Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
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Evidence Based
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7 sources cited
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Key Takeaways

  • Wisdom tooth surgery is common
  • While wisdom tooth extraction is a generally simple procedure, there are some risks involved
  • There are steps you can take before, during, and after wisdom tooth surgery to make the process smoother

Overview: Wisdom Teeth Removal 

Wisdom tooth surgery refers to the extraction of the wisdom teeth, sometimes called third molars.

Wisdom tooth surgery is very common. About ten million wisdom teeth are extracted from about five million people in the United States every single year.2

While wisdom tooth surgery is generally a simple procedure, there are some risks involved. 

There are also some protocols to follow before, during, and after tooth extraction surgery.

How Long Does it Take for Wisdom Teeth to Heal?

While not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, these teeth can cause issues. 

For example, they typically don’t have enough space to grow in properly.3

Erupting wisdom teeth can cause overcrowding, affecting your smile. 

They can also grow in at different angles in the jaw, or they may not fully emerge at all. In these cases, they are difficult to clean.6

Wisdom teeth that become impacted in your jaw (trapped) also cause pain and problems. 

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You may develop cysts that damage other teeth or your jawbones. Impacted wisdom teeth can also result in infections.

The following symptoms suggest that you may need to have your wisdom teeth removed:6

  • Oral discomfort or pain
  • Infection in the mouth
  • Toothaches
  • Partially erupted wisdom tooth
  • Wisdom tooth that’s grown in crooked
  • Overcrowding teeth
  • Jaw discomfort or pain
  • Extensive tooth decay
  • Fluid-filled sacs
  • Tumors 
  • Deep tooth decay that can’t be restored easily

Wisdom tooth surgery can appease these symptoms. 

It’s generally a quick surgery that takes just a few hours under local anesthesia, sedation anesthesia, or general anesthesia.  

The healing process differs for everyone. While some people feel fine and are back to work within a day or two, others feel discomfort for a few weeks or more.

Before Surgery

Before surgery, do your research. Find an oral surgeon with whom you are comfortable. Make sure to read reviews as well. 

Your doctor should take x-rays and review the surgery procedure with you, depending on what your x-rays show.4

Talk to your doctor about any nonprescription drugs you may need to stop taking before going under anesthesia.7 

Also, make sure that there are no other health complications that may prevent you from having the surgery.

During Surgery

During surgery, do your best to relax.

You will either be put under sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia, or your dentist or oral surgeon will use a local anesthesia to numb the area.

During the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in your gum tissue to expose your jawbone and wisdom tooth. 

They’ll remove the tooth, sometimes in pieces. Then they will clean the site of any debris before stitching it back up.7

After Surgery 

After surgery, rest is essential. 

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Wisdom tooth surgery can lead to serious swelling, so your doctor may prescribe you anti-inflammatories. 

These medications may also help prevent bruising and provide pain management.7

Your doctor may also prescribe prescription drugs for stronger pain relief.7 Also, apply clean gauze over the extraction site to stop the bleeding.7

5 Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery Tips

Here are five tips to help you have a speedy recovery from wisdom tooth extraction:

1. Get plenty of rest

Undergoing any kind of surgery puts your body through trauma. This means that you will benefit from rest.

2. Stick to soft foods

Don’t rush to eat solid foods right away. Your mouth may feel sore for a while. 

Sticking to soft foods can help prevent irritation, discomfort, and pain.

3. Drink plenty of water

Keeping hydrated helps the healing process. 

However, do not drink any caffeinated or carbonated drinks, and stay away from hot beverages, in the first 24 hours after surgery.7


Don’t drink from a straw. The suction action can actually dislodge the blood clot forming in the socket and cause a dry socket. Dry sockets can be very painful.1

4. Don’t brush your teeth

Do not brush your teeth, use mouthwash, or spit for the first 24 hours after the surgery.7

5. Don’t smoke

If you smoke, don’t do it for at least 72 hours following your surgery.7 The same sucking action can cause dry sockets.1

Foods to Eat and Avoid During Recovery

There are certain foods you should avoid eating after getting your wisdom teeth removed:5

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy foods
  • Crunchy snacks like nuts
  • Acidic foods
  • Spicy foods

On the other hand, there is a lot you can eat. Stick to foods like:5

  • Cold soups (nothing hot)
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pudding
  • Smoothies
  • Mashed or pureed foods

What is the Outlook for Wisdom Teeth Removal?

After wisdom tooth surgery, you may feel uncomfortable for a few days to weeks.

While you should be able to resume normal activity within a day or two, avoid strenuous activity for at least a week. 

You may also have some mild bruising on your cheeks and/or a stiff or sore jaw for up to two weeks.

Tingling or numbness of your face, lips, gums, or tongue is uncommon but possible. It may indicate the sign of nerve damage. Visit your dentist if this occurs. 

Resources

Dry Socket.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Jan. 2017.

Friedman, Jay W. “The Prophylactic Extraction of Third Molars: A Public Health Hazard.” American Journal of Public Health, © American Journal of Public Health 2007, Sept. 2007.

Should You Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 May 2020.

Tooth Extractions: What You Need to Know: Colgate®.” Tooth Extractions: What You Need To Know | Colgate®.

What to Eat after Tooth Extraction.” What To Eat After Tooth Extraction.

Wisdom Teeth Removal: When Is It Necessary?Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Dec. 2016.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Jan. 2018.

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