This article has been updated from a post originally published on 12/10/15.
When it comes to wisdom teeth, there are many popular questions patients have about the surgery to remove them. And because wisdom teeth extraction requires aftercare, it’s important to know what things are normal post-surgery and what you may need to follow up with your dentist on.
So read these questions over and make sure you keep a line of communication open with your regular dentist just in case something comes up.
Is pain after wisdom teeth removal normal?
There’s no getting around the fact that oral surgery will involve some level of pain. Thanks to anesthesia, you most likely won’t feel a thing during the surgery itself. But you are bound to feel some discomfort afterward and your oral surgeon may prescribe some painkillers for the recovery process.
So, how much pain is normal? Generally, wisdom teeth surgery pain will last three to four days, although it can be as long as a week, depending on how the teeth were growing. The pain itself has been described as a dull ache that radiates from the holes where wisdom teeth were, into the jawbone and surrounding gums. The pain can also be sharp if you accidentally apply pressure to the wounds themselves.
However, if the prescribed pain medications aren’t helping or if you’re dealing with extreme pain after wisdom teeth removal, talk to your dentist. An oral care professional can offer more specific at-home post-operative advice. They can also determine if a more severe problem, like nerve damage or an infection, is causing the pain. If that’s the case, immediate treatment is required.
Should you see an empty hole after wisdom teeth removal?
Following wisdom teeth removal, holes will be visible in the back of your mouth. These are open wounds that should begin healing immediately after surgery. They are partially closed by sutures put in place by the surgeon and each socket should be filled with a blood clot to protect the bone and nerves at the extraction site.
Most post-wisdom teeth removal home care recommendations revolve around protecting these holes where wisdom teeth were. For example, patients are instructed to avoid strenuous exercise, smoking, spitting and drinking from a straw because all these activities can potentially pull at the stitches and possibly dislodge the blood clot protecting the wound.
If the blood clot dissolves before the wound heals or you accidentally dislodge it, you may see the underlying bone and the socket will look empty. This is called a "dry socket," and it's a common occurrence during the first week following wisdom teeth surgery. While it’s not an emergency, dry sockets can exacerbate your pain and leave you more prone to infection.
If this happens to you, contact your dentist. They can clean the area and provide you with tools for at-home care, such as medicated dressings and pain relievers.
Is a fever after wisdom teeth removal normal?
While it's normal to have a low-grade fever after surgery, your body temperature shouldn't be higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s vital to keep an eye on any fever after wisdom teeth removal because a fever that exceeds 100 degrees and lasts more than a few days after surgery may be a sign of an infection.
Healthline notes the following additional signs that a post-surgery infection has formed:
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- Medication not effective at dulling the pain
- Swelling that gets worse over time
- Blood or pus coming out of your nose
- Bleeding that doesn’t stop when you hold gauze to it and apply pressure
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your dentist and they can prescribe the necessary antibiotics.
When can you eat solid food after wisdom tooth extraction?
Understandably, this is one of the questions dentists get most frequently from patients wondering what to expect after wisdom teeth surgery.
If you've had your wisdom teeth removed before, you were probably told to wait a few days before eating solid foods. Enjoying solid foods may be tempting when you've spent the past 24 hours consuming nothing but chicken broth and Jell-O. But don’t rush to take that first bite.
If you succumbed to the lure of solid food and feel pain afterward, be sure to tell your dentist. You may have accidentally lodged some food in the sockets (the holes where wisdom teeth were), which will likely be painful and possibly lead to infection.
Our advice? Stick with the oral surgeon-recommended diet of liquids and soft foods for at least 3-4 days, or until the sockets have visibly healed and pain is well under control.
The bottom line: Wisdom tooth surgery doesn’t have to be scary. Knowing the answers to common questions will help you determine what is normal after the procedure and when you will need to work with your dentist on further treatment.