Getting your wisdom teeth removed can help prevent complications like tooth decay, crowding, and impaction. But this procedure, which removes the third molars that usually come in around ages 17 to 21, does carry some risks of its own.
Following your doctor’s instructions while you recover from wisdom teeth removal is important to avoid an infection. You can — and should — brush your teeth after the surgery, but do so gently. Skip brushing the area of extraction until it’s completely healed.
You’ll also need to use an antiseptic mouthwash to keep the area free of bacteria and will require a liquid and soft food diet for a couple of days.
Not everyone has wisdom teeth, and not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. Your dentist and oral surgeon will have the best care recommendations for your specific dental needs.
Let’s go over the basics of brushing your teeth after wisdom teeth extraction.
After getting your wisdom teeth removed, it’s important that you take care of the area according to the specific instructions from the professional who did the surgery.
You’ll also need to avoid strenuous activity and exercise. If you smoke, you’ll need to plan to avoid smoking as much as possible while your incision heals.
Learn more about smoking’s effect on your teeth.
After your procedure, you’ll need to plan to rest and recover for the remainder of the day. This means taking off work or school if possible or scheduling your surgery on a free day.
Someone will need to drive you home from your appointment, as you’re not allowed to operate a vehicle after receiving general anesthesia.
You’ll need to stick to a liquid diet for the first 24 hours or more after surgery as you wait for the inflammation to go down. This prevents you from having to put the pressure on your teeth and mouth that comes with chewing harder foods.
You’ll also need to avoid drinking through a straw for the first couple of days. Using a straw puts strain on your mouth and could irritate the extraction site(s).
Apply a compress with ice to your jaw if swelling is uncomfortable. Use pain relievers as needed, and get as much rest as you can.
Some doctors will recommend over-the-counter options, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), while other doctors may prescribe pain medication. Avoid aspirin, as this can increase the risk of bleeding.
You can brush and floss your teeth, but skip any areas at the back of your mouth where teeth were extracted, so you don’t introduce any bacteria to your wound.
If you need to miss a day or two of brushing because of pain or discomfort, that’s okay. Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide an antiseptic mouthwash, which you’ll be instructed to use as a way of cleaning the area.
Leaving your wisdom teeth intact is not unusual. Lots of people go through life without ever needing to have their wisdom teeth removed. Some people who don’t have access to a dentist or who can’t afford dental care keep their wisdom teeth, even if removing them could benefit their dental health.
If you’re considering having your wisdom teeth extracted, or if your dentist brings it up, it may be because of:
- your wisdom teeth are causing pain and inflammation to your gums or jaw
- your wisdom teeth are impacted (stuck under the gum)
- your wisdom teeth are likely to interfere with dental treatments now or in the future
- your wisdom teeth are pushing your other teeth forward, leading to crowding
A physical exam, and X-ray at the dentist’s office, can tell your doctor how many wisdom teeth you have and how they’re positioned in your jaw.
Most people have some pain or discomfort in the initial day or two after wisdom tooth extraction. This pain
If the initial pain from the procedure subsides, only to return a few days later, you may be dealing with an infection. Other signs of infection can include:
- discharge at the incision site
- increased swelling
- pain, soreness or tenderness
- bad breath
Nerve damage and damage to surrounding teeth can sometimes result from a wisdom tooth extraction. This can bring about a temporary loss of sensation in your tongue or face.
Dry socket, a condition where a tooth extraction does not heal properly, can leave your nerves and blood vessels exposed. Dry socket can cause pain that radiates through your jaw and up to your temples. Dry socket usually lasts for about a week unless an infection develops.
Wisdom teeth can also get infected before removal due to being impacted or having a cavity, among other reasons. It’s important you consult a dentist in case of any tooth pain or signs of infection.
Dentists recommend that you clean your teeth using proper brushing techniques:
- brush for 2 minutes, twice a day
- use fluoride toothpaste
- brush in small, circular strokes
- you should also brush your tongue
- rinse your mouth out after spitting
If you’ve recently gotten your wisdom teeth removed, replace the toothbrush or brush head before you brush your teeth. Over time, toothbrushes can accumulate bacteria, which will be particularly dangerous to your mouth after surgery. You don’t want to introduce any bacteria to the area while it’s in the initial healing phase.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you replace your brush every
You can brush your teeth after a wisdom tooth extraction, but avoid brushing the area of tooth extraction.
After surgery, you need to be extra careful to not introduce bacteria to the area of the incision. This means changing your toothbrush, avoiding hard foods, skipping flossing for a few days, and using an antiseptic mouthwash as directed by your doctor.
After a wisdom tooth extraction, be sure to carefully follow any aftercare instructions from your doctor and contact them right away if you notice any signs of infection.