Having your wisdom teeth pulled takes some recovery time. If your teen has to have the procedure, how can you ensure their comfort while they recuperate?
Fortunately, few complications typically arise from the procedure, and your child might not even be knocked unconscious for the extraction. Regardless of your sedation method, here’s how to care for your teen after their wisdom teeth are removed.
1. Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Following your doctor’s orders begins well before your teen’s extraction procedure takes place. Experts disagree on the wisdom — pun loosely intended — of removing teeth that aren’t causing problems. You’ll need to rely on your dentist’s advice. They can let you know if a partially erupted tooth causes issues with cleaning, which can allow bacteria to accumulate and future problems to develop.
Some teens do have their wisdom teeth removed for aesthetic reasons. For example, if your child has otherwise healthy teeth but wants to get braces or Invisalign, their dentist may recommend extraction so all the other teeth fit in their mouth once they correct the deformity.
Other times, extraction becomes necessary when a tooth becomes impacted, meaning it doesn’t properly grow in, causing red, inflamed gums. Some people develop jaw issues like bruxism or teeth-grinding, and others have sinus trouble.
Regardless of the reason for the extraction, you should carefully follow any exit instructions. Returning to everyday activities too quickly can interfere with healing.
2. Give Medicine if Needed
Your dentist will probably give your child a prescription for a mild narcotic to numb the pain for the first few days. However, given the reality of the opioid epidemic, you must exercise discretion with how much you allow your teen to take. It might be wise to have this discussion take place out of earshot, although your child may grow resentful if they later learn they were left out of the loop.
Given the new rules surrounding opioid-based medications, your teen will only receive a limited supply. However, do keep in mind that 6% of 15,000 people got hooked on opioids after first receiving them from a dentist, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Use extra caution if your teen has a history of anxiety, depression or chronic pain, all of which elevate addiction potential.
3. Consider Alternatives
Opioid-based medications aren’t your only alternative to pain relief. You’ll want to avoid giving your child aspirin, as this substance thins the blood and can interfere with the clot that forms inside the tooth socket after extraction. However, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies containing acetaminophen can work effectively.
You can also use an ice pack to ease the pain. Make sure to wrap it in a towel — unprotected ice can quickly cause a burn or even frostbite. While you won’t want to do anything for the first 24 hours, you can use a salt rinse afterward to aid in healing and temporarily numb pain.
4. Rest Is Critical
Above all, your teen needs rest to heal. Don’t schedule any activities — even a quick stop at the store — after their procedure. Take them home and let them lie down first.
Your teen should rest for the first 24 hours following the extraction and take it easy over the next several days. They will have a slightly elevated risk of infection while their body works to repair damaged tissue, so keep them home from school if you feel unsure.
5. Provide Mindful Entertainment
Your teen will go stir-crazy if they don’t have things to keep them occupied. Before you leave for their extraction, set up their room with mindful entertainment within arm’s reach of their bed.
Ensure they have a stack of books or comics to read. If they have a TV in their room, have the remote handy, and make sure their tablet charger is plugged in bedside, even if you typically ban electronics from bedrooms.
6. Get Plenty of Fluids
Your teen’s body needs hydration to rest. Without adequate fluids, your body can’t carry the nutrition it needs to the wound site for healing.
The best beverage to sip is water. You’ll want to avoid hot drinks, as they can aggravate pain and potentially slow the healing process.
7. Return to Soft Foods First
Eventually, your teen will get hungry. Don’t feel alarmed if they don’t feel like eating anything for the first 24 hours after the extraction, though. Pain medication can also numb hunger.
When their stomach does start growling, stick with soft foods. Scrambled eggs provide lean protein, and yogurt gives them calcium and probiotics. While soup seems like a winning choice, the heat can cause pain.
8. Recognize Signs of Potential Complications
Oral surgeons perform countless wisdom tooth extractions each year. The vast majority of procedures go off without a hitch.
However, issues occasionally arise. Pay attention if your child struggles to open their jaw, develops a fever, or has swelling, pus or bad breath after their extraction. These signs can indicate infection, which requires emergency care.
Care for Your Teen After Their Wisdom Teeth Are Pulled With These Tips
Caring for your teen after their wisdom teeth are extracted doesn’t require a nursing degree. Follow the eight steps above, and they should enjoy a speedy recovery.