If you’ve had friends or siblings who have already had their wisdom teeth out, you probably remember the telltale “chipmunk cheeks” – the swelling that occurs in the face after the teeth have been taken out. As you call those images to mind, it most likely makes you want to do everything you can to avoid it happening to you.
Swelling after wisdom teeth removal is almost unavoidable, but there are several things you can do to reduce the swelling as much as possible. Take some of these tips into consideration when your surgery is coming up!
As soon as you get home from the surgery, begin icing your face. You can use an ice pack, a bag of ice, or even a package of frozen peas or other vegetables. Cover it with a paper towel and hold it to each cheek for 15 minutes at a time. Continue this for the first 24 hours.
Once 36 hours have passed, you can begin to apply heat in the form of a hot water bottle or a warm washcloth. Make sure you do not heat up the water too much – keep it at a comfortable temperature.
Keep your mouth clean
If you get food or bacteria caught in the affected area, it will irritate the wound, causing it to swell. This will also slow down the healing process. To avoid this, make sure you follow the directions your dentist or oral surgeon gave you for keeping your mouth clean.
Rinse with the solution recommended by your doctor or with warm salt water every two hours and after every meal for at least a week after your surgery. Continue to brush your teeth and tongue as usual, but be careful not to scrub the wound.
Maintain a liquid diet
Along the same lines, you should take care not to eat anything that could irritate your mouth. Drink liquids only (from a cup, not a straw) for the first 24 to 48 hours. Make sure that you drink shakes high in protein and other needed nutrients. Staying healthy will help you heal faster and avoid any other complications.
Elevate your head
It’s best not to lie flat, especially right after your surgery, because it can delay the blood from clotting and cause you to bleed longer. However, even after the bleeding has stopped, it’s good to keep your head elevated to help gravity do its job. Fluids will effectively drain out of your cheeks, reducing the swelling.
Take your medication
Your dentist or oral surgeon will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory pain medication for you to take periodically as you recover. Take only the recommended dose at the intervals your doctor instructed. If you don’t need the whole dose of pain meds, you can continue to take a smaller dose of ibuprofen to keep the swelling down.
Keep in mind that swelling is a normal part of having your wisdom teeth removed, and even though it may seem embarrassing now, almost everyone has to go through it.
If you need help finding a doctor who can remove your wisdom teeth and tell you more about what the surgery will be like, use our surgeon finder tool. You can also read more about what to expect from recovery in our blog post, Best Foods for Wisdom Teeth Recovery.