Many people worry about discomfort or pain after a wisdom tooth extraction, but are they right to be concerned?
Wisdom teeth (often referred to as third molars) can easily become impacted in the jaw and when this happens they need to be surgically extracted. The good news is that this is a common procedure normally completed chair-side at the dental clinic. In many cases, a wisdom tooth is removed quickly and easily, but in more complex cases, wisdom teeth removal may involve cutting both the gum and the bone, and often the tooth itself will need to be removed in sections.
While the surgical process itself remains comfortable for the patient, it’s only natural that they may feel some degree of discomfort. But is pain normal? And, more importantly… how bad should it be?
Pain After Wisdom Tooth Extraction Is Normal!
If you think about it, wisdom teeth removal is a surgical procedure and with all the best will in the world, the gum tissue and bone that housed your wisdom tooth are likely to be pulled around. So at the very least, the extraction area is likely to be tender.
As a result, once the anaesthetic has worn off, some feeling of pain or discomfort at the extraction site is completely normal. Of course, how little or how much discomfort that is, has a lot to do with how easy or complex the wisdom tooth removal process was.
So if pain after a wisdom tooth extraction is normal, the question is…what’s ‘normal’ and how bad should it be?
Typically, during the first 24 hours, you will start to feel something called nociceptive pain. This is acute or slight discomfort caused by tissue or bone damage and is not the same type of pain you might feel if you burned a finger for instance. The good thing about this particular type of nociceptive pain is that it’s superficial – meaning that it decreases through healing.
Normally, any pain felt after a wisdom tooth extraction will peak around 6 hours after the removal process has been completed. You may also see some bruising or swelling starting to appear and traces of blood in your mouth.
Ordinarily, any wisdom teeth removal pain can usually be controlled using over-the-counter-pain medication such as ibuprofen These are usually be prescribed by your dentist and you may be advised to take them two or more times a day to help alleviate any discomfort. In addition, your dentist may also advise applying icepacks at regular intervals to bring out any bruising and swelling at the tooth extraction site.
If the wisdom tooth extraction process was more complex or intensive, your dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe stronger pain medication to help combat the possibility of greater discomfort.
Either way, any wisdom teeth removal pain you may feel after a tooth or teeth extraction should be kept under control using over the counter or stronger medication.
Pain After Wisdom Tooth Extraction – How Long Should it Last?
Most people recover from wisdom tooth extraction within 3-4 days and usually by this point, they can go about their normal daily lives. However, for more complex cases or multiple teeth extractions, full recovery may take 7-10 days.
What about rest?
Like with any type of surgery, rest is crucial. It helps wounds to heal faster and during sleep, allows the body to create more white blood cells. This, in turn, helps to stave off any infections.
For the first 24 hours at least, it’s advisable to avoid any exercise or strenuous movement and sit or lie down with your head in an elevated position. Any strenuous movement too soon after wisdom teeth removal may cause pain to worsen.
In any case, recovery after wisdom teeth extraction should all be covered under your treatment plan so if you stick to the home-care instructions given to you by your dentist or oral surgeon then recovery should be both quick and incident-free.
When Pain after a Wisdom Tooth Extraction isn’t Normal
As already stated, some degree of discomfort after a wisdom tooth extraction is normal and typically dissipates within 3-4 days. However, if you experience excruciating pain emanating from the tooth extraction site or prolonged pain that lasts longer than 10 days then you should call your dentist or oral surgeon immediately. This could be a sign or further complications which need to be dealt with. Complications such as…
Painful dry socket
This occurs when a blood clot fails to develop in the extraction site area, or when the blood clot is accidentally moved. Known as alveolar osteitis, this is one of the most common complications that occur during wisdom teeth removal. Typically dry socket patients experience a dull ache or throbbing pain in the gum area and they may also experience an unpleasant taste or smell emanating from the tooth extraction site.
Bacterial infections can also be the cause of wisdom teeth extraction pain and occur when the area fills with food debris due to improper cleaning. Bacteria contained within the detritus attack the site leading to pain or discomfort.
Other signs that you may be experiencing complications following wisdom teeth removal include:
- Bleeding from the site that won’t subside – even after you have bitten down on a piece of gauze.
- Swelling or bruising that gets worse over time, not better
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- Numbness in the area – could be a sign of temporary nerve damage
- Pain not dulling down with your current antibiotics.
It is worth remembering that complications are rare and millions of wisdom teeth extractions are carried out every year without a hitch. However, like with all surgical procedures, it does carry risks. That said, those risks are usually small.
If you are considering wisdom teeth removal and would like to find out more about pain after a wisdom tooth extraction then why not talk to No Gaps Dental. We have 15 convenient dental clinics scattered throughout the Sydney Metro area. All our dentists are highly experienced, use the latest gentle dentistry techniques, and will take time to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Call us on (02) 8806 0181 today to book a consultation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.