Wisdom Tooth Extraction: Process, Preparation, and Recovery

Most people have their wisdom teeth extracted because their dentist recommends it, but few really understand why it was necessary—particularly if the teeth didn’t cause any pain. By nature, dentists always want to err on the side of caution (read: prevention). Often this means actively monitoring your mouth for any signs of complications like:

  • Improper positioning, where the wisdom teeth grow at an angle, pressing against the other teeth in your mouth. This intense pressure on your teeth can cause excruciating headaches and may also lead to an infection when bacteria start multiplying between the crowded teeth.
  • Impacted teeth that may be stuck in the jawbone. This normally causes a lot of pain and can give bacteria a place to enter the gums, leading to an infection. Sometimes impacted teeth can result in the formation of a cyst, which wreaks havoc on the roots of nearby teeth and can destroy the jawbone.
  • Cavities or gum disease at or near the wisdom teeth. Since these teeth are so far back in your mouth, you may not always be able to clean them properly with a toothbrush and floss.

Your dentist would recommend wisdom tooth extraction to correct problems like the ones listed above or to prevent these complications from coming up in the future.

What is the process like?

Usually, wisdom tooth extraction takes less than 45 minutes. Dentists use anesthesia to numb the area and ensure you don’t feel any discomfort. Next, they remove any bone blocking access to the wisdom tooth. This step normally happens with impacted teeth, where it’s necessary to remove certain areas of hard tissue. Once the dentist has direct access to the tooth, they will divide it into parts to make extraction easier and reduce your recovery time. An extraction forceps is then used to extract the sections of the tooth. Afterward, we use a gentle water stream and disinfectant solution to clean the empty space. The final step in the extraction process involves stitching the open wound shut to prevent food particles or debris from accumulating. Your dentist will then place oral gauze in the space to control bleeding and promote healing.

How can you prepare for the procedure?

Wisdom teeth extraction is typically done as an outpatient procedure, meaning you’ll go home once it’s done. Because this is technically surgery, it’s probably a good idea to take the day off work. Stick to your regular oral routine to keep your mouth clean before the surgery and minimize the risk of infection.

Once you’ve scheduled the extraction with your Greenville, SC, dentist, you will receive a list of do’s and don’ts from the dental team on what should happen before the surgery and on the day of your surgery. Some specifics you need to know include how long to avoid drinking, eating, or smoking before the surgery and whether you should postpone your regular exercise routine and other physical activities. Be honest about any over-the-counter drugs, prescribed medications, and recreational drugs or quantities of alcohol that you take. Believe it or not, this information can help your dental team prevent any unpleasant or unsafe interactions with the anesthesia.

Since even local anesthesia impairs reflexes, you’ll need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after the surgery. We also recommend you prepare a “recovery” room at home. Charge all your favorite devices and gather your most comfortable pillows and the coziest comforters. Stock your fridge with cold foods like ice cream, milkshakes, mushy peas, soup-soaked bread, and other foods that are easy to eat without chewing. You’ll be off your feet and resting for a couple of days, so why not make your stay as comfortable as you can?

What should you expect during the recovery?

A little bleeding or oozing on the first day after a wisdom tooth extraction is completely normal. Try to avoid excessive spitting as this may dislodge the blood clot in the socket and delay healing. We usually recommend that our patients change the oral gauze every hour or so to ensure the extraction site remains clean. You’ll need to eat only soft foods for a week or so to minimize the chances of food particles getting stuck in the socket and irritating the wound. It’s also a good idea to wrap an ice pack in a soft cloth and place it on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours to reduce any facial swelling.

On the second day after the extraction, the bleeding should have stopped completely. You can now resume brushing, but be particularly gentle with the teeth and gums near the surgical wound. Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water every two hours and after meals for seven to 10 days. It usually takes about a week to get back to your normal routine after a wisdom tooth extraction, but if you notice any persistent symptoms or have any questions regarding the extraction process or your recovery, feel free to call us or, better yet, schedule an appointment with our Greenville, SC, dentist. We are happy to answer all your questions!