Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Surgery: What To Expect

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

It’s been a few days since your wisdom teeth were removed, and the swelling in your mouth still hasn’t gone down. You’re starting to get worried. So, is it normal to experience swelling for so long, or are you having complications?

Swelling after wisdom teeth extraction is normal. Typically, it will start to subside within three or four days after the surgery, but it may continue to day five in some cases. Use ice packs to reduce the swelling and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed by the doctor.

So, if it’s only been a few days, there’s probably no need to go back to your doctor. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about swelling after wisdom teeth surgery, including the recovery period and at what point seeing a doctor is necessary.

Is Swelling Normal After Wisdom Teeth Surgery?

Close-up process is removal of forceps by dentist

When a doctor pokes needles in your gum and extracts a tooth, it’s only fair to expect a little swelling. This is your body indicating to you that it’s healing itself. The gums, cheeks, and the surrounding area will swell, which is normal.

The amount of swelling will vary from person to person, depending on the complexity of the surgery, but it is rarely severe. It usually becomes visible the day after the surgery and peaks on the third or fourth day.

Swelling and jaw stiffness will persist several days after the extraction, and this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Aside from swelling, there are other complications that can occur and also are nothing to worry about. These include:

  • You may see a rise in body temperature immediately after the surgery.
  • There may be mild pain around the affected area for a few days.
  • You may experience slight oozing of blood from the extraction site.
  • A sore throat is also common. The muscles swell, which makes swallowing food painful. This should last between two to three days.
  • Your lips, cheeks, and tongue may also become numb or swollen. This is normal, as it’s a side effect of the anesthetics used during the procedure.

What’s the Best Way to Keep Swelling Down?

The best way to reduce swelling after wisdom teeth surgery is to apply ice packs on the affected area. Use an ice pack for 15-20 minutes every two hours for the first 24-48 hours after the surgery. This will reduce swelling and any discomfort caused by it.

Since that’s a lot of ice pack use, we recommend using a convenient ice pack wrap like this one (on Amazon).

Here are other home care remedies you can follow to keep swelling down:

  • Keep your head elevated while sleeping. Use a few pillows or an adjustable bed.
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen (on Amazon), naproxen, or another medication prescribed by your doctor. Don’r skip any dose, even if your symptoms start improving.
  • Eat soft foods like yogurt, smoothies, and mashed potatoes to reduce the work of your jaw muscles. Avoid anything that requires strenuous biting or a lot of chewing.
  • Don’t consume alcohol or carbonated drinks during the recovery period.
  • You can also do some light facial exercises like opening and closing your mouth. This helps increase blood flow in the area and reduce the stiffness of the jaw muscles.

How Long Does Swelling Usually Last?

Man with extracted wisdom tooth. Man after wisdom teeth removal surgery

Swelling after wisdom teeth removal usually lasts for three to four days. It should subside by the fifth day, and you’ll start feeling better with each passing day after that. It’s important to remember that everyone is different, and the healing process may vary from person to person.

Stick to the home remedies above and avoid anything that can hamper the healing process.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Wisdom Teeth Surgery?

Everyone wants to go back to their routine life as soon as possible after surgery. However, you must be patient with your body. Generally, the average recovery period after wisdom teeth surgery is two weeks, although the wounds may not completely heal for a month or two.

The first two days after surgery are the most crucial. This is when you’ll experience the most swelling and pain. Rest is key during these two days as it will speed up the healing process. You may need to re-visit your doctor after the seventh day to get any remaining stitches removed.

Once you start feeling better, your doctor might recommend you start with light activities. Make sure that whatever exercises you do, you don’t strain the affected area or your jaw muscles.

When to See a Doctor

While swelling is normal, certain signs should immediately prompt a visit to the doctor. For starters, the swelling should last for no more than three to four days.

If it persists for a longer period of time, such as a week or more, then it’s best to consult your doctor.

Other signs of an issue include:

  • Persistent pain
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Pus formation and foul-smelling discharge from the stitches
  • Allergy to the prescribed medications
  • Fever that won’t go away
  • Redness in the mouth
  • Bad taste in the mouth

These symptoms can be indicative of an infection or an allergic reaction, both of which need to be treated as soon as possible. Also, if the stitches still remain in the mouth after the seventh day, make sure to consult your dentist.

Get Better Soon

It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions during the recovery period to recover quickly and safely. Remember, it’s normal for your gums and cheeks to be stiff and swollen a few days after surgery, so don’t be alarmed.

Stick to the home remedies mentioned above, and have a little patience. Before you know it, you’ll be able to return to your normal routine.

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