You’ve just heard these words: “It’s time to have your wisdom teeth removed.” What do you do? Panic? Be terrified? Fret about the pain and agony?
Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, (which usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25), but the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons report that about 90% of us will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth (which means there’s not enough space for the tooth to break through your gums.) Even if your wisdom teeth don’t seem to be giving you any problems, they could be damaging adjacent teeth. Nearly 25% of the population with asymptomatic wisdom teeth develop periodontal (gum) disease.
The preparation you do before and after surgery can minimize pain and ensure a smooth recovery. Here are simple rules to follow that make process more manageable.
- Understand the Procedure and Recovery Guidelines in Advance : Being familiar with each stage of the process makes for good teamwork between us. It’s important you’re on the lookout for post-surgical complications that could arise – like Dry Sockets (a painful condition due to blood clot failure, or Paresthesia, a numbness of the lip, chin or tongue). If you experience these, I will address the problem immediately.
- Give Yourself the Necessary Time to Heal: Any sort of surgery takes a toll on your body. Allow yourself the rest you need to heal. Don’t engage in any strenuous activities that could disrupt your healing process. And sadly, you can expect to be a bit swollen, and have a puffy face. Swelling often peaks 48 to 72 hours after surgery and resolves after several days. Applying ice really helps the swelling go down. You and I will discuss how much time you’ll need to take it easy.
- Call in the Troops!: You will definitely need someone to drive you to and from my office on the day of your surgery. You may also need extra help in the first days with meals or chores. Ask family and friends in advance, so they can clear their calendars.
- Have the Right Stuff on Hand: Here are supplies to make your post-op experience more comfortable. In addition to any prescription drugs I may order, you should have
Soft foods such as yogurt, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, pudding or ice cream.
- Tea bags are an effective alternative (when moistened) to biting gauze to stop bleeding
- Ice packs (or even frozen veggies) to reduce swelling
- Salt combined with water is a safe mouth rinse that reduces irritation
- An entertaining selection of books, DVDs, music- whatever you enjoy in quiet moments
- Understand Your “Do Not Do” List: Write down a list of cautionary reminders which help you avoid unnecessary discomfort and complications:
- No sipping from straws – which can disrupt blood clotting and cause dry sockets
- No vigorous brushing or flossing around the surgical site
- No eating spicy or hot foods – as this can worsen your pain
- No eating really chewy foods – like steak
- No smoking or drinking alcohol – which interfere with the healing process
- No playing a wind instrument the first week after surgery
- No driving or operating heavy machinery while on your pain meds
My staff and I will explain the process completely to you. Don’t worry. In fact, many of my patients schedule surgery on Thursday or Friday, and are back to speed on Monday. Remember, we’re with you every step of the way.