OK so this is a bit of an unconventional post, compared to my last couple of posts. But, after being through one of the most…well, traumatizing yet necessary procedures that most of us are bound to go through, I thought it would be essential to map out some key things that you can do to prepare yourself when you’re given the awful news that one (or four) of those bad guys will need to be yanked out of your mouth!
If you’re like me and underestimated the recovery time of this procedure, then hopefully, this article will help you understand and be aware of what to expect following a wisdom tooth procedure. I’d like to think that mine was a worst-case scenario situation and of course, people will respond differently and recover quicker (or slower), so please read this only as a guide.
I decided to pen down my experiences because I honestly went into the process as a very naive and super optimistic individual (as you would like to be!), but wasn’t ~at all~ prepared for what waited for me post-op. For my procedure, I was told I had an infected wisdom tooth and had the option of getting just the one out or all 4 out. Stupidly (or bravely?) enough, I decided to have them all out in one go because:
- I have a severe phobia / fear of dentists and will involuntarily cry the moment I’m on the chair
- I have had several traumatic experiences at the dentists’ (with a few good experiences that I’ll give credit to), so I would like to have minimal exposure to them unless it’s for a follow up / check up to see that everything is looking pearly
- I have heard how extreme a wisdom tooth procedure can be, so I preferred to have it all out in one go, rather than re-live the same experience more than once
While I’m really glad it’s all done and over it (and I’m on the mend, in terms of recovery), I will say that the procedure took out about 3 weeks of my life that basically involved me sleeping, being hooked to painkillers, failing to avoid an infection, which led to a second surgery, and tolerating a liquid diet (and crying through the pain of a locked jaw, among other things).
So, while this is obviously not something written by an expert in the medical field, I thought I’d share my personal experience of how the procedure(s) panned out and what you can do to get a decent recovery. For the record, I opted to have the procedure done in the chair (as opposed to a hospital) as I don’t have hospital cover. I did pay an additional amount to be put to sleep (anesthetic services) and despite the hefty cost, I wouldn’t have had it any other way, simply because I got too squirmy in the chair for a check-up alone:
- GET PRIVATE HEALTH COVER
Yes, it’s expensive and it can take out a massive chunk out of your savings, but it comes in handy SO MUCH, especially when there is an unbearable level of pain involved that requires almost-immediate surgery. I cannot stress this point enough, because I was lucky to take out the cover with the guys who I was with last year and they were able to waive the waiting period. I took out private health cover on the day of my check-up (because I’m awesome at adulting like that 🙂 ) and had my surgery 3 weeks later. While I was lucky enough to get 1/2 of my money back, it may not be the same case for you, given the waiting periods, the costs of the health cover, and the severity / urgency of the operation. Get yourself the hospital cover, because I didn’t and wish I did, because I feel like I could’ve been able to avoid the second surgery.
If you don’t have private health cover, I’d suggest looking into it ASAP.
- GET A FRIEND (OR FEW) TO ACCOMPANY YOU HOME AFTER
Almost all the time after you’ve had a wisdom tooth / teeth procedure (and if you’re not in the hospital), you will be well out of it, won’t be able to talk, will have your mouth stuffed with gauze, and will be in pain to some extent. I asked one of my good friends to accompany me home and had to organize it 3 weeks in advance. Have some back-up, in case the designated friend cannot make it for whatever reason, because you’ll be stressed enough by the procedure and shouldn’t have to worry about a safe way back home. Bonus if they can drive you / catch a cab with you, but I wouldn’t recommend getting on public transport in the state that you’ll be in.
- STOCK UP THE PANTRY AND FRIDGE
The first day or two may not allow you to have much, depending on the severity of the swelling and the pain. I didn’t realize how much water I wasn’t having, but that was primarily because of the swelling being on both sides of my mouth. Taking the antibiotics and painkillers was an absolute effort. But it’s so important to stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up, so even if it’s difficult, try it in little portions and power through it. I am blessed to have friends who have been through this and know what to get, because I was so clueless!Also, needless to say, avoid anything that’s crunchy, hard, or something that requires chewing, because your mouth muscles will be too weak to function. Straws are also not recommended for the same reason.Here are some of the foods that my amazing friends and boyfriend brought for me, while I was being a sook in bed :’)
- Hearty chicken + creamed corn soup – made by one of my friends and tasted DIVINE, but had to wait a couple of days before I could stomach it, because of the antibiotics
- Yoghurts – the one by Paul’s or Milo are pretty good
- Ice cream with your choice of topping – always a winner, but definitely wait a couple of days, as your teeth might be super sensitive to the temperature of the ice cream
- Packets of mac and cheese – this required little to no chewing, and surprisingly super filling!
- Chocolate mousse
- Gatorade – super important for keeping you hydrated
- Lemon-ginger tea + camomile tea – these teas not only helped with providing a sense of sustenance, but also helped me sleep and stay calm during the more trying times of the recovery stage
- STOCK UP THE MEDICAL CABINET
It’s always a good idea to top up the first-aid kit and now is a prime time. We got:
- Saline solution (you can get 1-use packets or tubes from the pharmacy for ~ $1 – $2). Alternatively, mix lukewarm water and 1 tsp of salt and gargle mouth gently after 24 hours post-op
- Medical gauze (you might get some from the dentist themselves) for excessive bleeding
- Heat packs and ice packs (I preferred the ice packs as they helped me sleep better, in addition to soothing the pain)
- Mouthwash (ask your dentist for recommendations, but I used the Difflam one and it worked fine for me)
- Antibiotics and painkillers that are prescribed by the doctors
- Nurofen / ibuprofen – it will slow down the healing process, but it will help greatly with the swelling!
Obviously consult with your dentist, regarding the dosage and the medical stuff!
- DON’T TALK UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO
As a very talkative person, I really struggled to maintain the no-talking. Not only can it aggravate the swelling (not to mention the pain), but it will slow down your healing process. I used a notepad and a pen to relay any thoughts – good or bad – to my boyfriend or friend. Sign language may not be ideal, when your whole body hurts and you’re confined to a couch in pain, but it does help!
- ANTI-BIOTICS – DO NOT SKIP (!!!)
So I’m not sure if it was the abrupt stoppage of antibiotics that caused the abscess development post-op 1, but the antibiotics that I was prescribed made me nauseous to the point that I couldn’t stomach anything for more than a couple of minutes. After consulting with my dentist, I was recommended to stop the antibiotics, but what I failed to ask for was an alternative. After my second surgery, I had timers set, to remind me to take them religiously as I didn’t want to have to go for operation 3 and so far, so good!
- EASE OFF FROM WORK
So, another mistake I made was committing to work merely 4 days post-op 1. Yup, it was a dumb idea, but I thought I’d be OK enough to return to work. It was definitely a dumb idea, because even though it was my first (2) days at my new job and everyone was super supportive, I think it may have agitated the infection further, which required an immediate surgery the day after, to take care of the abscess. If you’re not feeling up to it, don’t work. It’s not worth the discomfort, the swelling, the pain (and the inability to have painkillers because you’re on the job). I would highly recommend giving yourself a good 7-10 days to recover, before even thinking of going back to work. Let the swelling go down to the point where it is barely visible. Take the antibiotics. Keep your hydration up. Wean off of the painkillers if you can and see if you are able to fare well without them. Go to your follow-up appointment with the dentist and get an all-clear (or a sick certificate). Then (and only then!) call work and let them know that you’ve recovered enough to return back. I work 2 jobs on a casual basis and all I could think of was making the money I spent on the first surgery back, which only resulted in an infection, a second surgery, and nearly $2000 spent in 2 weeks. Would not recommend (for your health or your bank)!
- AVOID THE ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH
If you use an electric toothbrush, then I’d highly recommend switching to a non-electrical toothbrush, because the vibrations from the electric toothbrush agitated my teeth, which were super sensitive for a good 3 weeks post-op 1 + 2. Not only that, but if you’ve had all 4 teeth yanked out at once, you may experience difficulty with opening your mouth too far, and if you have an electric toothbrush like mine, it was less than ideal to get the bristles in the mouth. Also, switching to the Sensodyne (or any tooth-sensitive) toothpaste helped immensely with the teeth sensitivity.
- GET NETFLIX (OR CABLE)
Whether you’ve had one, two, or four of your teeth out, you’re going to need some down time. You won’t want to move much. You won’t want to talk much. So why not make the most of it and binge-watch your favourite TV shows? Even if you’re not conscious enough to make it through one episode, it helps to have something playing in the background to distract yourself (even if only temporarily) from the pain / discomfort you experience. I made it through Bojack Horseman, The Blacklist, and Vikings during my recovery stage, which I’m quite proud of (I needed 3 weeks of recovery time from having 2 surgeries)! 🙂
- HAVE A BATH
Having a bath is the single most relaxing thing you can do, in times like these! Obviously biased, but any bath bomb from Lush will instantly bring you a sense of happiness and joy – I’d personally recommend the Intergalactic bath bomb, because the bath art formed from it is sparkly and oh so beautiful! If your body is aching, you might even find it useful to add a bit of Radox into the bath to soothe them!
- GET THAT SUNSHINE FLOWING IN
There’s nothing like a bit of natural (sun)light and home plants to give you a sense of freshness and calm. Open the windows, roll the blinds up, get your friend / partner / family to water the plants and the atmosphere in the space that you’re recovering in will feel a lot more inviting, welcoming, and even a bit relaxing!
- EMBRACE THE SWELLING
I have been super self-conscious about how my face looked, particularly during the first week! I couldn’t bring myself to look in the mirror and every glimpse I got, I felt like I looked like a monster. Of course, that’s me being overly dramatic, but do prepare yourself for the swelling, because it may not look pretty, but you need to remind yourself that it is temporary. After both my surgeries, I have a swelling on the side of my mouth where my infected tooth was (and where the infection post-op 1 developed). It is barely noticeable now, 1 week post-op 2, but it is something that you will notice and probably even fixate on, while your friends and family won’t notice it unless you point it out. Even so, try to embrace it and remember – it’ll be gone before you know it! 🙂
Again, this is just a guide – you will be given a sheet with all the instructions for post-op care by your dentist. So, make sure your friend / partner / family member reads it thoroughly and follows the instructions towards a successful recovery. In most instances, they also provide you with your dentist’s after-hours number, so don’t hesitate to call them, if you need to! Take the time to heal and recover – it is not a 1 or 2 day recovery, especially if all 4 teeth are taken out! And most importantly, remember that it is a temporary feeling of pain and discomfort that will pass in due time.
Have you had your wisdom teeth out? What was the experience like? Have you found anything that helped with your recovery? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.