Tips for recovery from tooth extraction?
October 16, 2006 4:57 AM   Subscribe

Care to share your tips for coping post-tooth removal?

After efforts to avoid this end have failed I am (at age 39!!) about to have my upper wisdom teeth and, unfortunately, the molars in front of each, removed in two separate procedures (today and three weeks from today) in order to avoid general anesthesia/sedation problems. I'm pretty okay about the extractions themselves because I know that they're more uncomfortable than painful, I numb up well and feel only pressure. I am more concerned about the recovery.

I've had an extraction before, but I was travelling and running around and preoccupied with numerous other things besides my mouth, so I don't really remember what I did. I had no pain (just an achey jaw) and no dry sockets, infection, but the travelling option isn't open this time, so I'm trying to get a mental picture of what to expect and how to best spend the first 48 hours or so in order to minimize problems and stay as productive as possible since I have things to do and can't completely lay about like a queen, sucking up sympathy for my holey head.

Experiences, tips, advice, things my dentist may not tell me...
posted by Dreama to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Some dentists will tell you, some don't, but if something bleeds, you can lay a wet tea bag over it. I think it's the tannic acid, constricts the blood vessels. You don't want blood to end up in your stomach, it's an irritant, and it can happen in the night.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:07 AM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I had two wisdom tooth extracted lately, it hurts for the first few hours.
Also, you must eat things like yogurt, soup (not hot!) and juices.
It takes a few weeks before the holes close completely, and you have to gargle with salty water all the time to dislodge stuck foods from your empty holes.
It's definitely not a cool experience!
posted by PowerCat at 5:22 AM on October 16, 2006

To be the voice of optimism for a minute: I had all four wisdom teeth out at 9am and even though my dentist had to put her foot up on the arm of the chair to get better leverage to pry those bastards out, I was happily eating a steak dinner at 6pm without much more than a little jaw soreness. So you never know, maybe it'll work out that way for you, too!

Also: I would recommend picking up a little rubber-headed tooth diggy-outy tool from the drugstore (near the toothbrushes) so you have it handy for any annoying stuck bits, as well as some mouthwash that has hydrogen peroxide in it.
posted by bcwinters at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2006

I had all four of my wisdom teeth out at the same time, and my dentist was kind enough to send me home with a prescription for Percocet. Talk about a coping mechanism...

The thing that I remember most was feeling cruddier than I expected for longer than I expected. I had to take off more time than I originally planned because the pain took longer than expected to subside (and I therefore had to stay on the painkillers, which kept me fuzzy-headed, etc). So I guess I'd recommend that you prepare for the possibility that you might not be able to be as productive as you hope to be in the days after the procedure.

Other than that, I second everything lalex said. I definitely think the waterpik is preferable to the rubber-headed diggy-out tool (does that thing even have a name?) during the initial post-op time... the water is much gentler than the rubber and accomplishes the same thing.

Good luck!
posted by somanyamys at 6:12 AM on October 16, 2006

When I got my wisdom teeth out, I also found that the tea bags helped my mouth from tasting like blood and ick. Get the mint kind. If you have driving to do for the first few days, you won't want to have to choose between painkillers and driving, so make sure you have someone around who can do errands and that sort of thing. Otherwise, just lay in a stock of movies and mushy foods and stay the heck away from straws.
posted by jessamyn at 6:22 AM on October 16, 2006

No egg drop soup. Seriously. It gets in your holes and smells something awful after a few days of not being able to flush your sockets.

Frozen peas make great icepacks, use an ace bandage to wrap around your face the first day/night, really helps with swelling.

Again, use a tea bag for bleeding.

Good luck!
posted by eleongonzales at 6:26 AM on October 16, 2006

I had two upper and one lower wisdom tooth out over the past month, in two seperate procedures. As you say, during the procedure itself you mostly feel pressure. Both uppers were a breeze. I had no swelling and very little pain. The lower tooth was a completely different story. I bled intermittently for a few hours afterwards (biting on gauze swabs helped). My face swelled up dramatically (regular application of an icepack helped, but there was no escaping that swelling) and I was in a lot of pain. The pain medication I was given (Vicadin) helped a great deal but severely impaired my ability to accomplish very much.

As the other poster mentions, cold foods are good (hot foods can stimulate bleeding) and rinsing with salty water is essential.

For the first couple of days at least, I'd plan to take things a bit easy. If you resign yourself to this, the whole process will be less of a challenge.
posted by lovehandles at 6:35 AM on October 16, 2006

I agree with somanyamys wrt the feeling cruddier part. I tried not to take any painkillers, so for the first couple of hours after extraction the pain, while not blinding or mindblowing, was really getting me down. The lingering numbness in my lips and cheek due to the local anaesthetic was a very disturbing feeling to me as well, though that vanished by midday. I just felt so crippled without the ability to consume normal foods in a normal manner.

Definitely try to keep the site of extraction as free from food particles as possible. My dentist gave me an antiseptic solution to gargle with and to use with the waterpik. I somehow still ended up with an infection in my lower left side, which was a pain in the ass because that meant the dentist had to give me local anaesthetic again, make incisions into the infection to let out the pus, and then put me through the liquid-foods-only regime for a week.
posted by nihraguk at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2006

I would recommend having a meal before the procedure (and remember to brush and floss immediately after the meal!) so you won't get hunger pains after having your wisdom teeth extracted. And I don't think you'll be in the mood to eat for a while.

I did not do this when I had my wisdom teeth pulled; also I only eat one meal a day on average. Boy was I miserable.

Also, if the dentist gives you gas to knock you out, you won't feel anything during the procedure, but once the anesthetic wears off your jaw may ache.

Rememeber to gargle with salt water regularly.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 7:00 AM on October 16, 2006

I would try to schedule the procedure on a Thursday or Friday so that you have the weekend to recover. I was caught in a catch-22 whereby if I took my painkillers I was to groggy to do much of anything, and if I tried to not take them, I was in enough pain that I could not focus on anything. The choice I made was vicoden.

Cleaning out the holes was the most important thing. Food easily gets stuck. The previous poster's advice to get one of those picky thingys or a water pik is dead on correct. If you have a sympathetic SO that helps too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2006

I had all four wisdom teeth out at 9am and even though my dentist had to put her foot up on the arm of the chair to get better leverage to pry those bastards out, I was happily eating a steak dinner at 6pm without much more than a little jaw soreness.

Like bcwinters, my wisdom teeth extraction went relatively painlessly. However, I would advise against eating anything solid, even if it doesn't hurt because as many posters have said, food can get stuck.

I second getting the procedure done just before the weekend, so that you can sleep it off if it is bad. Also seconding the buying food beforehand: I remember eating lots of bananas, yogourt, soup, and oatmeal.

Also, my dental surgeon recommended bringing a CD/mp3 player on the day of because it helps the patient relax.
posted by catburger at 7:30 AM on October 16, 2006

Oops, I meant eating anything solid on the same day and a few days after that. Your doctor will tell you about that though, I guess.
posted by catburger at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2006

I had a pretty bad experience with wisdom tooth extraction, although with no lingering after effects. I was poor and un-insured at the time so I went to Pitt's Dental School to be a guinea pig for a student to learn on. Three out of four of my wisdom teeth were so badly impacted crooked that about fifteen minutes in, the student panicked, gave up and ran away. The rest of the procedure was finished by the dean of the school who was the only one that the student could find in a hurry. It made such a sensation in the building that photographers showed up to take our picture for the school newsletter because no one had ever seen the dean actually do any dentistry.

The dean did as good a job as you could have with my mouth but they ended up having to take the teeth out in little pieces because they were in my mouth totally flat with the crown against the tooth in front and the roots going backwards.

When I was done, they handed me a script for percocet and sent me out the door. Fortunately, I had taken the bus and didn't drive because I was in no state to operate a vehicle at that point but I was so confused that I couldn't figure out how to get a bus back home so I ended up walking two miles back home, stopping at the drug store to get the script filled out. Mostly I lived off tea and percocets for the next week, I think that I lost five pounds before I could handle food again.

On the bright side, I've seldom had the TMJ problems since which I had before and my sinuses don't seem to get infected nearly as often as they did before. Also the rest of my teeth moved backwards a little and straitened out with the extra room.
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2006

The day before my extraction (3 wisdom teeth) I bought a new sudoko book and a collection of NYT crossword puzzles. Once I had slept off the anesthetic the books gave me something to do that was interesting but didn't require a long term committment. Also, if you have any dependents, kids or pets, get someone to care for them. I recuperated at my parents' house so they could occupy my kids unitl my dh got home.

One thing I learned from this experience is that if something feels wrong, trust yourself and make noise about it. About 2 days after my extraction, one of my sockets was inflamed and excruciating. I needed to haul myself back to the surgeon, who insisted it was healing fine and just packed some medicated gauze into it. About a month later my regular dentist noted that it wasn't healed and discovered a necrotic bone fragment in the wound. Nice. Anyway, the lesson is advocate for yourself if you think something is wrong.
posted by Biblio at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I'm home. The extraction itself went swimmingly, I was in and out of the chair in less than the span of one episode of "Divorce Court." (1/2 hour? I'd like to know if the husband or wife won, too, because the case was a doozy.) I should note that my teeth aren't impacted, they're coming out because of ongoing issues with my jaw which has caused bone problems and inability to open my jaw wide enough to brush which has started some cavity issues that are only going to get worse. So it's kinda sad because they're not unhealthy teeth per se, but there really isn't any other option but to sacrifice them to keep the rest of my mouth and my jaw healthy.

So I'm chomping on a teabag (with dentist approval, I asked about that and got an enthusiastic pro-teabag response) right now and I'm still numb but starting to feel a bit of the bone ache I expected. I've taken some preemptive Aleve in anticipation of worse to come but really it's much, much better than the extraction of the lower teeth I had a few years ago.

I have no particular plans, I learned that my daughter put dinner in the crock pot while I was out, so that's taken care of, I am well stocked with yogurt, pudding and creamy potato soup for sustenance, I have an iPod full of music and podcasts and I have Vicodin coming in case I need it.

I asked my dentist about a waterpik and he was adamantly opposed to any directed irrigation of that sort for at least one week. He's been doing this for a very long time, so I'm going to take his advice on that one.

So thank you all, and if anyone else has advice or stories to share, keep 'em coming, because who knows what contingencies may arise, and what experiences I (or someone else) may benefit from.
posted by Dreama at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2006

Well, you're able to write entirely coherently, so you must be in pretty good shape! Let us know later on if you've had to take a Vicodin, and do write a bit while on it for our amusement.

(Seriously though, best wishes for a painless recovery.)

When I had mine extracted, I was completely traumatized by the extraction itself, which was done with local anesthesia. While I didn't feel pain, the tugging and crunching and the sounds that went along with it made me feel as though my body was being assaulted.

I should note that I tend to be queasy with regard to blood, gore, etc., to the point that I once had to leave a first aid class to avoid passing out.

Afterward I felt not necessarily in pain, but quite depressed (again, the feeling I'd been assaulted).

So for anyone reading this who is a baby, like I am, about medical procedures, you may want to go for the general anesthesia, even though it costs an arm and a leg. As an alternative, I liked the doctor's suggestion of bringing music to listen to during the procedure. If I hadn't been able to hear the sounds, it might not have been as bad.

Dreama, I hope you continue to do well. Good for your daughter! All blessings to you and yours.
posted by lisaj32 at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2006

if the pain doesn't decrease at all after a few days, don't be stoic. call the doctor. i had dry socket and waited a week after my quadruple extration. it hurt like hell (the tea bags did nothing). the nurse yelled at me for not coming in sooner, packed the hole with foul tasting gauze, but it stopped hurting. i was on vicodin for the whole thing. it was great, though not great for work.

i was also a big fan of mashed potatoes and mushy peas. i ate a fair bit of tapioca pudding though, but the pearls got stuck in the holes. it was gross.
posted by kendrak at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2006

Sounds like you're doing fine, which is good to hear.

I have a friend who got two wisdom teeth out last year. Everything went fine with the teeth, no pain or anything, but due to the stress and the dentist's hands etc in there she ended up with mouth ulcers (um, canker sores?). It's not a big deal, they heal in a few days, but they're painful, caused her to take time off work and she could hardly talk (they were inside her lips). The thing I found weird is her dentist just brushed it off and said 'they'll heal', rather than mentioning that the local pharmacist sells several types of teething gel that works great on mouth ulcers. It numbs the area while killing the bacteria. She would have been able to come straight back to work if she'd bought some straight away.

So I figured I'd throw it in there as "things my dentist may not tell me", although yours sounds great. The salt water wash will help any grazed or sore areas from all the equipment heal quickly (I assume you were recommended a lukewarm salt water wash? it seems pretty standard), but if you do get ulcers get some Bonjella or Orased gel. It really helps.
posted by shelleycat at 2:12 PM on October 16, 2006

a little mj and a rented DVD of ren and stimpy episodes that contains this classic episode
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:16 PM on October 16, 2006

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