Recovering From Wisdom Tooth Removal
Recovering from having your wisdom teeth taken out will most likely be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t necessary be painful, according to Dr. A. Gerald Michels, a San Diego dentist who offers many sedation techniques at his practice, Hillcrest Family Dental Care.
When it comes to predicting how a patient is going to feel after having this type of oral surgery, Michels says that the difficulty of taking out the teeth in question will have much more to do with how the recovery goes than the type of sedation that a dentist uses. Michels says that patients who have wisdom teeth that are easy to take out of the mouth can generally expect to have an easier recovery period than patients whose teeth are difficult to remove for one reason or another.
Unfortunately, Michels says that more often than not, wisdom teeth do not come straight out of the mouth without needing some extra work by the dentist. After any of Michels’ patients have been put under sedation by the dentist, he says that there will usually be some removal of the tissue and some removal of the bone in order to get one or more of the wisdom teeth out of the mouth. “It is traumatic,” Michels explains.
As a result of the trauma in the mouth, patients who have had wisdom teeth removed will commonly become swollen for a few days after the procedure. “It is not necessarily pain,” Michels says. “But that swelling causes people to be uncomfortable.”
Rather than having just one wisdom tooth taken out, Michels says that most of the patients he sees opt to have all four of their wisdom teeth taken out at the same time. “They only want to go through this once,” he says. He generally advises people to have their wisdom teeth taken out during their teenage years, if ever, because as a teenager your bones are more pliable. “As you get older, your bone gets harder and more brittle,” Michels says. “So [wisdom teeth] become much more difficult to take out.”
As a patient, it can be nearly impossible to predict how strenuous a wisdom tooth removal procedure is going to be. Rather than trying to blindly guess, Michels recommends asking your dentist or oral surgeon before the procedure begins how difficult he or she thinks it is going to be. Although the dentist may not know with certainty how intense the procedure will be, he or she will be able to let you know if there is anything about your mouth or the alignment of your wisdom teeth that could make the process more difficult than normal.
During the wisdom teeth removal itself, Michels says that his patients can expect to be put under sedation by the dentist. Although almost all patients will be sedated at some level, Michels says that the specific techniques used for sedation—from using nitrous to conscious sedation—will vary from dentist to dentist and patient to patient.
In some cases, a patient might have a fear of the dentist that is so high that it becomes necessary to put him or her completely under so that the process is not as traumatic. In addition, putting the patient completely under a general anesthetic makes it easier for the oral surgeon to perform his job as well.
Michels explains that the type of medication that is given to a patient during a wisdom teeth removal procedure is based on two things: How difficult the teeth are going to be to get out, and how scared the patient is of dentists and dental work in general. The more nervous a patient is, or the smaller his or her mouth is, the more likely a general anesthetic will need to be used.
Afterward, most dentists will give patients antibiotics and painkillers to help reduce discomfort during the critical time of healing and recovery, although that, too, will be determined based on the comfort level of the patient and how the procedure itself went.
Because everyone has different pain thresholds and tolerance levels, Michels says that it can be difficult to help patients gauge how they should expect to feel after having their wisdom teeth removed. Although most people start feeling better within a day or two of the procedure, Michels says he typically removes wisdom teeth on Fridays so that patients have a full weekend to recover before returning to work or school. Having a friend who can pick you up at the dentist’s office is also a good idea, Michels advises, as is asking that friend to stay around while you come down from the anesthesia at the beginning of the recovery phase.
*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.