According to a New York Times article by Roni Caryn Rabin from Sept. 5, 2011, between 75 and 80 percent of all people do not meet the medical requirements for keeping their wisdom teeth and must have them removed. Often, extraction surgery occurs before individuals leave high school.
For some of the unlucky members of our society, extraction surgery comes later in life and becomes the worst seven days of college thus far.
I recently had all four of my wisdom teeth plucked out of my mouth — two of them healthy, two of them crooked as a politician. And I was underprepared for the suffering that ensued.
Summer is a convenient time of year for wisdom teeth extractions. So, to my fellow unlucky Kansas State students, here are 10 things you should know about one of America’s most common dental surgeries.
1. Buy a blender
I know this may seem weird, but I promise it is the thing you are least likely to regret. This surgery leaves a bruise on your entire jawbone. You are restricted to a liquid diet for at least a few days. Using a blender, you can make your own milkshakes and soft serve ice cream.
2. The surgery is mostly painless
While it is true that a dental surgeon will be pulling out your wisdom teeth (or shattering them into pieces if they are crooked, like two of mine were), you will be heavily medicated, so it is unlikely you will feel any pain.
3. The recovery is mostly not painless
Although Vicodin is a drug that makes some users feel like they are sitting on a cloud, post-surgery recovery is quite painful. You can expect throbbing headaches and bruising on your jaw and neck from your attempts to eat and talk. The agony will make it hard to forget to take your medicine as prescribed.
4. You probably will not have dry sockets
If you are as prone to depressive thinking as I am, then you might wake up one day during your recovery and think you have dry sockets. Dry sockets are an excruciatingly painful condition caused by dislodging the blood vessel on top of an empty tooth socket. However, according WebMD’s overview of dry socket webpage, only two to 5 percent of tooth extraction patients get dry sockets after surgery. The throbbing pain in your mouth is normal. Unless it is more painful than childbirth, you probably do not have dry sockets.
5. Do not use drinking straws
Creating suction in your mouth is the easiest way to dislodge blood vessels and get dry sockets, so straws are off limits during recovery.
6. Enjoy Netflix
Recovering from wisdom teeth extraction is not only painful, but it is boring too.
Fortunately, Netflix and other streaming sites are the ultimate form of entertainment while recovering. Not only is there a variety of content to choose from, but the Autoplay feature means you can put on your favorite show and do absolutely nothing for episodes at a time.
7. Sleep early and often
While painkillers will make you drowsy, your sleeping schedule is ultimately up to you. Going to bed early is a good way to ensure that your body is getting the rest it needs to heal.
8. Salt water is your friend
Since opening your mouth is a painful ordeal after dental surgery, salt water is going to replace your toothbrush as the go to item for cleaning your teeth and mouth. Gently swishing salt water around in your mouth might not be tasty, but I promise your teeth will sparkle after you spit it out.
9. Follow-up appointments
Your follow-up appointments are probably the best and worst part of recovery. You will feel almost back to normal after they are over. But these appointments might also involve your dental surgeon cutting stitches out of your mouth with scissors. Follow-up appointments are sort of a mixed bag.
10. Do not take it personally
I know dental surgery sucks, but it happens to many at some point. Your dental surgeon is probably very nice despite what they have done to your mouth. People will take care of you. You will get through this.