The back molars are often called “wisdom teeth” because, for many people, they are the last adult teeth to emerge, doing so between the ages of 17 and 21 — when they have more wisdom, in theory. Also known as third molars, these teeth come in on both sides at the top and the bottom. When wisdom teeth partially erupt, or present themselves in the mouth, it leads to a condition known as impaction. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to painful and even dangerous conditions such as cavities, inflammation of the gums and other surrounding soft tissue, or nerve damage.
While an infection from impacted wisdom teeth may be treated with antibiotics or removal of the overlying gum tissue, it often becomes a recurring problem. In most cases, a doctor will recommend surgery to remove the wisdom teeth. It’s quite common — an estimated five million Americans undergo wisdom tooth extraction each year. If you need to have yours removed, you’ll need to know exactly what the process involves and how long it takes wisdom teeth to heal after surgery.
How are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth are typically removed through a relatively simple surgical procedure. The specifics largely depend on how deeply the teeth are impacted and the angle at which they’re oriented.
If the teeth are visible above the surface, your dentist will use a tool called an elevator to loosen them and dental forceps to remove them. If the teeth are below the surface or only partially erupted and a more involved surgery is required, an oral surgeon will make an incision into the mucosa and remove the wisdom teeth, either whole or in sections. Simple tooth removals are generally performed under local anesthesia, while more complex surgeries may be performed under local anesthesia, a sedative, or general anesthesia.
How Long for Your Wisdom Teeth to Heal?
The answer to this is, truthfully, not exactly straightforward, as there are a number of factors that will impact the time it takes your wisdom teeth to heal. Let’s take an in-depth look at a general recovery timeline:
The First 24 Hours After Extraction
After your wisdom teeth are removed, you can expect some minor pain and bleeding. Over the course of the first full day, blood clots start to form. Your dentist will almost certainly prescribe or administer analgesics to help you manage the pain.
You’ll also experience swelling, which, fortunately, should peak during the first day. Use an ice pack, cold cloths, or even a bag of frozen vegetables to help with the swelling, but take care not to apply ice directly to the affected area. Usually, you can participate in non-strenuous activities as part of your normal routine, but exercise and other physical activity should be avoided. Consider taking the first day off from work to rest, if possible.
Between 24 and 72 Hours After Extraction
This is generally the most critical part of the healing period. Blood clots continue to form and the stitches help tremendously with the healing process. It’s important to refrain from any activities that could dislodge the stitches or disrupt the still-forming blood clots, including smoking, drinking alcohol or hot beverages, spitting, or using a straw. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics to fight infection, be sure to take them for the entire course — even if you feel that you no longer need them after a certain point. During this period, there are several things you can do to aid your recovery:
- Rinsing with saline solution or warm salt water
- Avoiding exercise
- Avoiding brushing and flossing in the affected areas
- Eating soft foods, liquids, and chewing with other parts of the mouth
- Elevating your head with additional pillows
- Getting sufficient rest
Seven to Ten Days After Extraction
After one week, your blood clots should be fully formed. If your doctor used dissolving sutures, they should be dissolved by now. If you’re unsure, call your dentist, but if you did not get dissolving sutures, you likely would have been scheduled to return for removal.
You shouldn’t be experiencing serious pain, swelling, or bleeding at this point, so reach out to your dental office right away if you’re still dealing with these issues.
Two Weeks (and Beyond) After Extraction
For most patients, the sockets should be almost completely closed two weeks after surgery. You should still avoid brushing too often in this area and be selective about the types of foods you eat, as you may still be at risk of infection or rupturing the new soft tissue that has formed. Some tenderness isn’t uncommon, but you should remain careful and vigilant about a few specific things:
- Eating and drinking hot foods and beverages
- Eating nuts and seeds which can become lodged in a socket that hasn’t fully closed
- Chewing too much in the vicinity of the extraction
Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to serious problems if left untreated. The good news is that the experts at Dolphin Dental Group are ready to answer any questions you might have and explore all your options.
Besides specializing in cosmetic dentistry and restoration, we also support your general dentistry needs, including wisdom tooth extractions. Contact us today to learn more or schedule an appointment at our office in Seminole, Florida. We believe great smiles start with healthy mouths, and we’re looking forward to helping you smile your best, brightest smile.
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