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The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Wisdom Teeth Surgery

Wisdom tooth extraction is an experience that most young adults go through. Wisdom teeth seldom behave like other teeth. They rarely come in when they’re supposed to or where they’re supposed to. Their abnormal behavior puts teens and young adults at risk for tooth decay, infection and other complications. Because the removal of wisdom teeth is a safer procedure before complications develop, they are routinely removed before problems like infection arise.

If your dentist recommends that you have your wisdom teeth removed it’s wise to get a second opinion from an oral surgeon. Be sure you’re surgeon is board certified in both Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery as well as Dental Anesthesia if sedation will be used. Your dentist can refer you to a good surgeon. They will usually need to see a panoramic X-ray of your teeth. Your oral surgeon will give you specific instructions for the day of your surgery as well as the next week or two following, but there are several additional things you can do prior to that to help make your experience as healthy and uncomplicated as possible.

Make sure you are well informed before your surgery date. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. A good surgeon welcomes them. If it makes you nervous to talk about the surgery, appoint a parent or responsible adult to get the information for you. Don’t be embarrassed! The surgeon and his staff are used to nervous people and should help you feel more comfortable.

Be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Have my wisdom teeth already caused damage to other teeth?
  • How many wisdom teeth need to be removed? (Not everybody has 4)
  • What type of anesthesia will I receive? Will I need an IV?
  • Is my case routine or do you expect any complications?
  • How long will the procedure usually last?
  • Is there a risk that I might have nerve damage or require an other procedure?
  • How long does it take to completely heal and return to normal activity?
  • Can I continue my usual medications and supplements prior to surgery? Make sure your surgeon is aware of any supplements, over the counter drugs or prescription medications that you are taking. There are some supplements and medications that should be avoided prior to surgery. For example: it is recommended that ibuprofen and other NSAID’s are avoided for at least a week prior to surgery.
  • If you are very nervous, ask the surgeon if he or she recommends a medication to calm your nerves before surgery. Never assume its OK to take an over the counter or prescription treatment unless your surgeon is aware.
  • Make sure that your surgeon is aware of all of your medical conditions.

What you can do in the weeks leading up to the procedure to prepare your body to heal quickly:

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Swish water around in your mouth for several seconds after every meal and snack to keep your mouth very clean.
  • If you need any fillings or are due for dental cleaning, get it done prior to your procedure. (Opening your mouth wide at the dentist may be uncomfortable for a few weeks after your surgery)
  • Exercise daily to make your tissues healthier and stronger.
  • Get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.
  • Avoid all forms of smoking, alcohol, street drugs including marijuana for at least 2 weeks prior and 2 weeks after surgery (and hopefully forever). Marijuana or CBD will not help with pain, anxiety, or sleep.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and protein.

Pre- and post-op diet for quick healing:

Eat a moderate portion of protein at most meals: Fish, seafood, meat, tofu or soy products, beans, dairy products, eggs and nuts.

Eat at least 5 servings of Vitamin A and C foods daily: Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus fruits, melons, berries, carrots.

Eat at least 3 servings of Vitamin E and zinc containing foods daily: Nuts and peanuts, seeds, eggs, seafood, meat, fortified whole grain cereals.

Drink enough water to keep your urine light colored.

If you drink caffeine, cut back on your usual intake at least a week before surgery. Caffeine makes numbing medicine wear off faster.You are also going to be fasting the morning or the procedure if sedation is used, and you don’t need a caffeine withdrawal headache.

Avoid sugary foods, processed starches, white breads and pastas, sweet drinks, especially soda and alcohol. 

Be prepared:

  • You will need to avoid eating for at least 6 hours before the procedure if anesthesia is used.
  • Someone will need to drive you to the appointment, stay with you, and drive you home.
  • You will not be able to drive, work or go to school until at least 24 hours after surgery.
  • Plan to rest the day of surgery and if possible the next day.
  • Most surgeons recommend avoiding vigorous physical activity for a week or so after surgery. That means don’t schedule the surgery the week before an important tournament, meet or competition. You won’t be ready to participate.
  • Wear loose fitting short sleeved clothing to the procedure. A T-shirt, sweatpants and athletic shoes are ideal. Avoid slides, heels and flip flops. Bring a loose jacket or sweatshirt in case you get cold. 
  • Avoid makeup the day of surgery. Do not wear lipstick or nail polish.

If you become sick before your procedure, inform your surgeon’s office as soon as possible. You will want to reschedule the procedure if you have an infection.

Shopping list:

  • Be sure to stock up on your favorite soft foods for after the surgery: Apple sauce, yogurt, smoothies, soft pasta dishes, mashed potatoes, bananas, avocados, hummus, (sorry, no chips for a couple weeks!) refried beans, and blended soups,  Avoid hard, sticky, chewy or spicy foods for a few days. Avoid sucking on straws after surgery. Sip or use a spoon to eat your smoothies! Avoid foods like popsicles or ice cream cones that require sucking or licking. You will not be able to open wide and bite into foods for several days.
  • Have a couple bags of frozen peas or ice packs in your freezer to ice your jaw after the surgery to decrease swelling.
  • Buy some ibuprofen and/or tylenol to control  pain after the surgery. Opioids are not routinely prescribed and are almost never needed. They also cause nausea for many people. You will need to start taking ibuprofen before the numbing medicine wears off in the first couple hours after surgery. Always try to have some food in your stomach when you take ibuprofen to prevent stomach upset. If you have a lot of pain, ask your surgeon if clove oil might help.
  • Make sure you have a box of table salt on hand. Most surgeons recommend that you rinse your mouth with salt water starting a day or more after the surgery.
  • Get some Vaseline or Aquaphor. Your lips are likely to be dry after the procedure. Apply a small amount  prior to the procedure and afterward as needed.

After the procedure, be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions exactly. Be sure you have access to written instructions since you may not remember talking to the surgeon if you had anesthesia.

You’ll probably want to nap after the procedure. Sleeping with your head elevated will decrease the swelling more than any other thing. Try napping in a recliner. When you sleep at night, sleep on 2 or 3 pillows or elevate the head of your bed. (Place 2 pillows under your head and one under your chest to form a ramp so your neck is comfortable.)

Ice packs wrapped in a wash cloth applied to the jaw area during the first 24 hours also help with swelling. Only ice an area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

In recent years posting of videos of people under the influence of drugs used for sedation during wisdom teeth surgery have been commonplace. I don’t recommend this–you’ll regret it later.

While sedation is not always necessary for the procedure it is safe for most people and makes the procedure more comfortable. The procedure usually takes 30 to 60minutes, but will seem like only a few seconds if you are sedated. You will be disoriented for a few minutes afterward and have very few memories of the event. This is normal.

Diet after surgery:

It is important to continue eating healthy foods while you recover, however, you will need to eat only soft foods for a few days after the procedure. Skip crunchy, spicy, hard, and sticky foods after surgery. Healthy foods like nuts and seeds can get stuck in your gums and need to be avoided until you heal. It is more important for you to eat regular meals and drink plenty of water during your recovery than to worry about the quality of the food you eat, but I’ve included some recipes for soft nutritious foods below. It’s important to stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water starting an hour or two after the surgery and throughout the day. Water is the best thing to drink, but if sports drinks, fruit juice or milk tempt you more then drink them. You’ll need the fluids and the calories after surgery.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

A good source of protein, Vitamin E, Calcium and zinc

Blend together:

1 cup of milk or soy milk (plain or vanilla)

2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 banana, sliced and frozen at least 30 minutes

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Add a small amount of honey, sugar or stevia if needed.

Sip from a cup or eat with a spoon. Sipping from a straw can delay the healing of your gums.

Confetti Mac and Cheese Variations

A good source of protein, vitamin A and C.

Prepare home-made or boxed mac and cheese as usual, but add 1-2 cups of grated or very finely minced carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spinach or your favorite vegetables to the pasta water as it boils. Boil the pasta and vegetables a minute or 2 longer than usual to make them very soft. The character shaped pasta gets softer than elbow shaped pasta or whole grain pasta.

The first few days after surgery you will want to chew slowly using the teeth in the front of your mouth. Avoid very hot foods the first 5 days after surgery. Let the pasta cool longer than usual before eating.

Creamy Smooth Potato Soup and Variations

A good source of Vitamins A and C, and protein if you add cheese. Turmeric is a spice with anti inflammatory properties that can help with inflammation. 

1 ½ pounds of chopped peeled potatoes

1 cup grated or chopped carrot, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash or kale.

1 medium onion diced

1 clove garlic

2 ½ cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup cheddar  or parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Bring potatoes, vegetables, onion, garlic, broth and seasonings to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 20 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Remove from heat and carefully blend with an immersion blender. Stir in cheese if desired. This can be made the day before and warmed up a bowl at a time. Avoid eating very hot foods the first 5 days after the procedure. Let the soup cool a little longer than you normally would.

Agua Fresca (fruit water)

A great way to stay hydrated without added sugar.

Add chopped strawberries, sliced citrus fruit, pineapple or other fruit to a pitcher of water and keep in the refrigerator up to 1 day. Sip throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Strawberry Banana Dreamsicle Smoothie

A good source of Vitamins C and A and protein. Add a ½ tsp turmeric to the smoothie for added antiinflammatory benefits if desired.

 1 small banana

½ cup orange juice

½ cup vanilla or strawberry yogurt

½ cup frozen strawberries

½ cup almond or soy milk or additional orange juice if preferred

Blend all ingredients. Sip from a cup or eat with a spoon. Sipping from a straw can delay the healing of your gums.

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