After Extraction of Wisdom Teeth

The removal of impacted teeth is a serious surgical procedure. Post-operative care is very important. Unnecessary pain and the complications of infection and swelling can be minimized if the instructions are followed carefully. The information below follows the same instruction listed on the “Wisdom Teeth After Surgery” card provided to you before leaving our office. Below we discuss day by day instructions for the first week after surgery, common concerns patients bring up and symptoms that may occur after surgery, and potential risks, or problems that may occur after wisdom tooth removal.

General Tips for the first week Following Your Surgery:

  • Keep your head elevated (even while sleeping) and relax for the first few days! Watch movies, drink milkshakes, and take pain medicine if needed.
  • DO NOT use straws
  • DO NOT spit (even when cleaning your mouth)
  • DO NOT drink alcohol or smoke
  • DO NOT eat hard, crunchy, spicy or hot food

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The First Week After Wisdom Teeth Removal

Day 1: The Day of Surgery

  • After leaving our office get a smoothie to take with pain medication and antibiotics. Taking medicine on an empty stomach will most likely cause nausea and it is important to have the pain medicine working fully when the numbness wears off.
    • Take the gauze out of your mouth when eating or drinking (remember NO straws) and replace with new gauze directly after.
    • Continue with a liquid diet for today. (ice cream, cool soup broth, yogurt, milkshakes).
  • Keep the gauze in place and avoid talking and touching the area. Change gauze every 30 minutes. Gauze is to be used until the bleeding stops, which is usually a few hours after surgery. If bleeding doesn’t stop use a moist tea bag. The wound(s) will continue to ooze for a few days.
  • A blood clot will form within the tooth socket which is good and helps prevent dry socket. DO NOT rinse, brush or touch areas with finger or tongue.
  • To stay ahead of pain take 600 mg Ibuprofen every 6 hours (even if you don’t think you need it). If the pain has increased and your doctor has prescribed a narcotic, you may take it with Ibuprofen. DO NOT take narcotics with Tylenol as it is already contained within the narcotic.
  • To help prevent swelling, ice the area 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off. Place ice pack back in the freezer when not in use.

Day 2

Same as Day 1 except:

  • Transition to soft food (mashed potatoes, oatmeal, applesauce, soft pasta, fish, eggs) Make sure they are cooled down.
  • Start brushing teeth GENTLY and avoid surgical site. Remember not to spit, but let liquid fall out of your mouth into the sink.

Day 3-6

  • Continue soft food diet but progress to more substantial food as tolerated.
  • Swelling will be at its greatest on days 3 and 4.
  • Stop using the ice pack and start using warm compress for comfort and healing.
  • On day 3 start rinsing out the extraction site(s). Use the syringe and the prescribed antibiotic mouthwash (Peridex) or warm salt water. Continue to use the rinse for 7-10 days.

How to use the syringe:

  • First make sure the plunger is pressed down to the bottom of the barrel of the syringe. Then, place the tip in the liquid that you want to measure. Draw back on the plunger and the liquid will flow into the syringe.
  • Stand in front of a mirror and gently pull back your cheek to see the surgery site. With the prescribed mouthwash or warm salt water in the syringe, place the tip near the surgery site (without touching it) and push the plunger slowly to release the liquid out to rinse.
  • Avoid swishing the saltwater rinse in your mouth or spitting it out. Gently move your head to move the rinse around your mouth or use your tongue to help move the saline solution around.
  • After rinsing, lean over the sink and open your mouth to let the rinse fall out. Don’t spit.
  • This should be done after meals and at bedtime as long as debris accumulates in the area.
  • Stitches can start to dissolve as early as day 3.

When to Call Winchester Oral Surgery?

  • Pain and swelling increase after day 4
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Bad taste or drainage in site
  • Fever or chills
  • Rash or adverse side effects from medications
  • Pain in the ear or sensitivity to air after day 3.

When you are experiencing any of these symptoms please do not hesitate to reach out to our office to speak with an assistant or doctor. If it is after hours (4:30pm M-F) call 540-536-8000 to have the oral surgeon on call paged. Whoever is on call will return your call.

Common Concerns After the Removal of Wisdom Teeth


A certain amount of bleeding is to be expected following surgery. Slight bleeding, oozing, or redness in the saliva is not uncommon. Excessive bleeding may be controlled by first rinsing or wiping any old clots from your mouth, then placing a gauze pad over the area and biting firmly for thirty minutes. Repeat if necessary. If bleeding continues, bite on a moistened (not hot) tea bag for thirty minutes. The tannic acid in the tea bag helps to form a clot by contracting bleeding vessels. To minimize further bleeding, do not become excited, sit upright, and avoid exercise. If bleeding does not subside, call for further instructions. You should cover your pillowcase with something so that you don’t get any blood on it. Also, see the section on sleeping for more instructions on how to properly sleep after surgery.


The swelling that is normally expected is usually proportional to the surgery involved. Swelling around the mouth, cheeks, eyes, and sides of the face is not uncommon. This is the body’s normal reaction to surgery and eventual repair. The swelling will not become apparent until the day following surgery and will not reach its maximum until 3-4 days postoperatively. However, the swelling may be minimized by the immediate use of ice packs. The cold causes the blood vessels in the area to constrict and therefore reduce the amount of swelling. Two baggies filled with ice or ice packs should be applied to the sides of the face where surgery was performed. After 36 hours, ice has no beneficial effect. If swelling or jaw stiffness has persisted for several days, there is no cause for alarm, as this is a normal reaction to surgery. Thirty-six hours following surgery, the application of moist heat to the sides of the face is beneficial in reducing the size of the swelling. The heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which enables them to carry away the fluids that cause the swelling more efficiently.


Because wisdom teeth extraction is often done while the patient is heavily medicated or under anesthesia, you’re likely going to be tired and in need of sleep after the surgery.

It is normal to wonder how to sleep after wisdom teeth removal. As you head to bed, make sure to take all gauze out of your mouth before you fall asleep. Leaving gauze in your mouth is extremely dangerous and can be a choking hazard.

After everything has been removed from your mouth, take any prescribed medications and drink cool water if you are able to do so. You can put an ice pack on your face to decrease pain and reduce swelling, but do not sleep on the ice pack. Don’t brush your teeth or use mouthwash. This will put you in a world of pain and potentially have other consequences.

When you’re ready for bed, stack a few pillows up and sleep with your head elevated and inclined. This is a comfortable way to help your body rest easy as well as reduce the facial swelling you may be experiencing. Don’t crash on your couch where a surface like leather or suede could have your head slipping and sliding.

Statistics indicate that sleeping with your head elevated is ideal for the first two days. Do not sleep on your side. Instead, let gravity work in your favor for a few days so you can heal quickly


For moderate pain, one or two tablets of Tylenol or Extra Strength Tylenol may be taken every three to four hours or Ibuprofen, (Motrin or Advil) two-four 200 mg tablets may be taken every 3-4 hours.

For severe pain, take the tablets prescribed as directed. The prescribed pain medicine will make you groggy and will slow down your reflexes. Do not drive an automobile or work around machinery. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Pain or discomfort following surgery should subside more and more every day. If pain persists, it may require attention and you should call the office.


After general anesthetic or I.V. sedation, liquids should be initially taken. Do not use straws. Drink from a glass. The sucking motion can cause more bleeding by dislodging the blood clot. You may eat anything soft by chewing away from the surgical sites. High calorie, high protein intake is very important. Nourishment should be taken regularly. You should prevent dehydration by taking fluids regularly. Your food intake will be limited for the first few days. You should compensate for this by increasing your fluid intake. At least 5-6 glasses of liquid should be taken daily. Try not to miss a single meal. You will feel better, have more strength, less discomfort, and heal faster if you continue to eat. Caution: If you suddenly sit up or stand from a lying position you may become dizzy. If you are lying down following surgery, make sure you sit for one minute before standing.

Keep the mouth clean

No rinsing of any kind should be performed until the 3 days following surgery. You can brush your teeth the 2 night of surgery but rinse gently.


In some cases, discoloration of the skin follows swelling. The development of black, blue, green, or yellow discoloration is due to blood spreading beneath the tissues. This is a normal post-operative occurrence, which may occur 2-3 days postoperatively. Moist heat applied to the area may speed up the removal of the discoloration.


If you have been placed on antibiotics, take the tablets or liquid as directed. Antibiotics will be given to help prevent infection. Discontinue antibiotic use in the event of a rash or other unfavorable reaction. Call the office if you have any questions.

Nausea and Vomiting

In the event of nausea and/or vomiting following surgery, do not take anything by mouth for at least an hour including the prescribed medicine. You should then sip on coke, tea or ginger ale. You should sip slowly over a fifteen-minute period. When nausea subsides you can begin taking solid foods and the prescribed medicine.

Other Complications

  • If numbness of the lip, chin, or tongue occurs there is no cause for alarm. As stated before surgery, this is usually temporary in nature. You should be aware that if your lip or tongue is numb, you could bite it and not feel the sensation. So be careful.
  • Slight elevation of temperature immediately following surgery is not uncommon. If the temperature persists, notify the office. Tylenol or ibuprofen should be taken to reduce the fever.
  • You should be careful going from the lying down position to standing. You were not able to eat or drink prior to surgery. It was also difficult to take fluids. Taking pain medications can make you dizzy. You could get light headed when you stand up suddenly. Before standing up, you should sit for one minute then get up.
  • Occasionally, patients may feel hard projections in the mouth with their tongue. They are not roots, they are the bony walls that supported the tooth. These projections usually smooth out spontaneously. If not, they can be removed by Dr. Coviello, Dr. Starley or Dr. Waise
  • If the corners of your mouth are stretched, they may dry out and crack. Your lips should be kept moist with an ointment such as Vaseline.
  • Sore throats and pain when swallowing are not uncommon. The muscles get swollen. The normal act of swallowing can then become painful. This will subside in 2-3 days.
  • Stiffness (Trimus) of the jaw muscles may cause difficulty in opening your mouth for a few days following surgery. This is a normal post-operative event that will resolve in time.

Additional Advice After Wisdom Tooth Removal

  • Sutures are placed in the area of surgery to minimize post-operative bleeding and to help healing. Sometimes they become dislodged, this is no cause for alarm. Just remove the suture from your mouth and discard it. The sutures will be removed approximately one week after surgery.
  • The pain and swelling should subside more and more each day following surgery. If your post-operative pain or swelling worsens or unusual symptoms occur call my office for instructions.
  • There will be a cavity where the tooth was removed. The cavity will gradually over the next month fill in with the new tissue. In the meantime, the area should be kept clean, especially after meals with salt water rinses or a toothbrush.
  • Your case is individual, no two mouths are alike. Do not accept well-intended advice from friends. Discuss your problem with the persons best able to effectively help you: Dr. Coviello, Dr. Starley, or your family dentist.
  • A dry socket is when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from the tooth socket. Symptoms of pain at the surgical site and even pain to the ear may occur 2-3 days following surgery. Call the office if this occurs.
  • If you are involved in regular exercise, be aware that your normal nourishment intake is reduced. Exercise may weaken you. If you get lightheaded, stop exercising.

What Problems May Occur After the Extraction of Wisdom Teeth?

As with any medical procedure, there can be complications or an unanticipated result. Though rare some complications that patients may experience after wisdom tooth extraction include:

After the procedure, our assistants will review your post-operative instructions with your escort. We ask that you follow these instructions closely, as they will make you most comfortable following your procedure. If you were sedated, you will be comfortable and drowsy when you leave the office. Most patients prefer to go home and rest with no other physical or scholastic activities planned for a few days. With any medical procedure, there can be unexpected results. These can include delayed healing, infection and post-operative numbness or tingling in your lip, chin, or tongue. Dr. Coviello, Dr. Starley or Dr. Waise will review relevant post-operative events with you and answer any questions during your office visit.

A representation of numbness caused by damage to a sensory nerve

Damage to Sensory Nerve:

A primary concern is a nerve within the lower jaw bone that supplies feeling to the lower lip, chin, and tongue. This nerve is frequently very close to the roots of the lower wisdom teeth. Having these teeth out between the ages of 12 and 18 usually provides shorter roots so that the nerve is not so close to the roots of these teeth. Occasionally, when the teeth are removed and especially in older patients, the nerve can become injured. When local anesthesia wears off, you may experience a tingling or numbing sensation in the lower lip, chin, or tongue. Should this occur, it is usually temporary and will resolve gradually over a period of weeks or months. On rare occasions, it can result in a permanent alteration of sensation similar to having local anesthesia. We feel that you should be aware of this possibility before consenting to surgery.

A diagram showing the opening that can occur between your mouth and sinuses

Sinus Communication:

The upper wisdom teeth are situated close to your sinuses, and their removal can result in an opening between your mouth and the sinus. Once again, if the teeth are removed at an early age, the root formation is minimal, and this complication is very unlikely. However, if it does occur it will usually close spontaneously, but we may give you special instructions to follow, such as avoid blowing your nose for two or three days following the surgery. You can wipe your nose, but don’t blow your nose. If you have to sneeze, you should sneeze with an open mouth into a tissue. Pressure should not be created in the sinus area, which may dislodge the healing blood clot. If you sense this condition occurring after the surgery, please contact the office. An additional procedure may RARELY be necessary to close the opening.

A visual of dry socket that developed after the removal of wisdom teeth

Dry Sockets:

Dry sockets continue to be the most common problem people experience following dental surgery. They arise due to premature loss of a blood clot in the empty tooth socket. This seems to occur with greater frequency in people who smoke or are taking birth control pills. While both jaws can be affected, they usually occur in the lower jaw on the third to fifth day. They cause a deep, dull, continuous aching on the affected side(s). Patients may first notice the pain starting in the ear radiating down towards the chin.

The symptoms frequently begin in the middle of the night, and your pain medication regimen may not help. Treatment can involve changing your prescription. Occasionally it is helpful to place a medicated dressing in the empty tooth socket. This will help decrease the pain and protect the socket from food particles. The effectiveness in alleviating the pain lasts for 24-48 hours and may require dressing changes every day or two, for five to seven days. Dressings are usually removed when you have been pain free for 2 to 3 days.

The dressing doesn’t aid in healing. The only reason to place a dressing is for pain control. If medication is controlling the pain, the socket will heal without a dressing. Following removal of the dressing, an irrigation device may be provided to help you to keep food particles from lodging in the extraction site.

A diagram depicting an infection that occurs after wisdom teeth removal


Occasionally, post-operative infections occur. This usually requires an office visit and clinical examination. Many times, just placing you on an antibiotic for one week will take care of the infection. If it persists, the area will have to be drained and cleaned. Other temporary problems you may experience in the post-operative period include stiffness of the jaws, chafing around the corners of your lips, facial bruising, and blood oozing from the extraction sites. The post-operative instruction sheet we will provide should answer many of the questions related to these more common concerns. If not, don’t hesitate to call the office at Winchester Oral Surgery Center Phone Number 540-504-7300.

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