Every year in the U.S., teens and adults have their wisdom teeth removed, sometimes as a result of problems the teeth are causing and sometimes in an effort to prevent those problems from developing. These third molars tend to erupt later in life — much later than other teeth — and that delay often means there’s not enough room to accommodate them. As a result, these teeth often come in crooked or at an angle, crowding your other teeth. Worse, sometimes they get “stuck” under neighboring molars and can’t erupt at all, or they may protrude through the side of your jaw, far out of alignment with your other teeth.

While you can certainly wait and see if your wisdom teeth come in straight or not, many people have wisdom teeth removed early, before they have a chance to cause pain and crowding. No matter when you have your wisdom teeth removed, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to have some discomfort afterward. The good news: There are some fairly simple steps you can take to reduce discomfort and promote optimal healing so you can recover more quickly. If you’re having your wisdom teeth removed at Sunrise Dental of Spokane, here are six important tips to keep in mind.

1. Stock up on the right foods and beverages before your procedure

Liquids are typically recommended for the first 24 hours after your wisdom tooth removal. Smoothies are a good option, and so is juice. It’s important to drink regularly to prevent dehydration and to promote healing. Two things to remember: Avoid drinking hot beverages during the first week or so after your procedure, and do not use a drinking straw. Sure, a straw might seem like a logical choice, especially if you’re spending a lot of time reclining. But the suction created by a straw can dislodge the clot that forms inside the tooth socket, resulting in a painful “side effect” called dry socket.

2. Keep some pillows on hand

After your procedure, your body will direct a lot of its energy toward the healing process. Taking it easy means your body can naturally focus on healing and recovery, plus the anesthesia and pain medications might make you feel sleepy. When resting, keep your head elevated with soft pillows to reduce swelling and discomfort. Avoid strenuous exercise for a few days after your procedure, and plan on spending at least one or two days to nap and relax.

3. Don’t touch the incision sites

While it’s important to rinse the area very gently with warm salt water to help reduce swelling, you shouldn’t brush or probe the area, and you shouldn’t rinse vigorously. Just a very gentle swishing will help keep inflammation to a minimum while preventing food and debris from collecting around the area too. Do not brush the area until your dentist says it’s okay.

4. Keep your mouth moving

After your procedure, your jaws will probably feel stiff. That’s normal. But to prevent long-term soreness, you should gently open your mouth from time to time, not only to help reduce stiffness, but also to improve circulation that can aid in healing.

5. Have lots of ice on hand

Applying an ice pack to your cheek is a great way to help minimize discomfort while also reducing swelling and bruising. Never apply ice directly to your skin; instead, use an ice pack or wrap a bag of frozen peas in a cloth and apply it to your cheek. Keep the ice in place for 20-minute intervals — 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.

6. Use your pain meds as directed

Speaking of feeling comfortable, you’ll be given a prescription for pain medication after your procedure. Be sure to take the medication as directed. Some pain medications can be addictive, so it’s very important to follow the dosing directions on the bottle. You can also use over-the-counter pain medicines to reduce pain if you prefer.

At Sunrise Dental of Spokane, we want all our patients to enjoy optimal oral health at every age. Our team is trained in state-of-the-art techniques to help ensure your wisdom tooth extraction is as stress-free as possible. To learn more about wisdom tooth extraction and how it can improve your oral health, call us to schedule an appointment.