No matter who removes your wisdom teeth — whether it's an oral surgeon or another dental professional — you must keep the lines of communication open with your regular dentist. Wisdom teeth extraction requires aftercare to avoid infections, but even if you follow the doctor's orders, things can go wrong. Because of this risk, it's crucial to know what's normal and what's not when you're recovering. The following questions commonly arise, and in some cases, they may indicate a need to contact your dentist or oral surgeon.
Is extreme pain after wisdom teeth removal normal?
There’s no getting around the fact that oral surgery will involve some level of pain. While you will likely feel nothing during surgery due to the anesthesia, in the days post wisdom teeth surgery, you're bound to feel discomfort and your oral surgeon may prescribe painkillers to treat it.
Generally, wisdom teeth surgery pain will last three to four days, although it can be as long as a week. Per practicing oral surgeon Dr. Joseph Arzadon of Arlington, Virginia, “the length of recovery depends a lot on how badly the wisdom teeth were impacted and how they were erupting.” This pain 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. Left unchecked, it can become very uncomfortable and can produce head and neck pain as well. But, it should be easily managed using the prescription painkillers provided by your oral surgeon.
However, if prescribed pain medications do not work, 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. He or she can also determine if a more severe problem, like nerve damage or 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, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Much of the 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 even drinking from a straw because all these activities can potentially pull at the stitches and/or 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 fairly common occurrence during the first week following wisdom teeth surgery. While it’s not an emergency situation, dry sockets can exacerbate your pain and leave you more prone to infection, which is a serious issue.
If this happens to you, contact your dentist, as he or she can clean the area and will 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, the University of Oregon noted. It’s vital to keep an eye on any fever after wisdom teeth removal because a fever that exceeds 100 degrees and/or lasts more than a few days after surgery may be a sign of an infection.
HealthLine lists the following additional signs you’ll want to watch out for, which could indicate 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, you were probably told to wait a few days before eating solid foods. Taking a bite of that fast-food burger 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, because you may be biting off more than you can chew… literally.
If you succumbed to the lure of solid food and feel pain afterwards, be sure to tell your dentist. You may have accidentally lodged a piece of burger or French fry in the sockets (the holes where wisdom teeth were), which will likely be painful and could lead to infection.
It’s definitely better to stick to the surgeon’s recommended diet of liquids and soft foods for at least 3-4 days, or at least until the sockets have visibly healed and pain is well under control.
While having your wisdom teeth removed isn’t the most pleasant experience you’ll ever have, it is a very common procedure that’s actually proven to have significant health benefits. In fact, a longitudinal clinical trial published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery found that young adults who don't have their wisdom teeth removed before they turn 25 may be at a higher risk for oral diseases.
If you’re currently experiencing pain or discomfort in the far back of your jaw, or if you’re dealing with any of the problems mentioned above following surgery, schedule an appointment using a dental discount card to consult with a dentist about your wisdom teeth.