It is said that your third molar or “wisdom tooth” is called so because it appears at a later time in life when we’ve gained “wisdom.” However, some can argue that the “wisdom” gained is actually realizing how your own body can betray you by growing something so inconvenient.
Did you know that10 million wisdom teeth are taken out every year?
Wisdom teeth is the street name for your third and final set of molars which can be found at the back of your mouth. Think of it as your baby teeth’s final evolution since they usually grow in the period between your late teens or early twenties.
Historically speaking, the third molars helped our ancestors grind and digest plant tissue. They are valuable when they grow perfectly aligned, but when they don’t, they can be a real b-word.
Tooth impaction can happen when there isn’t enough room in your jaw to grow your third molar. Your third molar then goes rogue and can grow in many potential directions. They can be fully or partially trapped beneath the surface of your gums or against an adjacent tooth.
Photo from Harbour Pointe
There’s an ongoing debate about extracting impacted teeth that grow in a snug position below the gums’ surface and how they don’t need to be taken out. If that’s the case, it’s best to talk to your dentist for a recommendation.
If your tooth is partially erupted and is causing you pain and other complications, then you will need to pull that bad boy out.
Signs that you mustdefinitely have your wisdom tooth removed:
It is best to extract your wisdom teeth in your teens or early twenties when your wisdom teeth haven’t fully grown. In general, your recovery will also be faster and without complications when you’re at a younger age.
If you’re not experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you can still opt to have your wisdom teeth removed. At the end of the day, you want to look out for your oral health. Our body is composed of interconnected systems and neglecting your oral health can lead toheart disease and other complications.
Talk to your dentist. Take care of your oral health and ensure your overall wellness.
If you’ve decided to have your wisdom teeth removed, make sure to talk to your dentist about your concerns and everything you need to prepare for before your surgery.
Mentally prepare yourself for the surgery by obtaining all the information you will need about the procedure for your specific case. It helps to know how your dentist will go about the surgery, whether it’s a simple extraction, if you’ll need bone grafting, or if there are other things to consider. In some cases wisdom teeth can lodge themselves close to the mandibular nerve or have caused damage to the adjacent teeth.
It is important that you build a rapport with your dentist so you can have a safe extraction and a quick recovery.
While you mentally prepare for your surgery, you can also explore your options for anesthesia. You can choose between laughing gas aka nitrous oxide or intravenous sedatives. Sure you’ve seen hilarious videos of people coming out post-surgery all loopy and rambling enough stuff to gain the internet’s attention.
Some people worry that they’ll do embarrassing things while coming off anesthesia, which usually occurs with the nitrous oxide. It’s a valid concern and you should talk to your dentist about your options.
Your diet will drastically change after your surgery. You will be restricted to eating soft, cold foods for the first week so you better stock up on ingredients for your new diet. This can include pasta, smoothies, or soup. We’ll talk you through all the do’s and don'ts eating-wise in a little while.
With the pain and swelling you will experience, you are required to just stay home and be a couch potato. Stock up on groceries and painkillers ahead of time so you don’t bother yourself with these things as you heal.
Once you’re ready for the procedure, your dentist will give you instructions for fasting. You may be required to fast for 12 hours. That means no food or water before your surgery so you won’t throw up after the procedure.
Make sure you have a ride home since you’ll be disoriented from the anesthesia. When you’ve got those things covered, you’ll be well-equipped for your extraction.
After your surgery, you may notice some numbing and stiffness from the top of your lip down to your jaw. That is completely normal. As the days go by, you will experience some swelling especially after 24 hours post-op, and definitely some bleeding.
You will feel a little raw and sensitive for the first week so it is important that you get the rest that you need. Apart from that, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
There are a lot of diet restrictions during the first week of your recovery, but the general rule of thumb is to be gentle to your mouth. Eat cold, soft foods especially in the first 24 hours.
If you have the type of sutures that dissolve around the 2-week mark, be careful with hot liquids since they can easily melt the sutures. When you do consume soup, make sure it has sat for a little while. Choose cold, soft foods since they will not only keep your sutures intact, but will also help with the swelling in your mouth.
The best food to consume during this time are cold soup, cold pasta, smoothies, and mashed potatoes. Once you progress into your second week, try to keep your food soft. If you can’t pinch your food, it’s probably too tough for you.
We want to prevent the surgical site from getting irritated in any way. When your stitches are irritated, infection will be just around the corner. During this time, stay away from spicy food, carbonated and acidic drinks, and food that can get stuck inside your sockets.
Spicy food will only add more inflammation than you need.
Stay away from little pieces of food that can get stuck inside your sockets like rice and popcorn. It’s hard enough to keep food away from your stitches, don’t give yourself a harder time by eating these types of food. When you do get food stuck inside the sockets, call your clinic. Some people need a syringe to flush out any food residue and your dentist should recommend a way for you to keep your sockets clean.
Drinking carbonated and acidic juices is like squeezing a lemon into an open wound -- not pretty. Stick to water as much as possible.
Speaking of drinks, don’t suck on a straw for the nexttwo weeks. Sucking on a straw will create negative pressure inside your mouth, disrupting the blood clots protecting your exposed gums, bones, and nerves.
You can rinse your mouth on the second day - GENTLY. The normal way of rinsing your mouth (swishing liquid from cheek to cheek, creating air bubbles inside your mouth) is too rough for your stitches. This will disrupt the blood clot and raise your risk of getting a dry socket.
Adry socket is a condition where a blood clot is dislodged or does not form around the surgical site. Having a blood clot around the area is important to protect the bones and the nerves as it heals. A dry socket causes a delay in healing and in extreme cases, can lead to a bone infection.
What you can do instead is a very gentle variation of a rinse:
You can still brush your teeth and floss as your mouth heals. However, make sure to use a small, gentle brush -- a toothbrush for babies should do the trick -- and avoid touching the surgical site.
Your gums and bones have been cut open and a fully-grown tooth was just taken out -- of course you’ll be bleeding A LOT. While you give yourself time to heal, stay away from strenuous activities at least for the first 3 days because it can only aggravate the bleeding and swelling.
To help you manage the bleeding, put pressure on the socket by slightly biting down on the gauze of the surgical site. You can change the gauze after an hour if there’s heavy bleeding, but don’t change your gauze more than necessary since it can irritate the socket.
When you change the gauze, use a damp gauze (not dry, not soaking). A moist tea bag can also be a great alternative for this.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol at least for the first 3 days post-op. If you can avoid it altogether while you recover, that would be best.
Smoking slows down the healing process by creating this pressure inside your mouth potentially disrupting the blood clot.
Alcohol can thin the blood therefore causing you to bleed more. It also might pose adverse effects to any antibiotics or pain medication that you’re taking.
In general, the two slow down your immune system and you don’t want that while you heal.
Swelling and bruising will be very apparent for the first 24-48 hours post-op. Cold therapy on the surgical site will significantly reduce the swelling around your cheek area. Apply it for 20 minutes and then take a break for 20 minutes. You can repeat this process as frequent as necessary for the first 2 days.
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After the first 2 days, you can switch to warm compress to help with any stiffness that you might experience around the jaw. You can also apply the 20-20 rule: apply for 20 minutes, then take a break for another 20 minutes. Repeat this process as frequent as necessary.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction is one of the most common oral surgeries out there. The recovery might be a hassle, but you’ll be fine and back to normal after a week. Supporting your body as you heal is the most important thing you can do. Simply follow the steps above to avoid any complications.
Cold therapy will be your best friend for swelling, and a warm compress can help you with any stiffness you might experience as you recover. IceWraps carries all the products you will need. These versatile gel packs can be frozen for a cold pack, or you can pop it in the microwave for warm compress. You can view our full collection of products on thesite.
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