Preparing for and recovering from teeth extractions

Tips and information to help you before and after surgical teeth extractions, including wisdom teeth removal.

Understand your procedure: surgical teeth extraction and wisdom teeth removal

Surgical teeth extractions are done when the tooth being removed isn’t easily accessible, for example if part or all of the tooth is still under the gum, as is often the case with wisdom teeth. 

 

a dentist delivering a dental procedure

 

Surgical extractions can sometimes be done under a local anaesthetic in the dentist’s chair. If you need to have a general anaesthetic, the procedure will be done in hospital. Whether you have your teeth out in the chair or hospital depends on the complexity of the procedure and the recommendation of your dentist or oral surgeon.

Your oral surgeon will make a cut into your gum and remove the tooth. Sometimes they’ll need to take out some bone around the tooth as well, and the tooth may need to be removed in sections. Once the tooth is out, they’ll smooth any sharp edges and stitch up the area. 

Teeth extractions are usually a same-day procedure, which means you’ll be able to go home to rest and recover after surgery. 

Preparing for teeth extractions and wisdom teeth removal 

Good preparation can set you up for a smooth recovery. Your dentist, oral surgeon or hospital will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your tooth extraction or wisdom teeth removal procedure, but things to consider before surgery include:

1. Plan to take it easy at first

Be prepared to rest and relax for at least 24 hours after the procedure. You may need to arrange time off work and other commitments.  Read more on getting organised before surgery. 

2. Arrange transport home  

You’ll probably need someone to drive or accompany you home from hospital. 

3. Ask your doctor about fasting 

If you’re having a general anaesthetic, you may be instructed to stop eating or drinking for a certain amount of time before your surgery.

4. Be as healthy as you can

The healthier you are, the better your body will be able to cope with the stress of surgery. Read more about preparing your body. 

5. Take an active role

Learn as much as you can about your surgery, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Read more about questions to ask before surgery.

Recovery for wisdom teeth removal and teeth extractions

What to expect after teeth extractions

There’s likely to be pain and swelling and you’ll probably need to take time out to rest and recover. This will include time off work and other commitments for at least the first 24 hours after surgery and up to a week. 

If your surgeon or dentist has to cut through gum or bone to remove your tooth, the swelling and pain will last longer. It’s likely to be at its most swollen 36 to 48 hours after the procedure, and should start to improve after four or five days. You might also notice some bruising as the swelling goes down. 

Reduce swelling, pain and discomfort
  • Your doctor will prescribe pain relief for when you go home. Make sure you follow the medication instructions carefully. 
  • An ice pack can help reduce swelling. Wrap an ice pack in a cloth and hold it on your cheek for 20 minutes; then take a 10-minute break and repeat. 
  • Stack a couple of pillows under your head when you sleep to elevate your head. This can reduce bleeding and swelling.
  • Cool drinks and foods like ice cream or jelly may be soothing.
What to eat after wisdom teeth removal and teeth extractions
  • Avoid chewing using the affected areas of your mouth for at least 24 hours after surgery. Make sure food and drinks aren’t too hot or cold, especially while the area is still numb.
  • For the first few days, don’t eat foods that are hard or have sharp edge, like corn chips or dry biscuits—these can irritate the area where the tooth was.
  • Stock up on soft foods, not just ice cream and jelly. Foods like mashed potatoes, eggs, smoothies, mashed veggies, soup and pasta are nutritious and will be easier to eat while you heal.
  • Slowly ease back into a normal diet over the next week.
Care for your wound 

After teeth are removed, a blood clot forms around the wound. This clot is a key part of healing since it protects the area from bacteria and helps new tissue to develop. You’ll need to take some steps to reduce the chance of the clot falling off or breaking open – something known as “dry socket”.

  • Don’t rinse your mouth or spit on the day of the extraction.
  • Don’t smoke for at least 48 hours after the extraction.
  • You may need a soft diet for a few days after the procedure.
  • To help prevent infection, your dentist might also ask you to rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day for four to five days, starting 24 hours after the tooth is removed. 

Warning signs to look out for after teeth extractions and wisdom teeth removal 

Signs of infection

After a dental procedure there’s a risk of infection. Following your doctor or dentist’s advice will help reduce that risk, but it’s still important to be on the lookout for warning signs. 

Contact the hospital, or your dentist or surgeon if you notice any infected wisdom tooth or tooth extraction symptoms:

  • Pain that continues after a few days or gets worse

  • Swelling that continues after 4 to 5 days or gets worse 

  • A fever/temperature over 38oC

     

Bleeding

A small amount of bleeding is normal in the first 24 hours after teeth extractions. For slight bleeding, you can wash your hands and then fold a piece of gauze, cotton cloth, or bandage and place it over the wound. Bite firmly for 10 minutes and rest your head slightly elevated. 

If bleeding is ongoing, contact your treating dentist or surgeon, or go to the nearest emergency department if it’s after hours. 

 


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Things you need to know

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While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees). 

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