Wisdom Tooth Removal: What to Expect & Aftercare

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wisdom teeth removal

Getting your wisdom teeth removed may not be at the top of your list if they’re not bothering you, but depending on how they’re positioned, they can cause problems for you and your mouth down the road.

Wisdom Teeth Problems

Sometimes wisdom teeth—the third molars in the very back of your mouth—grow in healthy, fully emerged, and positioned correctly. But in many cases, wisdom teeth can be troublemakers.

First of all, they can become stuck, or impacted, meaning they can’t emerge through your gums and become trapped within your jaw. This can lead to infection or cause cysts that can damage your bone and nearby teeth. In other cases, wisdom teeth emerge partially through the gums, but are hard to see and clean, so they’re likely to trap bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease, and infection. In addition, if your wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to come in properly, or are growing at an angle—sometimes they even grow horizontally!—they can crowd or damage nearby teeth.

A simple dental x-ray can show us how your wisdom teeth are positioned and how much room they have to grow—so we can tell if they might cause problems down the line and need to come out. 

And, of course, if you’re already experiencing wisdom teeth symptoms like pain, infection, cysts, or damage to nearby teeth, it’s time for your wisdom teeth to be removed.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

If Dr. Giaquinto recommends removing your wisdom teeth, he will refer you to an experienced oral surgeon who will perform the procedure. You’ll be given anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain during the removal. It may be local anesthesia (you’ll be awake, but shouldn’t feel pain), IV sedation (you’ll be awake, but drowsy and won’t remember much), or general anesthesia (you’ll be completely knocked out). 

The whole procedure lasts around 45 minutes. The surgeon will make an incision in the gum tissue to expose the tooth and bone, and remove any bone covering the tooth’s root. Then, they may divide the tooth into sections, if that makes removal easier, and remove the tooth. Finally, they’ll clean the extraction site, stitch it closed (if necessary), and place gauze over the site to help a blood clot form—which helps with healing. 

Wisdom Teeth Recovery

After the procedure, if you’ve had sedation or general anesthesia, you may feel drowsy for a while, and will need someone to drive you home. If you’ve had local anesthesia, and feel alert enough, you may be able to drive yourself home to begin recovery. 

Once home, one of the first questions on patients minds is: How long does it take for wisdom teeth to heal? Typically, it takes three to four days, although it can be as long as one week. It all depends on if your wisdom teeth were impacted or how they were erupting.

To make recovery easier, be sure to follow your oral surgeon’s instructions on how to care for your mouth during the recovery period. Plan to take it easy for a few days, take the drugs your doctor prescribes to relieve pain, and place an ice pack on your jaw to ease swelling. 

Avoid brushing, flossing, spitting, or rinsing for 24 hours. After that, you can typically resume brushing, but be gentle near the surgical site. Your doctor may also recommend you gently rinse your mouth with salt water to keep it clean and prevent infection. 

How about what to eat after wisdom teeth removal? The key is to stick with soft foods—like applesauce, yogurt, broth, or ice cream—during the first 24 hours. When you can tolerate them, you can start eating semi-soft foods like pasta, rice, eggs, and soup. Drink plenty of fluids—but avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated, or hot beverages for the first few days.

In addition, don’t drink through a straw, which can dislodge the blood clot over the extraction site, exposing bone and nerve and leading to a painful condition called dry socket. Also, don’t smoke, which can slow down the healing process. And be sure to contact your doctor if you have a fever, or if your pain or swelling doesn’t improve.

Wondering if your wisdom teeth need to be removed? Contact as at Cottonwood Dental with any questions or to schedule an appointment. Dr. Giaquinto can assess how your wisdom teeth are positioned, identify if they may cause any problems, and guide you toward the best option for your needs.


About The Author

Dr. David Giaquinto, DDS

Dentist at Cottonwood Dental

Dentistry is a profession that requires many layers of knowledge and training. My background encompasses three post-grad degrees along with a command of aesthetics and precision. Both of those are necessary when creating the great results that we promise our patients. Being a graduate of the University of New Mexico and Marquette University School of Dentistry has provided me with a launching point for my practice at Cottonwood Dental. My ongoing research… [Read full bio]