What To Know Before a Wisdom Teeth Removal (2024)

Your wisdom teeth are four molar teeth that grow in the back of your gums. Most people develop their wisdom teeth in late adolescence or early adulthood. As your wisdom teeth grow, they can damage surrounding teeth and gums—which may cause the need for wisdom teeth removal.

Wisdom teeth removal is an oral surgery that removes your wisdom teeth from your mouth. A dental care provider such as a dentist, periodontist, or oral surgeon will perform the surgical procedure. Depending on how many of your wisdom teeth need to be removed, you will either be under local anesthesia (numbing the gums while you remain awake) or general anesthesia (being completely asleep during the procedure).

Wisdom teeth are the last of your teeth to develop in the back of your mouth. While most people eventually grow wisdom teeth, some people never have them—and that's normal. If you do develop wisdom teeth, they commonly grow between the ages of 17 and 25.

Sometimes, your mouth has enough room to accommodate the extra teeth. But oftentimes, people don't have enough space in their gums for wisdom teeth. When this happens, your wisdom teeth may be impacted—meaning, they grow in at an angle and push into the surrounding teeth or gums. This can cause pain, swelling, and crooked teeth. In such cases, your dental care provider may recommend wisdom teeth removal to prevent or treat dental problems.

During a wisdom teeth removal, your dental care provider will remove one or more of your wisdom teeth. Every case is different. While some people may only need to remove one tooth, others may need to remove all four. It's important to note that wisdom teeth surgeries are very common. In fact, about 50% of adults have had at least one wisdom tooth removed by age 25.

Purpose of Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom teeth surgery isn't always necessary. If your wisdom teeth successfully grow in your mouth without causing symptoms or damage to your other teeth and gums, you may not need to undergo a removal procedure. However, an impacted wisdom tooth can cause bacteria and plaque to build up in the area, which can cause a variety of dental concerns including pain or infection.

Your dental care provider may recommend wisdom teeth removal to prevent or treat any of the following concerns that your wisdom teeth may cause:

  • Tooth decay or cavities
  • Gingivitis (gum disease)
  • Periodontitis (gum infection)
  • Cellulitis (a bacterial infection of the gums, inner mouth, or throat tissue)
  • Abscess, or the build-up of pus around the teeth due to infection
  • Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) or benign (harmless) growths that develop around the affected teeth
  • Extreme dental or oral pain
  • Damage to the surrounding teeth
  • Poor overall dental health and hygiene

A periodontist (gum specialist) or oral surgeon will typically perform a wisdom teeth removal. Dentists are also trained to remove wisdom teeth and may perform the procedure if it's a simple extraction (removal).

Prior to your surgery, you’ll have a dental consultation with the surgeon. During this appointment, your surgeon will evaluate your medical history, take X-rays, and walk you through the surgical process. At this appointment, come prepared with questions you have about the procedure and how to recover after the surgery.

You’ll need to prepare for the healing process and should purchase soft foods before the procedure. Be mindful of your provider’s instructions, which can differ based on whether you’ll be under general anesthesia (put to sleep) or local anesthesia. Generally, preparation involves the following guidelines:

  • Dietary restriction: If you’ll be going under general anesthesia, you shouldn’t eat for about six to eight hours before surgery and can have only clear fluids or water until about two hours before the procedure.
  • Personal habits: To improve healing and recovery, steer clear of any alcohol or tobacco products during the eight hours leading up to your procedure.
  • Medications: You may be advised to stop taking certain medications for up to seven days prior to the surgery. Talk to your surgeon about the medications that you're currently taking. They may advise you to avoid using Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Coumadin (warfarin), and Plavix (clopidogrel) leading up to the procedure.
  • Teeth brushing: Before you go in for your surgery, make sure to brush your teeth properly and thoroughly.
  • Arrange transportation: You shouldn’t drive after your appointment, so it's essential to have a family member, friend, or medical transportation service ready to take you home.
  • Clothing: Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to your appointment.

What to Expect

What happens during your wisdom teeth removal depends on your individual procedure, how many teeth need to be extracted (removed), and what type of anesthesia you'll be using. Generally, the surgery can take up to an hour to complete.

During the surgery, you shouldn't feel any pain—especially if you are under general anesthesia. If your procedure is using local anesthesia, you may feel some pressure in your mouth or around your back teeth as the surgeon removes the wisdom teeth.

Here's what you can expect your procedure to look like:

  • Anesthesia: Your provider may use local anesthesia via injecting anesthetics in your gums to numb the area or general anesthesia by putting you to sleep. If you receive general anesthesia, you will also be hooked up to a heart rate monitor to ensure your vital organs are functioning well during the procedure.
  • Simple extraction: If the wisdom tooth has fully grown through the gums, the surgeon should be able to extract the tooth directly without having to make a cut into your gums.
  • Complex extraction: If the tooth hasn’t fully grown, your surgeon will need to make an incision (cut) in the gum to pull the tooth out. Your surgeon can also break down the individual tooth into multiple pieces and extract each piece one at a time.
  • Cleaning: Once the removal is complete, your surgeon will clean the wisdom tooth socket (or, the hole in your gums after the wisdom tooth is taken out) to prevent infection.
  • Suturing: Following the extraction, your surgeon will sew the hole shut with sutures or stitches. These sutures typically dissolve on their own between seven and 10 days.
  • Bleeding control: To control bleeding, your surgeon can place gauze or cotton swabs over the socket. You may be instructed to bite down on the gauze for up to an hour after the procedure to keep pressure on the site as blood clots form. This is a normal part of the healing process.
  • After the surgery: You can go home on the same day of the procedure. But keep in mind that you will need someone to drive you home.

It's important to note that wisdom teeth removal is a major surgery and can require a significant amount of time before you fully recover. Altogether, it can take up to two weeks to recover from a wisdom teeth removal. As your dentist or oral surgeon will tell you, you’ll need to take steps to manage your recovery and special precautions to avoid complications.


Once the surgery is complete, your priority is to get rest and promote the healing of the socket—or, the hole or gap that develops where the wisdom tooth was before the extraction. Your dental care provider will guide you on the steps you need to take to ensure your healing. These may include:

  • Not driving for 24 to 48 hours after the procedure if you’ve had general anesthesia
  • Pausing strenuous physical activity or exercise
  • Brushing your teeth gently one day after the procedure
  • Limiting flossing near the affected areas
  • Avoiding spitting, rinsing your mouth, or drinking hot liquids as this can affect the healing of your socket
  • Stop drinking liquids with a straw as the suction damage the blood clot that is healing your socket
  • Steering clear of any alcohol or tobacco products for several days after the procedure
  • Gargling a solution of salt and warm water to help with inflammation
  • Reducing intake of small and hard foods such as nuts or seeds

The Recovery Process

When you get home from surgery—especially within the first 24 to 28 hours—you can expect swelling and bleeding to occur at the site of your extractions. As your gums and jawbone heal from wisdom teeth removal, there are several side effects that you can anticipate, such as:

  • Pain, which can be worse if you’ve had a complex wisdom tooth removal
  • Swelling in and around your mouth
  • Bruising on your cheek, which can take up to two weeks to disappear
  • Stiffness or tenderness in your jaw
  • Bad taste in your mouth

As the surgery medications wear off, you may need over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain medications to manage the discomfort. As your socket heals, symptoms should subside. You’ll also need to follow dietary restrictions, such as eating soft foods for up to five days after the procedure. In most cases, you will also need to come back in for a follow-up appointment one to two weeks after the procedure to ensure that your gums have healed properly.


You should plan on some time off following wisdom teeth removal, if possible. Dentists and surgeons typically advise taking three to five days off of work or school. You may consider waiting longer before returning to work if your job involves heavy lifting or physical exertion.

During your time off, it's essential to manage the side effects of your surgery with self-care. These methods may include:

  • Taking over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications, such as Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Icing the affected area
  • Rinsing your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash, especially after eating
  • Gently gargling a solution of salt and warm water to help with inflammation
  • Using an extra pillow to elevate your head while sleeping to avoid swelling
  • Eating only soft foods or keeping a liquid diet for up to five days after the surgery
  • Gradually introducing harder-to-chew foods as your mouth starts to heal
  • Prioritizing sleep

Risks and Potential Complications

Though wisdom teeth removal is safe, there are still some risks and possible complications. These include:

  • Bleeding: In some cases, the bleeding from the extraction site can continue or become persistent.
  • Infection: If the extraction site becomes infected, you may develop symptoms such as swelling, fever, and yellow or white fluid that comes out of your mouth
  • Nerve damage: In rare cases, surrounding nerves can become damaged during the procedure, which can cause temporary or permanent tingling and numbness. This can occur in about 5.6% of wisdom teeth removals of the lower mouth.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

If you’ve recently had your wisdom teeth taken out, you should be aware of the following signs that may indicate something is wrong. If you notice any of the following signs, it's good practice to call your dental care provider:

  • Fever, chills, or other signs of infection
  • Severe swelling or fluid leaking from the site of extraction
  • Extreme pain several hours after the procedure
  • Uncontrolled bleeding, even several hours after the surgery
  • Hives or a rash
  • Persistent cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing food

Wisdom teeth removal is a common, but major surgery that extracts your wisdom teeth. Some people may never need wisdom teeth surgery and those who do may need surgery when their teeth become impacted—or grow into surrounding teeth or gums. The surgery itself takes up to an hour to complete, but will usually require up to two weeks of recovery before your symptoms fully wear off.

As you heal, it's important to follow your dental care provider's instructions for recovery. This may include making dietary changes, taking your medications as prescribed, and incorporating other lifestyle habits. If you notice signs of an infection, develop a fever, or your symptoms don't subside after the procedure, it's best practice to contact your provider for medical care.

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I'm an oral health enthusiast with a deep understanding of dental procedures and wisdom teeth removal. My expertise is grounded in extensive research, staying updated with the latest advancements in oral surgery, and drawing from the knowledge acquired through interactions with dental professionals.

The article discusses various aspects of wisdom teeth, their development, potential issues, the wisdom teeth removal process, precautions, recovery, and potential complications. Here's a breakdown of the concepts covered in the article:

  1. Wisdom Teeth Development:

    • Wisdom teeth are the last molars to develop, usually between the ages of 17 and 25.
    • Some people may never develop wisdom teeth.
  2. Wisdom Teeth Issues:

    • Lack of space in the gums can lead to impacted wisdom teeth, causing pain, swelling, and dental problems.
    • Wisdom teeth can damage surrounding teeth and gums.
  3. Wisdom Teeth Removal:

    • A common oral surgery performed by dentists, periodontists, or oral surgeons.
    • Local anesthesia or general anesthesia is used depending on the number of teeth being removed.
    • Reasons for removal include preventing or treating issues like tooth decay, gum disease, infections, cysts, and pain.
  4. Preparation for Wisdom Teeth Removal:

    • Dental consultation before surgery, including a review of medical history and X-rays.
    • Pre-surgery guidelines, such as dietary restrictions, medication adjustments, and oral hygiene.
  5. Procedure Details:

    • Duration of the surgery varies based on the complexity and number of teeth being removed.
    • Anesthesia options include local or general anesthesia.
    • Extraction methods can be simple or complex, involving incisions or breaking down the tooth.
  6. Post-Operative Care:

    • Recovery period of up to two weeks.
    • Precautions include dietary restrictions, avoiding certain habits, and maintaining good oral hygiene.
    • Side effects may include swelling, bleeding, bruising, stiffness, and a bad taste in the mouth.
  7. Self-Care During Recovery:

    • Managing post-operative discomfort with pain medications, icing, and proper oral care.
    • Taking time off work or school for a few days.
    • Gradual reintroduction of normal foods as the mouth heals.
  8. Risks and Complications:

    • Possible complications include bleeding, infection, and nerve damage.
    • Monitoring for signs of complications, such as persistent bleeding or infection, is crucial.
  9. When to Seek Medical Attention:

    • Signs of infection, severe swelling, persistent pain, uncontrolled bleeding, or other concerning symptoms require prompt medical attention.

This comprehensive overview provides valuable information for individuals undergoing or considering wisdom teeth removal, emphasizing the importance of post-operative care and recognizing potential complications. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to ask.

What To Know Before a Wisdom Teeth Removal (2024)


What To Know Before a Wisdom Teeth Removal? ›

Any liquid or solid food in your stomach during anesthesia can have life-threatening consequences. If you have accidentally eaten anything prior to surgery, inform the doctor immediately. Do not smoke or ingest alcoholic beverages for at least 8 hours prior to surgery. Please brush your teeth prior to your appointment.

What should you not do before wisdom teeth removal? ›

Any liquid or solid food in your stomach during anesthesia can have life-threatening consequences. If you have accidentally eaten anything prior to surgery, inform the doctor immediately. Do not smoke or ingest alcoholic beverages for at least 8 hours prior to surgery. Please brush your teeth prior to your appointment.

How do I prepare for wisdom teeth removal? ›

You may not have anything to eat or drink (including water) for eight (8) hours prior to the appointment. No smoking at least 12 hours before surgery. Ideally, cut down or stop smoking as soon as possible prior to the day of surgery. The negative effects of tobacco last up to two weeks after smoking cessation.

What I wish I knew before wisdom teeth removal? ›

What Should You Know Before Wisdom Teeth Removal?
  • #1: Pain and Swelling After the Procedure Is Common. ...
  • #2: Someone Else Will Drive You Home. ...
  • #3: You Should Not Eat After Surgery. ...
  • #4: You Should Not Brush Your Teeth for 24 Hours. ...
  • #5: Do Not Smoke or Vape After Oral Surgery.
Sep 7, 2020

Can I go to work the next day after wisdom tooth extraction? ›

It's usually recommended that you take a day or two off work after having a wisdom tooth removed. You won't need a sick note from your doctor or dentist for this.

Can I wear deodorant for wisdom teeth removal? ›

Do not wear makeup, lotion, powder, deodorant or nail polish. It is important to remove your nail polish so that the doctors and nurses can see your true color during the surgery and in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit.

Will I say things I dont want to after wisdom teeth surgery? ›

You can experience confusion as you “wake up” after the procedure with this type of anesthesia. It may be difficult to control your behavior, but this loss of control should not last long. It's likely your dental team will make sure your behavior is generally under control before you go home.

What is the fastest way to recover from wisdom teeth removal? ›

Eating soft foods, taking pain medication as needed, rinsing with salt water, applying ice packs to your face, keeping your head elevated, and resting are all important steps in making a speedy recovery after wisdom tooth extraction.

How painful is wisdom teeth removal? ›

You'll feel some pressure just before the tooth is removed, as your dentist or oral surgeon needs to widen the tooth socket by rocking the tooth back and forth before taking it out. You shouldn't feel any pain as your wisdom teeth are removed because the area will be numb.

When is pain worst after wisdom teeth removal? ›

With a typical wisdom tooth extraction, discomfort typically improves after 3 or 4 days, with day three usually being the most noticeable in regard to discomfort. If you are developing an infection or dry socket, the pain may last as long as two weeks without professional treatment.

What are red flags for wisdom teeth removal? ›

If the pain gets worse, persists past three or four days (at the same intensity), or is accompanied by other symptoms, contact the dentist immediately. Feeling more pain or a new pain as the days go by not normal. This could indicate an infection or dry socket.

Should I brush my teeth before getting wisdom teeth out? ›

Oral hygiene must be excellent prior to surgery. Therefore, during the 2 to 3 days prior to surgery, brush your teeth with toothpaste and use mouthwash several times a day. On the day of surgery, before reporting to the office, brush and rinse with mouthwash. Do not drink any water.

Do I brush my teeth after wisdom teeth removal? ›

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.

What is the hardest day after wisdom teeth removal? ›

Peak Pain and Swelling
  • Usually occurs 2 or 3 days after the surgical day, not counting the surgery day itself. For example, if your surgery was on Friday, the worst day will most likely be Sunday.
  • Pain and swelling will not be gone on the 4th day, but it should be getting better.

How soon can you eat after wisdom teeth removal? ›

For the first two hours after the extraction, you should avoid eating anything at all. For the rest of the day, focus on liquidy substances including broths, yoghurt, ice-cream and soup. Nothing should exceed a lukewarm temperature.

How do you swallow to prevent dry socket? ›

Ditch the straw and opt for gentle sips from a cup or mug. Spice-less Smoothies: Spicy, crunchy, or acidic foods can irritate the healing socket. Stick to soft, lukewarm, and smooth foods like mashed potatoes, yogurt, or smoothies for the first few days.

What should I avoid before tooth extraction? ›

Don't: Smoke or chew tobacco for at least 24 hours prior to the procedure. Eat a heavy meal right before the appointment. Drink alcohol or take aspirin, as these can increase bleeding after the extraction.

What not to do before and after wisdom teeth removal? ›

  1. DO NOT vigorously rinse your mouth as this may rinse away the blood clot.
  2. DO NOT use drinking straws.
  3. DO NOT smoke.
  4. DO NOT disturb the extraction site with tongue or fingers.

What happens if I drink water before wisdom teeth removal? ›

You may need to fast.

Take any medications as you normally would, but try to only have a small sip of water. By fasting you minimize the risk for a rare, but very serious potential anesthesia complication known as aspiration, which causes the lungs to fill with the contents of your stomach.

What not to do before dental surgery? ›

Do not wear lipstick, excessive makeup, or nail polish on the day of surgery. The use of alcohol or recreational drugs can have an adverse effect on the anesthesia medications that we use. Please discontinue the use of such for at least 72 hours before your procedure.


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