It’s normal for your cheeks and gums to swell after a wisdom tooth extraction. But how long will the swelling last, and is there anything you can do to reduce it?
Your gums and cheeks will swell after wisdom tooth extraction. The swelling typically lasts for around a week, peaking on the third or fourth day, and it may be accompanied by bruising and bleeding. Use a cold compress on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour during the first two days.
Swelling isn’t the best condition to be in, but it’s actually a sign that your body is trying to heal itself. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about post-extraction swelling, including what to expect, how long it’ll last, and at what point you might need to visit a doctor.
How Much Swelling Is Normal After an Extraction?
It’s normal to experience swelling after wisdom tooth extraction. The amount of swelling will vary depending on the individual, but typically it will peak on the third or fourth day and decrease over the following week.
The first 24 hours are the most important. Since your doctor will inject medication into the area before doing the extraction, there will probably be a lot of swelling at first. It should start to subside gradually over time.
The anesthesia used during the procedure will numb your gums and cheek and render the extraction process relatively painless. This should last for approximately two hours following the procedure.
After that, it’s normal to experience some pain, swelling and discomfort for up to 48 hours. Your gum and cheeks will be bigger than normal on the affected side, and it might even look like there’s a large lump or bulge in your cheek. This is normal and is a side effect of the surgery.
What Can You Do?
The best way to manage the initial swelling is to compress the area with an ice pack. Place a cold compress over the affected area for 15-20 minutes every hour. This will reduce the swelling and relieve any discomfort you may have.
For convenience, consider using a reusable ice wrap like this one (on Amazon). After a couple of days, an ice pack will no longer be effective, so stop its use.
Aside from using the compress, there are other home care practices that will help the swelling go away quickly.
- Take over-the-counter medications as prescribed by your doctor to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. You can take drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen (all on Amazon) to reduce swelling.
- Make sure you keep the area clean by gently brushing it with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Eat soft foods that require minimal chewing for the first week after surgery. This will help promote healing.
- Elevate your head while sleeping. This will help reduce swelling and discomfort.
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and any strenuous activity that may cause further swelling.
How Long Does the Swelling Last?
The swelling should go away within a week after wisdom tooth extraction. It will peak on the third or fourth day and then slowly subside. If the swelling doesn’t go away after a week, contact your doctor right away.
The swelling will most likely be accompanied by bruising and slight bleeding. This is normal, and you should expect it to last for about a week after the procedure. The area may feel tender for some time afterwards.
The home remedies outlined above can help reduce the swelling and speed up healing.
How to Prevent Dry Sockets
Dry sockets are a common complication following wisdom tooth extraction. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot that should form in the socket fails to develop, leaving it open and exposed to infection.
To prevent dry sockets, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions and take all medications as prescribed. In addition, do the following:
- While gurgling water after the surgery is important to kill any forming bacteria and infections, don’t do it within the first 24 hours of the surgery.
- Don’t smoke during the entire healing process. Smoking can interfere with healing and increase your risk of developing dry sockets.
- Avoid drinking beverages through a straw for the first week. The sucking action can disturb the blood clot and cause dry sockets.
- Stick to soft foods that require minimal chewing, such as yogurt, soup and mashed potatoes.
- Finally, make sure you practice good oral hygiene to keep the area clean and free from bacteria. Good oral hygiene will help reduce your complications risk and ensure proper healing.
When to See a Doctor
As we mentioned above, if the swelling doesn’t go away after a week, you’ll need to contact your doctor immediately. This could be an indication of infection.
Other anomalies that you need to look out for include the following:
- Persistent pain, swelling or inflammation that doesn’t respond to medications.
- Fever and chills, along with redness or infection in the extraction area.
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Signs of dry sockets such as excruciating pain and a horrible taste in your mouth.
- Any other concerning symptoms that you experience after the extraction procedure.
Your doctor will diagnose and treat any complications you may be experiencing.