Get Wise about Wisdom Teeth: The Ultimate Patient Guide

So, you have to get your wisdom teeth removed. It’s totally common and nothing to freak out about! In fact, many people consider it to be a normal and healthy (albeit uncomfortable) part of becoming an adult. To most teens, wisdom tooth removal is a rite of passage, and your dentist is there to guide you through it.

Your dentist or oral surgeon has probably already explained the sometimes, troublesome nature of these “wise” and often impacted pearly-whites. They’re not called wisdom teeth because they have any kind of intelligence – in fact, they’re referred to as such because they’re the last teeth to erupt in our mouths, usually between the ages of 17 and 21. Apparently this is the time of your life when you gain the most “wisdom”. (Or, maybe it’s just that we become “wise” to a pain in the back of our mouths)!

According to, wisdom teeth, or third molars, can be useful for chewing, but often pose problems when they erupt in already-crowded mouths or are impacted – trapped – beneath the gums. They can pose a variety of problems from pain to trouble brushing and flossing. Whatever the nature of your wisdom tooth/teeth problems, your surgeon has good reason for recommending removal.

They’ve probably already told you that you’ll need to prepare for surgery by fasting. They might have even given you a couple of antibiotic pills to prevent infection, as well as some anxiety medication for the day-of to help with your pre-op jitters. Other than that, there are a few things you should do and stock up on to help make your surgery and recovery go as smoothly as possible. To help give you ideas, we’ve compiled the ultimate pre-op wisdom tooth surgery checklist!

Prepping for the ‘Big Day’

Read the pre-op instructions from your dentist/surgeon.

Usually, they’ll send home a packet with useful information, fasting instructions, and a dose of antibiotics. Any specific instructions should be listed in your packet; if not (or if you have any questions), it’s best to call the office where you’ll be undergoing your procedure.

Fill your prescriptions.

Your dentist/surgeon may have already written a prescription for a single dose of anxiety medication to be taken the day of your surgery. If you’re not comfortable taking this type of medication, discuss it with your doctor. It’s always a good idea to follow through with filling the prescriptions you’ve been given unless your provider instructs otherwise.

In many cases, your healthcare provider will also send home a prescription for pain-killers that becomes valid the day of or before surgery so that you will have them on hand for post-operative pain. Even if you don’t like taking pills, make sure to follow the instruction of your surgeon. They want to make your experience in and out of surgery as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Just remember that all prescription pain-killers must be taken exactly as your dentist, doctor, or surgeon instructs. It is perfectly fine to ask your caregiver or pharmacist when and how a medication should be taken. Prescription medications, especially pain pills, are never to be shared with others, abused, or taken in a manner that goes against your doctor’s orders.

Take your antibiotics!

If your dentist gave you a course of antibiotics to take prior to or after surgery, take them. We cannot stress this enough! The antibiotics will help prevent an infection from occurring after surgery. It’s estimated that 10% of healthy patients will experience an infection after surgery, and that number goes up to 25% for patients that have low or compromised immune systems. Taking the antibiotics you’ve prescribed can help save you the pain, hassle, and even potential danger of developing an infection from your wounds.

Stock up on NSAIDs.

If your dentist or surgeon has not given you a prescription for pain-killers (or, even if he/she has) it would be wise to have some NSAIDs on hand to help manage your post-operative pain without having to rely solely on narcotics. NSAID stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Ones that you may have heard of are Advil (Ibuprofen) and Aleve (Naproxen). They work to both relieve pain and lessen swelling. Aspirin is also considered an NSAID, but isn’t recommended for use in children or teens with flu-like or chicken-pox-like symptoms due to its link to Reye’s Syndrome.

It also may not be the best idea to take NSAIDs prior to surgery, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. In some surgeries, doctors advise against taking NSAIDs beforehand because it can interfere with blood clotting. Although this is probably not going to apply to you, it’s best to ask your surgeon what they think is best and let them know all of the medications you’ve taken the day of your surgery.

Have a heating pad and an ice pack on hand.

It may seem like common sense, but the application of heat and cold to your face can help ease the discomfort you may feel after surgery. Make sure you have access to a heating pad as well as an ice pack after your surgery. However, it is recommended that you not apply heat to your face and jaw directly after surgery. Rather, use an ice pack the day of your surgery, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for the first 24 hours after surgery. After the first 48 hours, you can use heat to help with the pain and swelling.

Stock up on soft foods – NO STRAWS!

It may seem obvious, but after your surgery you likely won’t be able to eat solid food for a little while. Usually, it will only be for a couple of days, but when you’re able to eat hard foods again depends on your body’s unique healing process. So, stock up on soft foods. That means soups, puddings, gelatin, ice cream…you name it! Just remember, no straws! You should not drink through a straw the first few days after your surgery, as you can easily suck the blood clots from your incision site(s). This can contribute to dry-socket, which is a rare but painful complication of extraction.

Also, be sure to take it easy when you reintroduce solid foods. Chewing may feel a bit uncomfortable for a while, so avoid foods that are tough on your mouth or could scratch your wounds.

Finally, relax! Your dentist knows what they’re doing. Make sure that you take care of your mouth, maintaining dental hygiene through brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Getting your wisdom teeth removed is nothing to be afraid of – it’s all just part of growing up.

To comply with the AHPRA Legislation we are required to advise that “Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.”

If you have any questions about your surgery, feel free to contact us.

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