Can I board a plane 24 hours after I get my wisdom tooth removed?
February 16, 2012 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Have any of you flown on an airplane the day after you got a wisdom tooth removed? My oral surgeon says it'll be fine, but I'm nervous.

I waited until we got to Thailand to fix my broken tooth. Everything went great, except that the dentist says that my upper right wisdom tooth is to blame for the breakage.

For some wild reason, my American dentists have said for years that I don't have wisdom teeth, or maybe that they weren't a problem for me, but I looked at the x-ray and there it is, plain as day. And, apparently, it's busting up my bottom teeth.

Because dentistry is so well-advanced and affordable in Thailand ($50 per tooth extraction performed), and because my lack of dental health insurance means I'd be saving tons of money by having this done in Thailand, I'd much rather have this taken care of here instead of the US.

However, I'm flying back to the US the day after the surgery. My dentist says air travel will be fine, but I'm nervous. I mean, he's the guy with dentistry degrees and awards all over his wall, and I've never had so much as an ear popping when I've traveled, but I have nightmarish fears that the change in cabin pressure will put me in excruciating pain.

Has anyone tried this before? What happened?

I've read this question, but the person had a solid week's time before they got on a plane.
posted by Viola to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
I flew from DC to Boston about 36 hours after I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed. It's a much shorter flight than Thailand to the US, but I didn't have any problems with the pressure. Do you have a companion who can help you deal with not being able to talk?
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:24 PM on February 16, 2012

Is it a straight extraction, or will they need to break up the tooth? Straight extraction isn't too painful. When I needed to have the tooth broken before it came out of my jaw, it kinda hurt the next day.
posted by kellyblah at 5:30 PM on February 16, 2012

The issue is not the tooth extraction, but inflammation and congestion closing off sinuses. The answer will be decongestants and painkillers/anti-inflammatories.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:39 PM on February 16, 2012

So, I'm actually the person who asked that prior question. It turned out to be a really, really good thing that I decided not to take that trip (for other reasons) because one of the extraction sites wound up getting infected and I was in horrible pain for days.

However, that was a pretty unusual case and, from what I've heard, most problems with wisdom tooth extraction start a few days after the surgery. Even in my rare case, I would have been ok-ish on the plane. I mean, you'll be kind of out of it, but that's not the worst thing on a long-haul flight where you can just zone out (I've done Thailand-US several times).
posted by lunasol at 5:42 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I had all four of my wisdom teeth out at once I was knocked out for the procedure. The next day I was barely able to walk.

Can't imagine most airports letting someone in the condition I was in through, but I don't know what kind of pain management you're getting.
posted by TimeDoctor at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2012

I'll have my husband with me for both post-surgery care and for when we board the plane. As far as my dentist can tell, it'll be just one simple wisdom tooth extraction, nothing impacted or anything of the sort.
posted by Viola at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2012

I had all four wisdom teeth out, and they had to be broken to be removed. I actually didn't feel too bad the next day. My mouth ached somewhat but mostly it was just a dull pain that I dealt with while watching movies. I think, however, that your pain is going to be the same whether you are on an airplane or not. I can't think of any serious reason why the air pressure would cause much more pain than would already exist. For the amount you would save getting the procedure done in Thailand, I would consider getting it done and flying home.
posted by Nightman at 6:51 PM on February 16, 2012

It may depend on your individual anatomy. If the extraction affects your sinuses (this can be tested at the time of extraction by holding your nose and blowing slightly- the sinus cavity may inflate through your gums when you do this). If your sinus membrane inflates at the time of extraction, I would be very discouraged from flying until you are more healed from the extraction. If you pass the sinus test at the time of extraction, I would be careful, but not rule out a flight. I am not a dentist, I was a dental assistant in college.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:23 PM on February 16, 2012

Thanks for all the responses! I was really worried before.

My other question: I assume I'll be on an all-liquids diet, which poses a problem for the TSA security restrictions. I've opted to pack my toiletries in checked baggage, but the flight will be 6 hours to Narita-Tokyo and 14 to JFK. I assume I can get something at the terminal in Narita, but should I bring anything in particular with me in the ziplock on the plane? At the moment I'm just planning to hunt down applesauce and yogurt at a Thai Tesco.
posted by Viola at 7:49 PM on February 16, 2012

I'd bring a pen and small notebook, just in case.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:01 PM on February 16, 2012

Maybe a protein shake or two in powder form, which can be mixed with milk or water at the airport.
posted by markblasco at 9:03 PM on February 16, 2012

When I had my wisdom teeth out I didn't have any trouble walking, but it hurt quite a bit. The thing is, are you going to have trouble getting pain pills through customs?
posted by delmoi at 9:48 PM on February 16, 2012

Pain pills should be ingested, not carried through customs after the flight.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2012

Surgery without the possibility of followup care from the treating doctor. This is not a good idea. Either stay some extra time in Thailand or wait until you get home.
posted by humanfont at 12:46 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had four wisdom teeth out under a general and one had to be broken. I was fine afterwards, I can't remember any pain and swelling wasn't really a thing that happened for a few days afterwards. I was not on a liquid diet at all, but was eating softer foods.

We have no idea how you will react though.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 2:35 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You will probably be able to eat soft things, like bananas. Here is a thread with some soft food options. Many are liquid but there are a few TSA acceptable options in there. Just be careful that you avoid foods that could get stuck.
posted by sarae at 3:19 AM on February 17, 2012

I had all four wisdom teeth out under general anesthesia and flew the very next day. Not only was I completely fine, but I got bumped up to first class (for some reason that exists only in mythology these days) and ate a steak. Ymmv, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.
posted by sundaydriver at 4:50 AM on February 17, 2012

I did not fly after I got my wisdom teeth removed (all four, two impacted, local anesthesia only) but honestly I think I would have been fine. You'll probably be in some pain, but that's what they give you painkillers for, and the painkillers will help you sleep on the plane! Win-win!

And as for liquid diets, surely if you (or your husband) explain the situation to the flight attendants, they will keep a steady stream of soda and juice flowing in your direction. I mostly had soda and juice for the first day after I had my wisdom teeth out - not a good long-term diet solution but for a day or two it won't kill you. And bring a ripe banana or two in case you want it.
posted by mskyle at 6:25 AM on February 17, 2012

You won't be on a liquid diet, you're just not supposed to chew right on the extraction sites and your jaw may be a little too sore for, like, giant burritos or club sandwiches. If you want to stick to rice, noodles/pasta, etc, that's not going to be a huge challenge - and you can certainly buy dry bowls of noodle soup anywhere to carry on with you and hydrate with hot water the crew will gladly provide - but you can cut/mash all but the driest of airplane meat up into little pieces too. Those weren't your primary chewing teeth, anyway.

Narita has at least one good convenience store in the international terminal, and I'm sure you can get more pot noodle/ramen there. Depending on length of your layover, there's got to be somewhere in that terminal to get a bowl of actual soup as well.

The worst part, I think, will be flying while a bit out of sorts. You will probably be a little grumpy, and if you do not bliss out on pain meds (as many people don't) you may instead be itchy and constipated and not the happiest flyer in the world, but the likelihood of significant pain related directly to pressure is really low. (I'd actually be more worried about the constipation from the pain meds - keep yourself hydrated.) Take prophylactic decongestants, bring some Benadryl with you in case the painkillers make you itchy, drink water and watch your fiber.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:03 AM on February 17, 2012

You're not going to know how it is until you go through it, unfortunately. In my case, I had the world's easiest experience of wisdom teeth removal and felt pretty much okay about an hour-ish after it happened and the most annoying thing about it was not being able to eat anything other than mushy food for a week. But I wouldn't feel comfortable booking a flight for that day just in case you get an infection or something else goes wrong. Then it could be ugly.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2012

Update: the process was so simple that I wasn't even put under, just administered with a local shot. I'm in no discomfort whatsoever! It was such an easy procedure that I took the subway home instead of a cab. The pain meds are only parafen+ibuprofen, no codeine, so I sadly will not be able to bliss out on the plane. Hopefully with the combination of antibiotics, ibuprofen, mushy foods and a dentist follow-up when I get home, I'll be good as new (and a lot richer than if I'd had the procedure done in the US).
posted by Viola at 1:52 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Update update! Plane ride was a breeze, and I slurped down noodles happily with no complications. I got a check-up when we came back home, and all is clear. For anyone debating on getting dental work done in Thailand, consider my enthusiastic endorsement! Their facilities are far superior to any US dental office I've ever seen, the procedures are much cheaper, and their dentists all studied at top universities in Europe and the US. Win-win in my book.
posted by Viola at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2012

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