Not Martha

How that whole wisdom teeth thing went

So how did having my wisdom teeth taken out go? Pretty well, but it won’t count as one of the favorite weeks of my life.

All of the advice and stories you shared were invaluable for keeping me from freaking out. Thank you so, so much. I’m going to share my experience and what worked for me below in the hopes that it helps a few other people.

Before you read the below know that I am not a doctor and I am only talking about my own experience here. I had two impacted teeth and my recovery wasn’t nearly as easy as some other people. If you are going to be getting your wisdom teeth out you should listen to what your doctor tells you to do. Also, some of the details below are totally gross so proceed with caution.


I made myself an ice pack device from socks (shown above). I heard about this homemade solution from a few sources but Jess from Hogwash sent me the best directions: buy knee-high basic tube socks (the kind without heels, I found a six pack in the mens department at Target). Overlap them at the toes and stitch two lines. The ice packs will fit in each side of the socks. The overlapped section goes at your chin and the ends of the socks are tied up over the top of your head. This means your chin will be comfortable and the ice will be held at just the right spots on your cheeks while a thin layer of cloth will protect your skin. I found a 2-inch overlap worked best. And DIY ice packs made using snack sized ziplock bags were the perfect size to slip into the socks.

I made DIY ice packs using Dawn dishwashing liquid. I don’t know if one needs to use Dawn specifically but I’d heard it from three places so I figured why mess with it? I’ve also been told you can mix a 25/75 mixture of alcohol/water to get a substance that is still a little pliable after freezing. I got four ice packs from a 14-ounce bottle of dishwashing liquid and triple bagged them in snack sized ziplock bags. (You’ll know if they leak because it will suddenly smell really fresh.) I also had bags of peas, official 6×6 gel packs and the smaller ice packs the doctor sent me home with on hand but I used the homemade ice packs tucked into my knee high sock device the most often. I also wore a hooded sweatshirt most of the week with the string in the hood cinched helped keep the ice snug to my cheeks and redistribute the weight of the ice packs. It was a very sexy look.

Lots of people recommended eating fresh pineapple in the days before the surgery because reportedly it helps prevent swelling. I ate a lot, about two whole pineapples. On the upside I had minimal swelling in the week after. On downside the pineapple irritated my gums and made brushing my teeth uncomfortable. You can also get Bromelain as a supplement, it’s the substance in pineapple that is supposed to help, but I have not heard stories from anybody on if this might work or not. I asked my surgeon about pineapple and she’d never heard of the advice. I wish I could tell you definitively if it worked but I don’t have any more wisdom teeth to take out. Also I don’t want to do this again.

Day of:

Bring some tissues with you, you’ll drool in the car on the way home. It’ll be bloody drool. Yuck.

I brought a scarf with me so when I left the doctor’s office with big white ice packs strapped (that they provided) to my head I was able to wrap the scarf around it and sort of cocoon into my own uncomfortableness. Add big sunglasses and I could nearly pretend I was glamorous while waiting in the car for Scott to pick up my prescription and drooling on myself. I looked kind of like this but more miserable:

I considered wearing flats to the doctor’s office so I could just kick my shoes off later but I was afraid they might fall off while I was in the chair so I wore boots instead. Turns out they needed to attach three electrodes to me and one was meant to go on my ankle. They put it on my stomach instead. So my advice is to wear regular shoes. Or a cropped shirt. Your choice. My doctors also said lots of patients come in wearing pajamas. Smart patients.

I was put under for the operation and when I woke up I was not happy or loopy. I was cranky and groggy and had dry cotton shoved in my mouth. It was the worst part of this whole thing. They had this bear sitting in the recovery area. I wanted to punch this bear:

For most of the day after the surgery my tongue, lower lip and chin were numb. Sipping liquids was out of question but I needed to eat something and stuck to apple sauce and pudding for the first day. Anticipating a lack of clean spoons (we never have enough) I bought a pack of plastic spoons and found they were far easier to eat off of since they had a bit of flexibility and they didn’t get cold in ice cream. Also, if you get clear plastic spoons you can peer at the light coming through your spoonful of jello.

The worst part of having a numb mouth was that I could not loudly whine about how unhappy I was. The second worst was that my smile was uneven, one side of my mouth would not go up, and I could not complain about how I would have a lopsided face for the rest of my liiiiiife. (I was back to normal by 8pm.)

I read a whole bunch of stories and it seems like a lot of people stop and get food (Wendy’s Frosty) on the way home but I needed a good two hours before I stopped bleeding into the horrible gauze. More advice that I found both from people and the information packet my doctor gave me is that that you could switch to biting on a steeped and cooled black tea bags (the tannins help stop the bleeding) but I couldn’t get off the couch long enough to bother. I also couldn’t talk well enough to explain to my loyal manservant how to prepare it for me.

More good advice given to me: have your couch or bed area ready to flop into when you get home. I had pillows, blankets, remote controls and laptop all in position so I could get straight to the drugged out television watching stage. Also, use pillowcases and towels you are willing to bleed a bit on. I didn’t get any blood on anything at home but if I’d been asleep all day it might have been different.

I didn’t spend the first day asleep the way some people warned me I might, I was groggy from the medication but my brain wouldn’t stop going. I was chatting online with a friend and she actually said I sounded too alert and asked if I’d been traumatized. So, apparently, pain medications don’t turn off my brain. Good to know.

Rest of the week:

For the first few days I stuck to pudding, ice cream, green smoothie juices and soup. Cashew Carrot Ginger soup was very welcome. After that I tried scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. (Did you know Bob’s Red Mill sells instant mashed potato flakes? It somehow seems more dignified than other sorts.) I also ate overcooked Annie’s mac and cheese but I wish I hadn’t, anything that needed even that bit of chewing was too much for me. A full week later and I’m adding polenta with spicy tomato sauce, more pureed soups and I’m wishing I’d thought to make and stock up on my own gravy. I’m also eating mashed cauliflower, mashed peas and mashed sweet potatoes. Basically I’m still afraid of solid foods. I had two impacted wisdom teeth and they had to cut into the bone on my jaw a bit to wrench one from me, so you might have a much speedier recovery than I.

I read so much about the dreaded dry socket that I followed all the rules very carefully – no sipping through straws (hard to remember), no smoking of anything (not so much a problem), no aggressive gargling, no blowing your nose (also hard to remember). I was even a little worried about swallowing too enthusiastically. But it turns out I was also a little too gentle in cleaning back by the sockets. During a followup visit my surgeon showed me that after a week you can put that little irrigator thing way back there and squeeze away using salt water or diluted mouthwash. It’s gross and interesting.

I found I still needed to use ice packs for swelling five days after my surgery. As I mentioned above my swelling wasn’t bad but it was determined to stick around.

If your pill schedule is on a six hour rotation try to hit the 12noon/6pm/12midnight/6am cycle so you’re not waking up at 3 a.m. to take antibiotics.

And lastly, try to get an awesome oral surgeon who includes a card for a free cupcake in the little bag of stuff they give you on your way out. Incentive for getting back to chewing things:

If you’re getting ready to have your wisdom teeth out go see all the advice my most awesome readers shared and a bunch of questions over at Ask Metafilter. And you’ll feel better in a week, promise.

· comments [18] · 05-9-2012 · categories:misc · uncategorized ·

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PixelHazard // May 9, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Ow ow ow

    | Bright Green Laces |

  • 2 Seanna Lea // May 9, 2012 at 4:53 am

    I’m glad that you are recovering and even more glad that I have not needed to go through this. At my rate, I will have had enough teeth pulled that I probably won’t need the extra room even if my imaginary (one dentist said I don’t have any and another said they were just really far back) wisdom teeth come in.

  • 3 nazila // May 9, 2012 at 5:58 am

    You are the most prepared person I know! I am so impressed you made your own gel packs. I will keep this in mind. I have yet to have my wisdom teeth come in, so maybe I’m safe.

    I hope you are back to chewing soon.


  • 4 m @ random musings // May 9, 2012 at 6:03 am

    I’m wondering if wisdom tooth extraction gets worse with age? At the very least, kids have the option of expecting others to provide food. [and any pain meds make you sleep longer] All I really remember in terms of food is that Dad made a batch of ice cream that I got to eat Only one impacted tooth here though… hope the recovery gets speedier!

  • 5 Meaghan // May 9, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Pineapple? That seems crazy. It’s a natural tenderizer…why would anyone do that to their gums pre-extraction? :-/

    I’m glad you’re feeling better! The squirty thing to clean out the sockets is so gross, but so helpful.

  • 6 Kirsten // May 9, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Ack! A bit late, but have you been salt-gargling? It’s disgusting but I found it really helped with getting the sockets to heal. I just gently swished salt water around in my mouth for as long as I could stand it, then spat it out. And for reference, the week after I got my wisdom teeth out (but mine weren’t impacted) I was playing clarinet four hours a day every day and I didn’t get dry socket, so you probably don’t need to worry so much.

  • 7 megan // May 9, 2012 at 10:21 am

    m – Yes it does, your wisdom teeth are still settling into the bone in your jaw up to age 40. Also, the older you are the longer it takes to heal.

    Meaghan – Not everybody will experience the gum sensitivity that I did, eating the pineapple was to fill myself up with bromelain to keep swelling to a minimum. Not having another experience to compare it to I cannot say if it worked or not but I did undergo some pretty dramatic stuff and my swelling was minimal. I have heard from somebody who had wisdom teeth extracted at two different times that the time he ate pineapple before the swelling was dramatically less. Since swelling contributes to pain (especially inside your mouth) I figured it was worth it.

    Kirsten – Oh yes, salt rinses were part of my care instructions starting at day two. Thanks!

  • 8 Katherine // May 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    How timely! I’m having mine out in 2 weeks and have started to look at information on what to do and how to care!

  • 9 SAWII // May 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I think you should move the info about how you had two of your teeth impacted to the top of this post. So as not to scare people too much when they are researcing for their extraction. I didn’t have any impacted teeth and it was not nearly the ordeal you’ve gone though. I don’t recall any use of ice packs and was eating solid food one day later. I also have the same reaction to Percoset (vs. Vicodin)… keeps me wide awake and/or makes me hallucinate.

  • 10 EmilyM // May 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Oof. I HATED that gauze. I was SO out of it after being under yet I remembered that they told me to take the pain meds right when I got home to keep the pain down. And I still had the gauze in my mouth when I was trying to take the pill…but my mouth was numb, so I couldn’t figure it out. Whoa, freak out. Once my fabulous boyfriend figured it out (EM – take out the gauze!) he popped in the Secret of NIMH, I zoned out, and then it was pretty smooth sailing. It helps enormously to have someone around!

  • 11 Elki // May 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    First of all, let me say I’m glad you’re recovering well, although it seems slow! You have a lot of great advice!
    But I need to say that I’m astounded by the number of adults that are getting this done recently. My husband is getting his pulled tomorrow, and I’m starting to worry about how terrible a patient he’ll be, especially since my bedside manner is sure to be less than kind.
    I’m trying to figure out why so many adults didn’t get this done earlier? It’s highly recommended that you pull your wisdoms out at the age of 18. Perhaps this has changed? I did have the extra pressure of having a dentist as an uncle.
    I told my husband that not only should his dad have pay for the procedure, but he should fly in to take care of his miserable son as well, since he didn’t do this while he was still under their insurance and care. :)
    I remember eating noodle soup the same afternoon of my extraction, during which I was wide awake and watching a soap opera! Another great reason to get it done as kids: kids heal faster!
    Hope you feel 100% soon!

  • 12 megan // May 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    SAWII- Very good point and mention added. Thank you!

  • 13 megan // May 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Elki – I am not a doctor but I did ask my oral surgeon this very question and the answer that she gave me is that it depends on many factors. For myself, my wisdom teeth hadn’t emerged in my teens so my dentist likely waited, if they didn’t emerge there might never be a need to take them out. In my twenties one had emerged but I didn’t have dental insurance and my dentist then said it would be ok to wait. Then, whooosh, lots of years passed in a blink my current dentist declares there is no way I can keep them clean back there and it’s time for them to come out. My oral surgeon said that if they hadn’t emerged when I was a teen my dentist then was likely weighing the potential risk in yanking something out of a mouth and the possible lack of future actual need. But I agree, I know a whole lot of adults having this done now who are using stellar hindsight to bemoan past dental care professionals :)

  • 14 Mark // Sep 3, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Just had 2 wisdom teeth removed yesterday. One was impacted and it took close to 2 hours to get it out using a local anesthetic. Pain isn’t too bad. My dentist had me down a painkiller before leaving his office and I opted not to take one six hours later. Am currently looking up the available literature online.

  • 15 S Vaughn // Nov 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for the information. I had mine out 7 hours ago. I’m 40 so there was some fear of nerve damage but none. I just got the use of my lower lip and chin about 3 hours ago! A Wendy’s frosty never felt so good. Mine were not impacted but had to go due to the way the upper teeth were only halfway out…No room in my mouth! I feel better already as they should have come out 16 years ago. What a relief!! If anyone should read this I’d just like to say that all individuals are different as far as this goes. None can truly be like another so try to stay offline unless aftercare is sought here. Peace

  • 16 Glenda // Aug 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I just today used your wonderful sock solution for icepacks for my son. I used baseball socks – with a heel it still works – and it still is the best idea ever! They stay tied and securely in place and are comfortable.
    So glad I happened upon your article.
    All the best to you

  • 17 SB // Dec 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Very helpful article. Just bought a 6 pack of tube socks and will sew the toes. People tend to underestimate the power of ice. It is amazing stuff and it you are diligent, it does ease a lot of discomfort.

  • 18 Emily // Apr 4, 2015 at 8:01 am

    I just had my wisdom teeth removed a week and 84 minutes ago. I’m extremely young for this, I just turned 15 a month ago, but they were determined to cause an issue so they had to come out. ALL FOUR OF THEM. Something that I learned is to stick the corner of a paper towel in your mouth while you sleep so that you don’t drool blood all down your chin and pillow. It’s not pure blood, but a lot of people find that their saliva is tainted pinkish for a few days after extraction. This can still stain. I slept with a fish towel under my face for good measure as well. I’d also reccomend that you set up your day nest where you plan to sleep because the stairs are a tremendous challenge when your face has doubled in size. I simply slept on the couch for the first 2 nights.

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