Recovery - Wisdom tooth removal

It can take up to 2 weeks to fully recover after having your wisdom teeth removed (extracted).

During this time, you may experience:

  • pain – this is worse if you had a complicated extraction
  • swelling of your mouth and cheeks – gently pressing a cold cloth to your face helps to reduce the swelling
  • a stiff, sore jaw – you may have bruised skin around your jaw for up to 2 weeks
  • an unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • tingling or numbness of your face, lips or tongue (although this is uncommon)

Urgent advice: Talk to your dentist immediately

if you're worried about heavy bleeding, severe pain or any other unusual symptoms.

Self-care advice

To reduce pain and help yourself to recover, it can be helpful to:

  • use painkillers recommended by your dentist (always follow the dosage instructions)
  • avoid heavy levels of activity and exercise for a few days
  • use an extra pillow to support your head at night
  • avoid rinsing, spitting or hot drinks for 24 hours
  • avoid anything that may dislodge the blood clots that form in the extraction site
  • avoid drinking alcohol and smoking
  • eat soft or liquid food for a few days and chew with your other teeth
  • gently rinse the extraction site with antiseptic mouthwash recommended by your dentist. Do this after 24 hours and repeat regularly over the next few days
  • use warm water with a teaspoon of salt as a mouthwash to reduce gum soreness and inflammation

Working and driving

It's usually recommended that you take a day or 2 off work after having a wisdom tooth removed.

You can drive immediately after a local anaesthetic.

Do not drive for 24 hours if a sedative was used. Do not drive for 48 hours if the extraction was done under general anaesthetic.

Returning to normal

After any swelling and bruising have disappeared, your mouth should return to normal.

You'll usually be able to brush your teeth normally after a few days. Make sure you finish any course of antibiotics you're taking.

You may have to go to a check-up appointment around a week or so after the extraction. At this point, your dentist will remove any remaining stitches.

Complications

As with any procedure, removing your wisdom teeth carries some risks. But, these risks are usually small.

Risks can include:

  • dry socket – where a blood clot does not develop in the tooth socket, or if the blood clot becomes dislodged
  • nerve injury – this can cause pain and numbness
  • infection – yellow or white discharge coming from the extraction site with a high temperature, pain and swelling
  • bleeding

Dry socket

This can happen 3 to 5 days after surgery. The empty socket causes an ache or throbbing pain in your gum or jaw, which can be intense. There may also be an unpleasant smell or taste from the empty tooth socket. If you look into the socket, you might be able to see exposed bone rather than a blood clot.

You're more at risk of developing dry socket if:

  • you do not follow your dentist's instructions after the extraction
  • you smoke
  • you've had the condition before
  • you're over 25 years old
  • you had a complicated extraction

Talk to your dentist if you suspect you have dry socket. They can flush any debris out of the socket or cover it with a medicated dressing.

Nerve injury

Nerve injury is rare. This can cause pain, a tingling sensation and numbness in the tongue, lower lip, chin, teeth and gums.

In most cases, the damage is temporary, lasting for a few weeks or months. But, it can be permanent if the nerve has been severely damaged. A nerve injury can make things such as eating and drinking, difficult and painful.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 23 March 2021
Next review due: 23 March 2024

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