10 BEST Steps to Prepare for Wisdom Teeth Surgery 2024
Matt Hannan, DDS
Updated: January 14, 2024
So you scheduled an appointment to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Now what? How do I prepare for wisdom teeth removal? What’s involved?
Feelings of anxiety are expected before the day of surgery.
However, understanding how to prepare for surgery will alleviate concerns.Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth | The Ultimate Guide
Understanding Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth removal can be a daunting experience that leaves many people scared despite continuous dental advancements. Who can blame them?
The mere thought of sitting in a dental chair waiting for your teeth to be removed is terrifying. Many people experience fear, but it should not inhibit maintaining your oral health.
10 million wisdom teeth are removed yearly from 5 million patients-most with no complications. This procedure is so common that 85% of people require it during their lifetime.
As with any procedure, staying well-informed will help you attain the best possible results and provide much-needed peace of mind. It’s essential to understand why extracting wisdom teeth is the best course of action by talking to your dentist and oral surgeon.
To ensure patients are well prepared before the surgery, here are 10 steps to consider.Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Removal (What’s Involved?)
Step 1: Ask Questions
If you’re a candidate for the surgery, you’ll have some questions about it.
Your trustworthy dentist and oral surgeon will inform you of what to expect on the day of the procedure.
In addition, they will discuss preventive measures to ensure you don’t have any complications. Your pre-op instructions may differ depending on what sedation methods are used (local anesthesia, IV sedation or general anesthesia).Recommended Reading: Sedation Options for Wisdom Teeth Removal (Read this FIRST)
Prepare a list of questions to discuss during your consultation appointment.
If you have them written down, you won’t forget to ask! While the dental team will likely cover most of the information, you may have additional questions to ease your mind.
Questions to Ask
- Can I get my prescriptions in advance?
- Can I fill out the paperwork in advance?
- What type of sedation will be used?
- Do I need to fast, and if so, for how long?
- What time should I arrive?
- Do I need to avoid anything before surgery?
- How long will the procedure take?
- How long will I be out of work?
Step 2: Verify Insurance
Verifying your insurance before the procedure is essential, so you’re not billed an unexpected amount. In addition, confirm that your oral surgeon is an in-network provider. Just because your dentist is doesn’t necessarily mean the oral surgeon will also be.Recommended Reading: Wisdom Teeth Removal Cost 2024 (With & Without Insurance)
If you are paying out of pocket, consider looking for clinicians that offer in-office payment plans such as CareCredit or other discount plans. Wisdom teeth extractions add up when considering all potential fees, including tooth extraction, sedation, office visit and x-rays.
Step 3: Update Medical History & Medications
Accurate medical history and medication lists are paramount to preventing medical emergencies and other complications.
For example, a patient taking blood thinners MUST inform the oral surgeon to prevent excessive bleeding.
In addition, the oral surgeon may want the patient to stop taking the medication three days before the procedure.
Patient safety begins with an accurate medical history!
Also, the clinician may desire a medical clearance from your primary care physician (PCP) if there’s a concern with a medical condition. Although fasting is necessary, your oral surgeon will desire you to take daily medications, including blood pressure medication.
If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your clinician.
Step 4: Arrange a Designated Driver
Because most wisdom teeth are removed from 15-25-year-old patients, sedation will be used to limit stress and anxiety. Should you have sedation, you’ll want to schedule a friend or family member to take you to and from the appointment.
In addition, the dental office will require the driver to stay during the entire process, so be sure they bring something to keep them occupied. Finally, while everyone’s recovery times differ, it’s best not to get behind the wheel for a few hours following surgery.
Step 5: Follow Fasting Protocols
Fasting is unnecessary if the wisdom teeth have fully erupted, and local anesthesia will only be used.
However, chances are you will be sedated during the procedure and required to fast to prevent vomiting and choking.Recommended Reading: 101 Foods to Eat After Dental Surgery, Implants or Wisdom Teeth Removal
Most patients should start fasting by midnight the night before. Confirm with your oral surgeon; however, most clinicians prefer no eating or drinking for at least 8 hours before surgery.
There are exceptions, including patients with diabetes, who may be advised to eat breakfast before surgery to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Step 6: Prepare Your Home
Preparing your home before the procedure is essential, so when you return after surgery, it’s situated. In addition, staying busy days before the appointment will keep your mind occupied and limit worrisome thoughts.
Here is an essential pre-surgery checklist to consider.
- Extra pillows to elevate head
- Chill cold compress
- Prepare food (complete list here)
- OTC medication (Motrin, Tylenol)
- Prescription medication
- Fill medication before surgery
- Protein/electrolyte drinks
- Comfortable area to rest
- Take-off work
Step 7: Fuel Your Body
During wisdom teeth surgery, your body spends countless calories.
Be sure your body has enough nutrients to manage the stress load of the surgery. For example, 3-5 days before the surgery, consume adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals to fuel your body the day of the surgery.
In addition, it’s essential to replenish your body with healthy, nutritious foods after the surgery. How is that possible with a sore mouth and soft-food diet restriction? Fortunately, many foods are nutritious, soft and high in protein.
For example, scrambled eggs contain protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. Protein is vital to repair and heal your mouth after surgery. Other high-protein foods include cottage cheese and fish.Recommended Reading: What to Eat After Wisdom Teeth Removal? (BEST & WORST Foods)
Carbohydrates are also crucial as they provide energy and stamina. Foods rich in carbohydrates include oatmeal, pasta and applesauce. In addition, carbohydrates are filling and satisfying, which is essential when it’s uncomfortable to eat.
Step 8: Get Rest
Create a comfortable sleeping environment so you can calm your mind and optimize your chance of restful sleep.
Sleep research is one of the fastest growing areas of study because so many people suffer from sleep loss.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived and receive less than 7 hours of sleep. Yet, countless studies recommend 7-9 hours of sleep each night to repair your mind, increase energy and improve focus.Recommended Reading: How to Sleep After Wisdom Teeth Removal? (BEST Tips)
After surgery, sleeping modifications are necessary to minimize swelling, prevent dry socket and decrease pain.
For example, you should sleep on your back to avoid inadvertently damaging the healing tooth sockets.
In addition, you should elevate your head above your heart at a 45-degree angle. This position allows sufficient blood to flow to and from the extraction site.
Step 9: Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is vital for healing following wisdom tooth removal surgery; remember to skip the straw!
Also, avoid sucking, spitting and swishing to prevent a dry socket from forming.
A dry socket is one of the most common complications following wisdom teeth removal and occurs when the blood clot falls out, exposing sensitive bone – leading to infection.
The dental team will advise you to fast before IV sedation or general anesthesia. However, to avoid the problems that dehydration can cause, drink plenty of water for several days before surgery.
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential, but you should also consume beverages containing carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, vitamin waters, and juices.
Post-operative dehydration may increase the risk of nausea and vomiting, so stay hydrated.
Step 10: Be on Time
“If you ain’t first you’re last!”
Arrive 10-15 minutes before your appointment to complete the remaining paperwork and authorization forms. Planning to arrive early allows flexibility if unexpected issues occur, such as if your car doesn’t start, you forget something at home, or you run into a traffic jam.
Time flexibility is important to be prepared and decrease stress before the appointment. Also, the surgeon may be able to take you back early, so you’re done sooner than expected.
Bonus: Calm Your Body
Stress and anxiety before wisdom teeth surgery is expected of everyone.
Keep your mind occupied to limit worrisome thoughts days and weeks before the surgery—plan outings with friends and family.
Exercise or take your dog to the park. Get outside and run around before you need to take it easy after surgery.
In addition, during the day of the surgery, take deep belly breaths to calm your mind and body.
According to a recent study, diaphragmatic breathing (deep belly breaths) can limit negative thoughts and decrease stress and anxiety.
Finally, remember that you are in good hands, and the procedure will be over before you know it.
And you’ll wake up from sedation without remembering what happened.
What’s Involved During Surgery?
Generally, wisdom teeth can be extracted with little to no pain, and the procedure will take 30-60 minutes to complete. Plan accordingly, as you and your driver will be in the office for approximately 90 minutes.
Wisdom teeth extractions are considered an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home afterward.
- Anesthesia/Sedation: The oral surgeon or anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia, making you “sleep” and not remember the procedure. Your vitals like blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored.
- Local Anesthesia: This numbs the teeth area. Dental assistants will support your head, neck, and jaw during the procedure.
- Incision: An incision is made behind the second molars for access to the wisdom teeth and bone.
- Bone Removal: A surgical handpiece removes bone around the tooth, carefully avoiding nerves and vital structures.
- Tooth Sectioning: The wisdom tooth is split into pieces for easier removal in the confined space.
- Extraction: The tooth is gently rocked and then extracted.
- Socket Cleaning: The tooth socket is rinsed with sterile saline to clear any leftover tooth or bone fragments.
- Sutures/Stitches: Placed over the socket for blood clot formation and to keep out food debris. Dissolvable stitches are used, lasting 3-5 days.
- Reversal of Anesthesia: Medication is given to wake you from sedation. Expect to feel sleepy for the rest of the day and ensure you rest.
- Gauze Packs: Applied to maintain pressure for 30-60 minutes, aiding in blood clot formation.
What’s Involved After Surgery?
After the procedure, the dental team will discuss post-operative instructions with your driver before heading home. The local anesthesia will wear off soon after, so take OTC or Rx medication before pain occurs.
Be sure your pharmacy fills the pain medication before your procedure so you can take the medication BEFORE the local anesthesia wears off.
You may experience swelling, oozing, and mild discomfort for a few days after the procedure.
Use a cold pack and anti-inflammatory OTC medications to minimize swelling. Also, you may have difficulties opening and closing your jaw as the muscles have been stretched during the procedure. In addition, expect bleeding and oozing to occur for up to 24 hours.
Your surgeon will provide you with more detailed instructions, including changing the gauze if bleeding persists, avoiding physical activities for 3-5 days, and sticking with a soft-food diet for two weeks. Wisdom teeth extractions take two weeks to heal.
However, call your doctor with any questions or concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
My Experience & Expertise
Successful wisdom teeth surgery begins with purposeful planning.
- Ask questions
- Verify Insurance
- Update medical history & medications
- Arrange a designated driver
- Follow fasting protocols
- Prepare your home
- Fuel your body
- Get some rest
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
- Don’t be late
Need a second opinion? We can help! Learn more. Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!
- Pozzi A. Pain management for dentists: the role of ibuprofen. Ann Stomatol (Roma)., 2011
- Ma X. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017.
- Friedman JW. The prophylactic extraction of third molars: a public health hazard. Am J Public Health. 2007.
About the Author
Dr. Matthew Hannan, also known as “Dr. Advocate,” is a board-certified dentist on a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He attended Baylor University before completing dental school at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. He now lives in Arizona with his beautiful wife and 4 kids. Dr. Hannan believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.
Connect with Dr. Hannan!
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