Recovering from wisdom tooth removal 

It can take up to two weeks to fully recover after having your wisdom teeth removed.

During this time, you may experience:

  • swelling (inflammation) of your mouth and cheeks – this will be worse for the first few days, but gradually improves; gently pressing a cold cloth to your face helps to reduce the swelling
  • a stiff, sore jaw – this should wear off within 7 to 10 days; the skin around your jaw may also be bruised for up to two weeks
  • pain – this is worse if the extraction was complicated
  • an unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • tingling or numbness of your face, lips or tongue (although this is uncommon)

You should report any excess bleeding, severe pain or any other unusual symptoms to your dentist or oral surgeon immediately.

Self-care advice

To reduce pain and aid your recovery, it can be helpful to:

  • use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (always read and follow the manufacturer's dosage instructions)  there's some evidence to suggest that ibuprofen is the best painkiller to take after having wisdom teeth removed
  • avoid strenuous activity and exercise for a few days
  • use an extra pillow to support your head at night
  • for 24 hours, avoid rinsing, spitting, hot drinks or anything else that may dislodge the blood clots that form in the empty tooth socket, as they help the healing process
  • avoid drinking alcohol and smoking 
  • eat soft or liquid food for a few days and chew with your other teeth
  • gently rinse the extraction site with antiseptic mouthwash after 24 hours, and repeat this regularly over the next few days  you can also use warm water with a teaspoon of salt as mouthwash, to reduce gum soreness and inflammation

Working and driving

It's usually recommended that you take a day or two off work after having a wisdom tooth removed.

You can drive immediately after the procedure if local anaesthetic was used, but you should avoid driving for at least 24 hours if a sedative was used, or 48 hours if the procedure was carried out under general anaesthetic.

Returning to normal

After your wisdom teeth have been removed and any swelling and bruising has disappeared, your mouth and face should return to normal.

You'll usually be able to brush your teeth normally after a few days. Make sure you finish any course of antibiotics you've been given.

A check-up appointment may be arranged for about a week or so after the procedure. At this point, any remaining stitches may be removed.

Page last reviewed: 20/04/2015

Next review due: 20/04/2017