Traveling after wisdom tooth extraction
May 1, 2007 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Can I travel a week after getting my wisdom teeth out?

I'm getting all my wisdom teeth out in mid-May - they're all impacted. I have read all the super-helpful answers to others' wisdom teeth questions, but I'm wondering how long it took other people in my situation to heal. I'm 29, if that makes a big difference.

Specifically, I'm wondering if I'll be well enough to travel 7-10 days after getting yanked. The trip would either be to Mexico, where I would sit on the beach with five of my friends or to NYC, which is a short bus/train trip away and where I would be staying with friends. I'd mostly be hanging out with friends and family. If I don't go at this time, I won't be able to take either trip for another year or so.

So neither trip would be super-strenuous, but one would involve air travel. I did ask my oral surgeon, and she said it "should" be ok, but would depend on my individual situation.

I know none of you have crystal balls (if only!) but based on your own experience of having four wisdom teeth pulled, would you have been able to travel to Mexico or NYC 7-10 days afterwards?

Also, right after this hypothetical trip, I will graduate from grad school and then start a very strenuous, 12-hour-a-day job. So there's not a lot of room for error!
posted by lunasol to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I presume that health care in New York is probably more expensive than health care in Mexico, but if there's a greater risk of bleeding from pressure changes in the plane (I have no idea about this, so I'd ask your oral surgeon) or from drinking too much alcohol or something, I'd stick to New York.

Congrats on graduating!
posted by mdonley at 5:22 PM on May 1, 2007

thanks - and as far as health care being more expensive in NYC - well, I have great insurance, and I'd rather not go to a dentist in a tiny Mexican beach town...
posted by lunasol at 5:26 PM on May 1, 2007

If your oral surgeon thinks air travel should be okay, I wouldn't be worried about it. What might occur, though, is that there might be complications after the fact. My boyfriend had his wisdom teeth out and then went to the South Pole (yes, that South Pole) and once he was there, was informed that the reason he was still having mouth pain was that there were still chunks of tooth or something in there and they hadn't been fully removed. As you can imagine, facilities were not as sophisticated in Antarctica as they are in the Bay Area. He was bummed - although he got some nice painkillers out of the deal.

No matter where you go, you'll want to know you can get to a good dentist just in case. That sounds like a vote for NY, since you're leery of Mexican beach town dentists.
posted by crinklebat at 5:35 PM on May 1, 2007

I was in the exact same boat as you a few years ago. The only possible time I could get my wisdom teeth yanked out was only a few days before I was flying across the country to Ottawa. My oral surgeon played it on the safe side and he only removed by bottom wisdom teeth. I had the upper ones removed months later after I had come home. He did not want to risk the rare but possible complications.

The one issue with flying is that upon removing your upper wisdom teeth, there is a small possibility of a hole in your sinus. Flying at high altitudes would cause agonizing pain and there's always the possibility of infection.

Everyone responds differently to surgery. The fact that your four teeth are impacted (like mine were) means you should expect some bleeding at first followed by a lot of pain.

Get a few percocet and you'll be fine. Mexico might even expediate the healing process.

Personally, I loved every minute of my wisdom teeth experience. The surgery was IV Sedation and I pretty much just got to chill out all drugged out on Demerol and Valium while attractive nurses operated on my mouth. I would even fake a cringe here and there so they could pump up the drugs. Good times.
posted by ageispolis at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2007

Yeah, I've flown with sinus problems before. Ouch. I wouldn't risk the top teeth if you're going that route.
posted by panic at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2007

I flew the day after I got my wisdom teeth out and it hurt like hell and my stitches started bleeding when we reached cruising altitude. After a couple of pain pills I was fine.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:13 PM on May 1, 2007

29 yo here who got all my wisdom teeth out a few months ago. I healed more quickly than I expected, and was really only miserable that day and the next. As far as I know dry socket is really only a problem in the first few days. Give yourself lots of rest and try your darndest to heal that first week. You'll be fine. IANAD, etc., but I recommend Jamba Juice (or equivalent) as frequently as possible.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:25 PM on May 1, 2007

I know this sounds made up, but I swear it's true: I had 11 wisdom teeth pulled at once. 3 in 3 corners and 2 in 1 corner. And, crazy though I know it sounds, I was well enough that I mowed the yard that afternoon.

That said, that hardly seems like the usual experience.
posted by soonertbone at 6:46 PM on May 1, 2007

My concern would definitely be with the air travel / sinus thing mentioned above, and I'm in no way qualified to answer that - I'd trust your surgeon on that one.

But for general feelings about how long it took to recover - I had all four of my teeth out over the summer, and definitely felt well enough to travel within a week or so afterwards. Only the first day and a half were really miserable. For the next couple of days I was still a little sore, but nothing that would have made travel difficult, except that it might have been tricky to find things soft enough to eat while on the road. By a week afterwards, I felt just fine. Mine weren't impacted, so that may affect the recovery time equation.

I think that a week afterwards I was still trying to be careful about what I ate, so that might be one other consideration - maybe it would be easier to get soft-ish foods staying with friends than in a hotel.
posted by Stacey at 6:49 PM on May 1, 2007

You should be fine if your cavities are stitched closed and don't require rinsing. Get the surgeon to prescribe some oral steroids too. That's a huge help. I, like soonertbone, never felt a hitch in my day to day activities. Even my diet was minimally affected.
posted by hindmost at 7:37 PM on May 1, 2007

I had my wisdom teeth out when I was 19, got the dreaded dry socket in one hole, and was back at work at my crummy fast food job within 4 days. I only wish I would have had the option for a vacation afterwards.

I was mocked relentlessly for my chipmunk cheeks, so beware asshole friends. :)
posted by chiababe at 8:16 PM on May 1, 2007

At 7-10 days after having mine pulled, my biggest concern was definitely the availability of mushy food. I'd bet that if you get that squared away ahead of time, and barring any big complications before you travel, you'll be golden.
posted by clavicle at 8:24 PM on May 1, 2007

I flew from Detroit to Germany within 7 days of having my wisdom teeth taken out (yikes, 15 years ago) without any problems.
posted by echo0720 at 8:53 PM on May 1, 2007

I had mine out last year (all impacted) with no complications, and was perfectly fine the day after. You should feel fine a week after, and the swelling should be mostly gone.

If I were you, I'd book the trip with cancellation insurance just in case you don't feel up to it. And make sure you have good enough health insurance to get you good care in Mexico if you need it.

After hearing everyone's horror stories, getting my wisdom teeth out was almost pleasant, I had the IV sedation and never even needed the extra strong painkillers they gave me.
posted by piper4 at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2007

You'll be doped up on painkillers for the first few days---as long as you don't plan to do any driving, I think you'll be ok.
posted by brujita at 8:58 PM on May 1, 2007

It definately depends. I had my wisdom teeth out in two sessions about two months apart. The first round went well, they came out easily, and I had no problem healing within a few days.

The second set, on the other side, were a nightmare. That time I had a dentist just out of school, and the teeth broke apart as he took them out. The procedure took much longer than the first time, and was more painful. Then I developed dry socket within about 3-4 days. It was excruciating. Of course, my regular dentist was on vacation; but, once my emergency dentist packed it with clove-soaked gauze, it stopped hurting and healed well.

Bottom line: even in the same mouth, there are no guarantees. You will probably be fine, but have a back-up plan just in case.
posted by rintj at 9:07 PM on May 1, 2007

I had mine out a few years ago and was in bed four or five days, pretty doped up and out of it. I definitely wouldn't have been able to travel a week after, but it's such a variable thing. Obviously by the responses many would be able to travel, though. I don't think you can really predict just how you'll react but I'd plan on doing the trip, unless money's really too tight that you can't afford to potentially not go.
posted by 6550 at 9:45 PM on May 1, 2007

I have sinus issues regardless of wisdom teeth. Once, the pressure didn't equalize in my ears for three days after I landed. That hurt far more than any wisdom tooth pain.

The NYC trip should be effortless in any event. Even my SO who had an incredibly awful time with her wisdom teeth (opiate based painkillers have little effect on her, and one of her sockets required a stitch) was fine in a week.

The only reason you wouldn't be fine in a week is if you get dry socket, so don't smoke, spit or drink carbonated beverages for a few days. Don't rinse the sockets too hard to avoid dislodging the clot. Unless you have a bad time of it, you should be able to (carefully!) eat solid food within a day or two. My oral surgeon suggested Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches (really!), but warned me to stay away from dairy and dairy-like things for the first few days, such as the yellow shit that passes for cheese in some places.

After a few days, you should have a first layer of skin sealing up the bottom of the hole unless you have the aforementioned dry socket problem.

If my impacted and oddly angled teeth with extra long roots could be done so easily, yours can too, just be sure and get a good oral surgeon, unless there's no issues at all with the roots being near nerve or the sinus cavity. I ended up having to pay $350 for two teeth instead of the $150 or so it would have cost to have the dentist to do it. Insurance is so nice. ;)

I'm a couple of years younger than you, so you probably have even longer roots than I did, so I strongly recommend an oral surgeon if you want to heal quickly, again, unless your dentist can reassure you that your roots are not near nerve in your jaw or your sinus cavity. And unlike my SO, take the steroids. Part of her mouth was partly numb for a couple of months because one of her teeth was so close to a nerve, and she refused to use the treatment the oral surgeon prescribed because she was "scared of steroids." (her words)

In short, don't worry about it, but if you choose the plane trip, be sure to take out cancellation insurance, as it is different for everybody, and some people do end up having a bad time of it, even though most don't.
posted by wierdo at 9:49 PM on May 1, 2007

Had mine out a week ago... all 4. Feeling fine. Rest up. Keep painkillers with you... No problem.
posted by tomw at 2:06 AM on May 2, 2007

Thanks for all the advice! It sounds like what I should do is plan to go to NYC, since that's pretty easy to cancel - and if I have problems, I can go to a friend/family member's dentist and/or just head home.

I'll also make sure I get some steroids. Luckily I'll be able to take it really easy the week after the surgery, so that should help.
posted by lunasol at 4:37 AM on May 2, 2007

No problem, had my wisdom teeth out and was on a plane 4 days later for 12 hours.
Rest up, take the painkillers and within a couple of days you'll be ok to travel.
posted by arcticseal at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2007

I had my top two wisdom teeth out the day after Thanksgiving, and was totally bummed that I would miss out on all the wonderful leftovers. After hearing everyone's experiences, I figured the leftovers would be long gone by the time I healed.

My surgery was at 9am, and I was eating turkey at 10 pm. Maybe I should've given it more time, what with the risk of food particles getting in there, but it was Thanksgiving. And I felt totally 100% fine. I didn't even need any painkillers, and yes they were impacted and slightly into the jaw. My pain-tolerance isn't superhuman, so maybe I just had an awesome doctor in addition to being lucky.

Even with that said, I would go to New York if I were you. If you were to develop any complications, they would most likely show up within 3 days after the procedure, but you have to make the arrangements sooner than that. And health care is a lot better in New York, should you need it.
posted by Iamtherealme at 2:19 PM on May 19, 2007

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