I seriously have no shame in sharing how terrible my wisdom tooth extraction experience was and how much swelling I had to deal with after the surgery. Before the surgery, I was pretty much anticipating minimal pain and swelling but immediately afterward I knew that was pretty much out of the questions. Being that I knew I would quickly need to get my swelling under control so that I could get back to work and doing the things I love most - running and working out; I had to jump into “urgent mode”.
Since my surgery, everyone has shared with me their wisdom tooth stories. It really feels like a write of passage. Many people told me how their surgeries were super easy with quick recoveries while others share my experience of a 2-hour surgery followed by stitches and several weeks of recovery.
Although it took almost 3 weeks for my stitches to dissolve and my gum to heal enough to return to eating solid food, I was able to get the swelling under control rather fast without much over the counter medication. Here’s a list of what I did in order to get my swelling under control in 3 days.
Take Your Medication Religiously
Of course, you’re basically going to take whatever the doctor prescribes to you so there’s not much you can do in terms of speeding up the medication process and side effects besides taking the darn medicine. I personally hate taking swallowing pills and I also don’t like the side effect (outside of getting better of course). My dentist prescribed me the basic wisdom tooth extraction pack: ibuprofen, Vicodin (but I stopped it after the 3rd day, bad dreams, moody), medal dose pack (basically steroids to reduce swelling) and antibiotics. The religiously you follow the dose recommendations, the quicker the whole thing will be over. If you’re still having pain after you run out of prescribed medication, over the counter ibuprofen should help.
Sleep With Your Head Elevated
I now this is so “Extra” but it works. I learned that sleeping at an elevated angle really helps with swelling when I had reconstructive eye surgery many years ago. I had to sleep sitting up so that the swelling would go down and my wound would heal faster. You can definitely feel the pressure difference between laying flat and laying at an elevated angle. It’s hard but it’s necessary and you can get used to it.
Ice and Then Heat On Your Face
In most if not all cases, the surgeon will send you home with an ice pack and a spare but you’ll need some extra ice packs to get you through the first 24 hours. After the first 24 hours, switch to a heating pack to further reduce swelling. I found that the heating pad also helped with getting my facial muscles active again.
Eat Soft, Healthy Foods
This is probably the most challenging step for most people because most likely you have to pry yourself away from your favorite foods but this a situation where you can easily get excessively bloated from eating sugary and salty food combined with taking meds that may also force you to retain water - which sucks! The first 2 days I ate organic baby food. I didn’t have much of an appetite (some times a side effect of medication) so it wasn’t much of a big deal but at least I knew I was getting some good nutrition. For the most part, I skipped the ice cream. Over the first weekend after my surgery, I indulged once to make me feel better about not being able missing out on all the weekend fun my friends were having. After that weekend I pretty much stuck to Cream of Wheat and some slow cooked red lentil soup.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water has always been hard for me but during my wisdom tooth recovery, I had a major break-through. I started drinking 4 liters of water per day. I also kicked my usual daily coffee and green tea. I suppose if you’re not a water drinker you could try some fruit infused water recipes. Just check with your dentist about citrus fruits causing dry socket.
Promote Blood Flow
After surgery, it’s easy to feel claustrophobic staying the house all day, especially if you’re like me and tend to be a bit active. Since I couldn’t do my usual strenuous workouts such as running, I went on long walks picking routes that have a variety of inclines. I also spent extra time stretching but making sure I didn’t bend my head below my knees for too long - if at all.
So there you have it, all the steps I took to reduce my swelling after having my wisdom tooth extracted. I was back up and active within 5 days. Many people told me that they could tell my face was still swollen after the first 3 days but I think they were just being nice!