Most people undergo wisdom teeth removal in their lifetime. Many, but not all, get their wisdom teeth removed near the ages of 17 and 21, since wisdom teeth removal recovery time is generally less for teens and young adults. Wisdom teeth removal and recovery is straight-forward for most patients, and complications aren’t common when the procedure is completed by an experienced oral surgeon.
Even if complications do occur, they can be resolved without any long-lasting damage. If you are considering whether or not to pull your wisdom teeth, here’s what you can expect from wisdom teeth removal recovery time and complications you should be aware of.
Recovery After Wisdom Teeth Removal: What to Expect
For information on a specific part of the recovery process, use the links below:
Your Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery
Wisdom teeth removal requires a surgery to remove the tooth and parts of the attached bone. If the tooth has erupted, meaning it has broken through the gums, it will generally be easier to remove. However, if it is impacted, meaning it is underneath the gums and it is not visible, the surgery may be more complex. Both scenarios are common, and an impacted tooth should not be reason for concern, nor will it necessarily create complications during wisdom teeth recovery.
Wisdom teeth removal requires a type of anesthesia, and there are several options. Different types of anesthesia mean different wisdom teeth recovery times and experiences. In all cases, you won’t feel any pain, though your level of awareness will vary. Any of the following anaesthesia and sedatives may be used;
- A local anesthetic: you will be awake, but the surgery area will be numb.
- A local anesthetic with nitrous oxide (AKA “laughing gas”): the area will be numb and you will conscious, with limited awareness and memory of the procedure.
- A local anesthetic with oral sedatives: the area will be numb and you will be conscious with minimal awareness and memory of the procedure.
- General anesthesia: you will be unconscious, with no memory of the procedure.
Day One of Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery
In the first 24 hours after the surgery, it is essential to focus only on recovery. Though you will be able to return home to recover, you will not be able to go to school or work. Depending on the type of anesthesia and sedative used, you may feel drowsy, delirious or have some memory loss throughout the day. You should not drive yourself home.
During your first day of wisdom teeth recovery, it is important for a clot to form around the surgery area, which will reduce pain, bleeding and help prevent infection. You may be asked to keep gauze on the extraction site for a few hours. To help reduce swelling, use ice packs around your mouth and jaw. A good method is to use the ice pack for 15 minutes, then take it off for 15 minutes, and repeat.
To speed up wisdom teeth removal recovery time, you should do all of the following, and any other instructions your oral surgeon or dentist provides:
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Caution: Bleeding
Wisdom teeth removal is a surgical process, which means bleeding will naturally occur. As blood clots form over the area and you start to heal, the bleeding should stop. Propping your head up so it is above your heart as you sleep will help to reduce bleeding. Avoiding smoking and alcohol will also regulate your circulation and reduce bleeding. Finally, avoid strenuous activities and don’t brush or disturb the surgery site, so it can heal. Excessive bleeding is rare, but you should see a doctor if it doesn’t stop.
Day Two of Wisdom Teeth Recovery
In the next 48 hours after your wisdom teeth removal surgery, you may feel some remaining drowsiness or confusion from the anesthesia, sedatives or pain medication, but many feel clear-headed again. Remember that your body is still working hard to heal, so you should not do anything strenuous, even if you don’t feel very drowsy. Most of the items on the previous list will still apply.
If your surgery was simple and a local anesthetic was used, you will likely experience minimal pain, discomfort, and swelling. You should still take this day off from work or school to heal. You may be able to eat some other soft foods like noodles, ground meat, or soft bread, but avoid contact with the surgery site. You may need to gently rinse your mouth at this stage if your dentist or surgeon instructs. Brush your teeth, unless your dentist or surgeon instructs otherwise, but be careful not to touch the surgery site.
If a stronger anesthetic was used or your surgery was more difficult, you may still feel delirious and you may have more pain. Continue taking pain medications and use the list above from day one. Your pain should subside and though you will have swelling and bruising, watch for any of the following. If these occur, contact your surgeon or dentist right away:
- Excessive bleeding
- Pus around the surgery site
- Blood or pus from the nose
- Extreme pain
- High fever
- Persistent tingling or numbness
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Caution: Dry Socket
In the first few days after wisdom teeth removal, a blood clot will naturally form over the surgery site. This is critical to the healing process. Many of the previously mentioned activities, such as using a straw, smoking, and brushing, can dislodge the blood clot. This is a painful condition called a ‘dry socket’ which will expose the underlying nerves. Be careful not to disturb the healing surgery site, and you can avoid this condition. If your pain notably increases and you suspect the blood clot has dislodged, see your doctor, dentist, or oral surgeon.
Day Three of Wisdom Teeth Recovery
By day three after your wisdom teeth removal, you should be feeling mostly normal again, though you may still have some pain and discomfort which will require painkillers. Again, the complexity of your surgery will impact your wisdom teeth recovery at this stage.
Some patients are able to return to work or school by wisdom teeth recovery day three, if the activities are not too physically strenuous or mentally stressful, but it is generally recommended to take at least three days off from work or school. You will experience swelling and bruising; these are normal recovery responses. Remember that your surgery site is still healing, so be gentle. You may return to eating some normal foods, but avoid anything sticky or crunchy which could damage your surgery site. Continue to avoid straws, smoking, or harsh rinsing, as this can dislodge the blood clots formed around the extraction site.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Caution: Infection
Though it is rare, an infection can set in in the first few days after wisdom teeth removal. This condition will slow the time it takes to recover from wisdom teeth removal surgery, and it can be hazardous to your health. An infection may occur if bacteria enter the area and multiply. Since your body is still healing, it may not be strong enough to fight the infection. Excessive bleeding, pain or pus around the surgery site or from the nose in the days after surgery may be a sign of infection. If you notice these signs, see your doctor, dentist, or oral surgeon right away.
Days Four to Seven of Wisdom Teeth Recovery
Though the time it takes to recover from wisdom teeth removal surgery varies, most patients can return to their normal routine by day four. You should still avoid strenuous activities, like running or heavy lifting. Swelling usually peaks at day four or five, and should start to recede after this. Your pain should also noticeably subside. If the pain has not subsided or, especially, if it has gotten worse or extended to your ear, you may have an infection or dry socket and you should contact your dentist or surgeon immediately.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Caution: Loose Stitches
You may notice after day five that your stitches feel loose, or some may even come out or dissolve. Don’t worry; this means your mouth is healing normally. Resist the urge to touch or pull at the stitches with your tongue. Let them come out or dissolve naturally. Attempting to pull on the stitches can slow the wisdom teeth removal healing process. If swallowed, the stitches won’t hurt you, so don’t worry if some go missing.
Days Eight to Fourteen of Wisdom Teeth Recovery
In the next week after your wisdom teeth are removed, your swelling and bruising should subside and your appearance should return to normal. You should be back to work or school and you can resume normal exercise and other activities, though you should still be gentle and mindful of your healing extraction site. During this time, you will probably have a follow-up appointment with your dentist or oral surgeon to ensure your mouth has healed properly and there are no complications. During this follow-up, any remaining stitches will be removed. This is a quick, simple and painless process with no surgery or pain medication needed
Though the surgery site may be tender for a longer period, wisdom teeth recovery time is short for some people. It may take longer for others, but it shouldn’t impact your day-to-day life. In the following months, the surgery site will continue to heal underneath your gums and tissue will fill the space where your wisdom teeth used to be, but you won’t notice this happening.
How Long Does it Take to Recover From Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery?
So, now that you know the process, how long does it actually take to recover from wisdom teeth removal surgery? Though wisdom teeth removal recovery varies somewhat, you’ll most likely be ready to return to work or school after just four or five days. You’ll probably be able to return to all normal activities after just one week. If you need stitches, expect to have them for seven to ten days. If you follow after-care instructions diligently and watch for any signs of complications, you can speed up your wisdom teeth removal recovery time.
If you are considering wisdom teeth removal, learn more online or schedule a consultation.