Are you looking at a wisdom teeth removal recovery in the near future and want some tips? Or are you hungry after wisdom teeth removal and wondering what food to eat?
Yes, it's true that wisdom teeth surgery recovery can be painful and take a long time. If you're feeling a bit apprehensive, that's totally normal. But there are ways to make your recovery manageable, more comfortable, and maybe even pleasant!
OK that's perhaps a stretch! Still, this article is chock-full of advice for how to recover from wisdom tooth procedure including:
- What to expect after you get your wisdom teeth out
- Tips for making wisdom tooth recovery a better experience
- When to call your dentist in the case of infection or dry socket
- Answers to common questions about wisdom teeth, oral health and healing
So, whether you are preparing for an upcoming procedure, or you are already in the throes of the aftermath and wondering what to do in the time after wisdom teeth removal, we hope this article will guide you through a smooth recovery to optimal oral health.
Table of contents
General information, the procedure, and pain
This article is about how to heal after having your wisdom tooth extracted. For general information and a look at the procedure itself, read our main article on wisdom teeth.
There you can also read about how an extraction is carried out, what it costs, and mo re. If you're after information on how to schedule an appointment for a wisdom tooth removal, you'll find that as well.
If you want to know more in-depth information on pain before and after extraction, read our article on causes and remedies for wisdom tooth pain to make your recovery easier.
Wisdom tooth removal recovery
You've just been rolled out of the hospital in the obligatory wheelchair, drooling and still feeling the mind-numbing effects of the anesthesia. Your dentist has given you aftercare instructions but how can they possibly expect you to remember all of that information?
So what now? What do you do when you get home? How do you make sure you don't end up right back in the hospital? How long after wisdom teeth removal does swelling last, and when can you eat normally? What does the wisdom tooth healing process even look like?
All excellent questions! Let's start with the timeline, and what you can expect.
Wisdom teeth removal recovery timeline
So how long does it take for wisdom teeth to heal? Wisdom tooth healing does not happen overnight. Instead, wisdom teeth healing is a gradual process that will take time. The good news is that your condition will improve a bit every day—even if sometimes it doesn't feel like it. Since your head might still be a bit foggy after your tooth removal procedure, you can have a look at this nice little table we compiled showing the wisdom teeth extraction recovery timeline:
Time after surgery
What to expect
First 24 hours
Blood clots form, protecting exposed tooth
First 3 days
Swelling of the mouth and cheeks. Swelling will reach peak at the 3-day mark
After 3 days
Your dentist will remove an stitches you may have
7 to 10 days
Soreness and jaw stiffness will begin to go away
Any bruising on your faces should completely go away
You can also expect general discomfort and soreness in and around your mouth (especially at the site of extraction) throughout this 2-week period.
Wisdom teeth removal aftercare
The most important advice we can give is to closely follow the instructions from your dentist. After a wisdom tooth extraction, the dentist should send a list of instructions and appropriate foods with you. Here are some general guidelines for wisdom teeth aftercare which you will almost always find on that list:
- Eat only liquid foods in the first 24 hours
- Don't drink alcohol, coffee, soda or hot beverages in the first 24 hours
- Avoid brushing your teeth, spit or rinse your mouth during the first 24 hours
- Don't smoke (or vape) during the first 72 hours
- Keep gauze over the extraction site to manage bleeding
- Take over-the-counter pain relief or prescription meds as directed
- Use a cold compress to reduce pain
- Get lots of rest
- Keep your mouth clean with salt water rinses after 24 hours
- Call your dentist if anything unusual happens
What foods can you eat after wisdom teeth removal?
We can't stress enough the importance of not eating solid foods within the first 24 hours after your extraction. They could get stuck in the socket, disrupt blood clots and further irritate the wound.
Not to mention it's so painful to eat solid foods right after this type of surgery-take it from someone who knows! To this day I still can't eat Trader Joe's carrot cake cookies—you know the ones with frosting in the middle?
Until your tooth extraction sites are healed enough to safely chew, here's a list of soft foods to eat after wisdom teeth removal:
- Beef, chicken or veggie broth
- Mashed potatoes
- Ice cream
- Soft scrambled eggs
So you're probably asking, when can I eat solid food after wisdom teeth removal? The Mayo Clinic recommends liquids for the first 24 hours, but you may find yourself wanting to stick to liquids or solid foods that are no less than cloud-like in their consistency for a few days or even a week.
By about four days after wisdom tooth extraction you should be able to eat soft solid food, but avoid eating anything hard, sticky or spicy. Exactly how long after you can eat food normally will depend on how well your recovery is going post wisdom teeth removal.
Wisdom teeth removal complications
There are a few different ways that healing can become more complicated after a wisdom tooth extraction. These can result from improper aftercare, an accident, or simply arise unexpectedly. Let's have a quick look at some possible complications after wisdom teeth removal, and what to do if you experience them. Later on we'll also give you a few tips to avoid complications altogether.
Most of the time when you ask about recovery after wisdom teeth removal, the first concern anyone mentions is dry socket. Many people have heard of it, but don't know what it is. So, we'll explain.
After you have wisdom teeth removed, a blood clot develops over your socket. This blood clot is integral in protecting the wound and healing your bone and nerve endings. It's necessary for the blood clot to stay in place until your wisdom teeth holes have completely healed.
Dry socket happens when the blood clot inside of the empty tooth socket becomes dislodged. It is very painful because the nerve and bone underneath become exposed.
If you suspect that you are experiencing dry socket, or are in a great deal of pain beyond what is expected following surgery, you should follow up with your doctor right away. It is common to feel some amount of discomfort following any type of surgical procedure, but the pain is usually managed with over-the-counter medications, ice packs and rest.
Dr. Jared Brown, DDS, Utah Surgical Arts
If this clot becomes dislodged, then not only will your healing process take longer, but the socket where your wisdom tooth was will remain exposed to infection. It will also hurt. A lot. If you believe that you have dry socket you should get in touch with your dentist quickly.
However, the best thing is to follow the dentist's care guidelines after wisdom teeth removal to avoid dry socket and its symptoms altogether. Read more about how to prevent dry socket in our separate article.
Bleeding is normal for the first few hours, and you should be sent home with gauze to manage it. However, some forms of bleeding after wisdom teeth removal are more concerning. Continued bleeding could indicate that there is no blood clot forming where your teeth used to be, any stitches you had came out, or even that the hole left by your wisdom tooth never closed in the first place.
At first it's ok to try and control the bleeding at home, but if it persists you should contact your dentist and ask for advice.
The most concerning complication that people experience after wisdom teeth removal is infection. The main symptoms of infected wisdom teeth holes include swelling and discomfort. However, these are both very normal at first. You should start to get concerned if your symptoms persist a few days after your extraction. More telling symptoms of an infection after wisdom teeth removal include yellowish discharge, a foul taste or smell in your mouth, and possibly even a fever.
An infection is very concerning because once it spreads to your jaw, it can become chronic. It also is closer to reaching vital organs like your brain. Therefore, infections like this should be taken extremely seriously. If you think you have an infection after wisdom tooth removal, do not hesitate to call a dentist for emergency care, so they can prescribe you amoxicillin or a similar antibiotic.
Remaining wisdom teeth roots or fragments
Sometimes it is safer or easier for a dentist to break apart a wisdom tooth, then remove the pieces afterward. This is often the case with impacted wisdom teeth. If this was the case for your wisdom tooth extraction, you may later find a small piece of bone sticking out of your healing gum tissue. It could even take weeks or possibly months to become noticeable.
Although it may be a little freaky, some remaining fragments of wisdom teeth roots aren't that dangerous. Your body will slowly push them out of your gums over time and you'll most likely end up swallowing them or spitting them out without noticing. Unless it is very painful or you think it might be causing an infection, there's no need to worry.
Wisdom teeth removal recovery tips
Now that you know the basics for wisdom teeth removal aftercare, it's time to learn the tips that will ensure the most comfortable and rapid healing possible after a tooth extraction.
Make sure to do some preparation before your extraction. If it's too late for that, you can go ahead and skip to the next step.
To plan ahead, talk to your dentist or surgeon about what to expect after wisdom teeth removal. You might find it helpful to get the aftercare directions from your dentist before your mind is made fuzzy by the anesthetic.
You may also want to do the following:
- Schedule your extraction for a time when you can take a few days off afterward because you'll need them.
- Try to schedule your surgery at a local hospital so that you can return easily if you need to.
- Ask someone to come with you to surgery, so they can also listen to your dentist's advice and drive you home afterward.
And, although not imperative, it's also not a bad idea to see if someone can hang out with you for the rest of the day, mostly to keep you company (and make you smoothies!) and just in case you experience any complications.
As always, planning ahead is key. Before your procedure, prepare your home for life after removal. For the first 24 hours, you’ll need to have a primarily liquid diet. Stock up on groceries that you can make smoothies with, and have plenty of canned soup on hand. If you have a sweet tooth, now is also a good time to make sure you have ice cream and pudding around to easily eat as well.
You might also want to get some wisdom teeth removal supplies ready. These may include pain medication or salt water for mouth rinses. You will also be sedated in one way or another at your appointment. So, you’ll need to have a family member or friend accompany you, drive you home, and care for you afterward.
Finally, you'll have to take it easy for a day or two after your procedure, so it's a good idea to prepare a place where you can relax and have everything you need handy so you have to get up and move around as little as possible.
Dr. Robert Berry, Mountain Aire Dentistry
No smoking, vaping or straws
If the blood clot is dislodged after wisdom teeth removal, it's known as dry socket. This can be due to smoking, drinking with a straw, and even spitting too soon post wisdom teeth removal. It could also simply become dislodged on its own, although this is less likely.
You'll know if you have dry socket because it is extremely painful. So make sure to prevent it by avoiding straws, avoiding smoking (tobacco or anything else, including e-cigarettes—it's the sucking motion that's the problem), and eating soft foods while you heal.
Sometimes a dentist will close the holes your wisdom teeth came out of with stitches to help with recovery. Activities like smoking, vaping, brushing your teeth, or using drinking straws too soon after removal can also pull those stitches out, making for a much longer wisdom teeth recovery time. Just how soon smoking and vaping are acceptable after wisdom teeth removal will vary from person to person, but the longer you wait, the better!
Elevate your head
During the first few days, make sure to sleep with your head elevated at about a 45-degree angle with your body. This will help you recover faster and reduce swelling after your wisdom tooth is removed because it decreases the amount of blood around your wound.
Ice is nice
An ice pack or cold compress will also help reduce swelling and inflammation and help numb any pain. If using ice, make sure to wrap it in a towel to prevent ice burns, and don't apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Make sure not to get your hot water bottle confused with your cold compress because applying heat to the site will only make matters worse.
Drink plenty of water after the extraction to keep your mouth and your socket clean and, make sure that your mouth doesn't dry out. A dry mouth can disrupt your pH balance and create a breeding ground for bacteria, which of course, can cause infection and other health problems.
It's no fun to not be able to eat solid foods, but you can still enjoy a tasty and nutritious liquid diet. This is a good time to experiment with flavors you love and indulge in your favorite treats. So, what is good to eat after your wisdom tooth extraction? Try the following to get started:
- Ice-cold coconut water: Coconut water is full of electrolytes, nutrients and healthy fats. Plus it's just plain delicious. Drinking it extra cold will soothe your mouth and help with any inflammation after your wisdom teeth are removed.
- Smoothies with seedless fruit: Go for an ice-cold tropical smoothie made with coconut, mango and frozen banana. Just make sure to peel your banana before you put it in the freezer!
- Kefir: This healthy liquid yogurt drink is sure to replenish some of your strength, plus it's good for your gut. Drink it nice and cold to help with inflammation.
- Ice cream soup: Cheer yourself up with a sweet snack. Let your preferred ice cream melt (as long as it has no chocolate chunks or cookie crunches) and sip it like a soup. Just don't do this as a substitute for every meal.
- Water, water and more water!
Rest, rest, rest!
You need to allow yourself to forget about your fast-paced life for a couple of days and take some time off work. Hire a sitter to help with the kids, or a dog-walker to take Buddy out. And schedule your surgery for a three-day weekend if you're worried about missing work. Tell your family and friends that you will be out of commission and that they can only bother you if it's to take care of you and help you recover. And yes, that means NO exercise, not even light exercise, for a few days.
24 hours after your wisdom teeth extraction, you can mix together salt and warm water to rinse with a few times a day, especially after eating. This will help keep your mouth clean and free from infection and reduce pain and swelling after wisdom tooth extraction.
A little bleeding after your surgery is expected, but you should keep some gauze over the site of the wound for the first few hours after surgery. If you want to continue gently biting down on something to stop the bleeding after 12 hours, you can switch to a damp teabag. Tea leaves will help with inflammation and reduce pain and they will also promote clotting. Make sure it's a teabag and not loose leaf tea, however.
Move it or lose it
This is probably the last thing you want to do, but you should try gently and slowly opening and closing your mouth once in a while to prevent any long-term stiffness. If you really want to jumpstart your healing process, check out this video of a woman who got all four of her wisdom teeth out. She leads you through some simple rehabilitation exercises.
Keep in mind that she is performing this exercise four days after her surgery, you don't need to do this on the first day.
Massage your masseter muscle
The masseter muscle is a muscle in your jaw that helps you chew. Your mouth will be held open for a while during surgery, which will cause soreness in your jaw. For relief, gently massage your masseter muscle by placing your fingers right in front of the hole of each ear and massage in small circular motions for a few minutes at a time.
Follow dentist directions!
If your dentist tells you anything different, you should listen to their directions, as after all, your dentist is the professional who is most familiar with your procedure and your particular case. These guidelines can be followed in addition to, but not contrary to the advice from your dentist.
When to call your dentist
Wisdom tooth recovery should go smoothly if you follow the guidelines mentioned in this article. However, there's always the chance that something could go wrong, such as a wisdom tooth infection, nerve damage or another serious complication, and you'll need to call your dentist. If you experience any of the following, call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately:
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Fever (sign of infection)
- Excessive blood
- Severe pain not relieved by prescribed meds
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Pus coming from the socket
- Numbness that doesn't go away
- Blood or pus coming from nose
- Swelling that doesn't start to improve after 3 days
Some of these may sound pretty scary, but rest assured that most of the time wisdom tooth extraction recovery goes smoothly. As long as you are careful to follow your dentist's guidelines, hopefully you won't have to worry about any of these complications.
The medical industry is rethinking the frequency with which wisdom teeth are removed. Still, many of us will end up getting them taken out, or have already had them taken out. In fact in one study, even among a group of people with healthy wisdom teeth that were causing no symptoms, 60% elected to have their wisdom teeth removed.
Whether you're reading this article in order to prepare yourself for an upcoming procedure, or you've already had your procedure and are now in the healing process, we hope you've found the information you need to recover as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
Of course, even if you follow all of the directions given to you by your dentist or oral surgeon, and all of the tips that we've outlined in this article, you're still bound to notice some soreness and discomfort, and experience some inconveniences. The best thing you can do is continue to follow the tips and directions and get plenty of rest. Finally, call your dentist or oral surgeon if you think that you are experiencing severe pain or swelling after wisdom teeth removal that you don't think is a normal part of the process.
Is wisdom teeth recovery painful?
It's normal to notice soreness, slight pain and discomfort during wisdom tooth recovery, but you shouldn't feel intense pain if you follow the proper care directions. Your painkillers, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, should help with the intense pain, but don't panic if your general oral area is sore.
Prevent unnecessary pain by making sure to avoid solid foods. You should be able to start eating soft solid foods 24 hours after surgery, but if you try and it hurts, it's better to stick with liquids and avoid anything that can make things worse. If you develop an infection or dry socket, the pain will be substantial.
Is there supposed to be a hole after wisdom tooth extraction?
Naturally there will be holes where your wisdom teeth were for a while. Eventually these will heal over and close, but until then it's important not to dislodge the blood clots in these holes. You also shouldn't allow food to get stuck in them. You should be careful when eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth, and avoid smoking, vaping or using straws at all for a while after wisdom teeth removal.
How long does it take for wisdom teeth holes to heal?
The time that it will take for the actual holes to heal is quite a bit longer than your recovery time. It will take at least a month for your jaw bone and gum tissue to repair itself. During that time, you'll want to make sure that you avoid chunks of food getting stuck in the holes to prevent infection—gentle rinsing after 24 hours of your surgery can help with this.
How long does it take to recover from wisdom teeth removal?
To get back to your daily routine (omitting strenuous exercise) should take between two days and a week, however, you shouldn't be surprised if it takes you up to two weeks after wisdom teeth removal. That being said, you're still likely to feel at least some pain at that point, and your mouth will actually take at least a month to fully heal.
How long does bleeding last after I get my wisdom teeth out?
Some blood in the hours right after your surgery is normal. However, wisdom teeth bleeding should stop within four hours. If blood flow doesn't stop, then you should contact your dentist or surgeon. Red-tinted saliva is still OK at that point.
How can I reduce swelling after wisdom teeth removal?
The best way to reduce swelling after wisdom teeth removal is by keeping your head elevated and applying a cold compress to your cheek as close as possible to the tooth extraction site. If swelling persists for several days after removal and is accompanied by other symptoms like fever or a bad taste, your wisdom teeth holes may have become infected and you should contact a dentist.
What complications can happen post wisdom teeth removal?
Besides swelling and discomfort, the most common complication is dry socket. To prevent this, make sure not to smoke, drink from a straw, or eat solid foods too soon after extraction.
Another complication that could happen includes an infection. An infection can happen if you don't stay hydrated, or you breathe too much through your mouth. This will result in a dry mouth, which creates a wonderful place for infection-causing bacteria to proliferate.
You might also experience nerve damage after you get a tooth pulled. Nerve injuries can cause pain or numbness. Usually, it's temporary but if the pain or numbness lasts for more than 6 weeks, that means it's likely permanent.
Can wisdom teeth grow back?
Thankfully, after your extraction your wisdom teeth are not going to come back. However, if you don't have them all when you have surgery, it is possible that other wisdom teeth develop later on.
Mayo Clinic: Wisdom tooth extraction. Consulted 9th January 2020
American journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics: Evaluation and management of asymptomatic third molars: Lack of symptoms does not equate to lack of pathology. Consulted 9th January 2020.