bleeding to carry on for 24 hours. To stem bleeding, have sterile cotton gauze pads on hand to place over the wound and prop your head up with pillows. Some patients require stitches. If this is the case for you, remember to leave them alone until they dissolve or your doctor removes them.
Immediately following the surgery, the most common effect patients will experience is numbness from the local anesthetic that was used during the procedure. If you still feel numbness the day after the procedure, this is likely the result of inflamed nerves in the jaw. The sensation will typically go away on its own, but consult with your doctor if it lasts for more than a few weeks.
One of the most uncomfortable complications of wisdom teeth removal is dry socket (alveolar osteitis). This occurs post-surgery when the protective blood clot that forms in the tooth socket is dislodged or damaged. This leaves the nerves and bone exposed, which can be extremely painful. Avoid smoking or using a straw postoperatively to prevent a dry socket. Also birth control pills can make the risk of a dry socket higher.