Wisdom Teeth Recovery: Tips to Feel Better Faster

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wisdom teeth recovery
You don't have to suffer through wisdom teeth recovery

Have you heard horror stories about wisdom teeth recovery? Or are you experiencing wisdom tooth recovery yourself right now, and wondering how to feel better after getting wisdom teeth removed?

Yes, it's true that wisdom teeth surgery recovery can be painful and uncomfortable, and if you're feeling a bit apprehensive, that's totally normal. But there are ways to make your wisdom tooth recovery manageable, more comfortable, and maybe even pleasant-OK that's perhaps a stretch-and we're here to tell you how! This article is chock-full of advice for how to successfully recover from your 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 after wisdom teeth removal, we hope this article will guide you through a smooth recovery to optimal oral health.

The extraction

This article is about how to heal after having your wisdom tooth extracted. If you are looking for in-depth information about wisdom tooth pain before extraction, click on the link!

But, just to give you a little background, we'll recap some important information about these burdensome teeth.

Wisdom teeth are those permanent teeth that are located in the back corners of your mouth, on both your top and bottom arches. Wisdom teeth come in quite a bit later than all of your other teeth, in fact, most wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17 and 25. That's why they're called wisdom teeth⁠—they come in when you are older and wiser. Although whether anyone can be wise at the age of 17 is certainly up for debate.

wisdom teeth extraction
Some people don't need them to be extracted

For some people, wisdom teeth come in without any health problems, other, more evolved individuals have no wisdom teeth at all, and some people develop an impacted wisdom tooth. That's when teeth don't have the room they need to erupt normally, and that's when you need to have your teeth extracted. An impacted wisdom tooth can cause a whole load of health problems including:

Some dentists choose to pull wisdom teeth before any health problems arise, although it's under debate as to whether that's the best use of patients' money and dentists' time.

If you do have to have wisdom teeth removed, it will most likely be an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day. You'll be given either local anesthesia, sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia is the most common, but your dentist will decide which anesthesia is the best for you based on how many extractions you will have, how much pain you are likely to feel and your level of anxiety towards dental work.

During the procedure, your dentist will make an incision in the gum to expose the tooth and bone, and remove any bone that is in the way of the tooth. Once the obstructing bone is removed, they will remove the tooth, clean the site, stitch the wound (sometimes) and finally, your dentist will place gauze over the extraction site. And then you're done!

Which brings us to the main subject of this article…

Wisdom tooth extraction recovery

wisdom tooth recovery
Find out the best way to heal from your extraction

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? And what does the healing process even look like?

All excellent questions! Let's start with the timeline, and what you can expect.

Wisdom teeth recovery timeline

So how long does pain after wisdom tooth extraction last? 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 you can have a look at this nice little table we compiled showing the 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 Swelling improves
7 days Your dentist wil remove any stitches you may have
7 to 10 days Soreness and jaw stiffness will begin to go away
2 weeks Any bruising on your face should completely go away

You can also expect general discomfort and soreness in and around your mouth, especially at the site of extraction, during this 2-week period.

Wisdom teeth removal aftercare

If you still have that sheet of paper with directions that your dentist gave you at the end of your procedure, you should definitely follow those instructions. But general guidelines for wisdom tooth aftercare include:

  • Don't eat solid foods in the first 24 hours
  • Don't drink alcohol, coffee, soda or hot beverages in the first 24 hours
  • Don't brush 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 to eat after wisdom teeth removal

what to eat after wisdom teeth removal
Cold smoothies will soothe and nourish

We can't stress enough the importance of refraining from eating solid foods within the first 24 hours after your extraction. In fact, it's so important that we'll probably mention it a couple more times before the end of this article. You shouldn't eat solid foods because 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?

Anyways, the moral of the story is, stick to liquids. 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.

Many people ask what you can eat when it's four days after extraction. By then you should be able to eat soft solid foods, but avoid eating anything hard, sticky or spicy.

Wisdom teeth removal recovery tips

Since you know the basics for tooth extraction aftercare, now it's time to learn the tips that will ensure the most comfortable and rapid healing experience that one could hope for.

Ask a dentist: How can I prepare for wisdom teeth removal?

Before your procedure, get your home prepared 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.

After the first 24 hours, you can then move to a soft-food diet for the next four-to-five days. For soft foods, consider mashed potatoes, pasta, scrambled eggs, and avoid chewy foods like steak. Since you will be sedated in one way or another at your removal, you’ll also need to prepare to have a family member or friend accompany you so they can drive you home and care for you afterward.

Dr. Robert Berry, Mountain Aire Dentistry

Plan ahead

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 you can expect. 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 give you sympathy and make you smoothies to drink.

Prevent dry socket

dry socket
Dry socket can be excruciating

After you have a tooth removed, a blood clot develops over your socket. This blood clot is integral in protecting the wound and healing your bone and nerve endings. This blood clot should stay in place until you have completely healed.

A blood clot can be dislodged and cause dry socket, however, if you do things like smoke, drink with a straw, and spit too soon post wisdom teeth removal, or it may 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.

Elevate your head

Woman sleeping sitting up
Keep your head elevated

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 pain because it decreases the amount of blood around your wound.

Ice is nice

An ice pack or cold compress will help reduce swelling and inflammation and also help numb the 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.

Keep hydrated

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.

Liquid diet

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. 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.
  • 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.

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. In order to relieve pain, 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.

Saltwater rinses

After 24 hours have gone by, 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.

Control bleeding

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.

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

woman with fever
A fever is a sign that something may be wrong

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


wisdom toothache
You can get through this!

Although the medical industry is rethinking the frequency with which wisdom teeth are removed, 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 quickly and as 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 swelling or pain after tooth extraction that you don't think is a normal part of the process.


Is wisdom teeth recovery painful?

wisdom tooth pain after extraction
Some soreness and discomfort should be expected

It's normal to notice soreness 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.

How long does it take for wisdom teeth holes to heal?

The time that it will take for the actual holes where your wisdom teeth were 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?

First off, this is not the same question as ‘how long does it take for wisdom teeth to heal'. Healing time and recovery time are quite different. 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 until you are functioning normally. 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 wisdom tooth pain last?

Some pain, swelling and discomfort are normal after any surgery, and wisdom tooth surgery is no different. In fact, pain levels after wisdom tooth removal will peak at around 72 hours after surgery, but then it should begin to get better. You'll most likely experience pain during most of the first week, and you might even experience it up to two weeks later if you get all four of your teeth out at the same time.

If pain becomes worse after 72 hours, you should contact your dentist or surgeon because this could be a sign of an infection or dry socket.

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.

What complications can happen during recovery?

See your dentist if you have complications

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.

Do I need a bone graft after surgery?

As if you didn't have enough to worry about already, your dentist or surgeon might also perform a bone graft directly after taking out your teeth. A bone graft is usually only done in the case of normal tooth extraction, when you think you might want to get implants in the future to replace it. However, a bone graft can be done after wisdom teeth are removed if your dentist or surgeon thinks it's necessary in order to support your second molars.

When can I start running again after getting my wisdom teeth pulled?

running shoes
Make sure you're recovered before you're active again

Avoid exercise after your surgery—the first 24 hours after your teeth are removed should be dedicated to rest, rest and more rest. You should not be trying to do any exercise during this time. After 24 hours, you can move around a bit more, but you should avoid any heavy lifting or cardio.

You'll want to avoid returning to running until at least a week has passed, and preferably two weeks have passed. But you should listen to your body. If you feel any pain or discomfort when you run, or if you still have some swelling, then that's a sign that you should wait. If you start running too soon, you could dislodge your blood clots and end up right back in the hospital, and then have to wait all over again before you can get back into your routine. The bottom line is, rest now so you can be active later.

Can you drink coffee after wisdom teeth removal?

Refrain from drinking coffee, tea or any other hot beverages within 24 hours. You should also make sure not to drink alcohol or pop/soda.

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Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen on LinkedinNatalie Asmussen on Website
Natalie used to work as a Community Health Worker and Health Insurance Navigator. She continues to follow her passion for connecting people with the healthcare they need by writing informative content about dentistry and medicine.
Dr. Robert Berry
Natalie Asmussen on Website
A native of West Virginia, Dr. Berry graduated dental school from West Virginia University. He excelled in the clinic and participated in the Honors program helping underclassmen. After dental school he worked in a small Texas town, treating all types of people. As a member of the Army National Guard, Dr. Berry has undertaken humanitarian dental trips to Nicaragua and the Navajo Nation as well as several other areas of need. Now, Dr. Berry maintains his practice Mountain Air Dentistry in Broomfield, Colorado.
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.