I had wisdom teeth surgery in 2013. This was my experience and how I healed over the subsequent weeks.

I had wisdom teeth surgery in mid-March 2013. I consider myself blessed because it was my first ever surgery.

Both my lower wisdom teeth had grown in almost horizontally. This never really bothered me since they didn’t cause me pain, but the time finally came when they had to go.

I’d gone in for a dental x-ray review that revealed a tiny ‘shadow’ on the molar that my bottom left wisdom tooth was pressed against. If left untreated, my dentist said I could lose both my bottom wisdom tooth AND the molar. So the decision was made — I had to remove the wisdom tooth asap.

This really bummed me out because I’d been against ever removing them ever since I’d read that wisdom teeth lie along our energy/meridian pathways (see extract from the Complete Reiki Handbook below on Google books).

I didn’t actually know if this meridian thing was true or not, but I would’ve rather not muck things up in my body unnecessarily just in case.

But seeing as I didn’t have much choice after my x-ray, I decided to accept that I’d have to have an extraction and deal with it as best I could.

Only my lower left tooth showed decay on the x-rays, but I could easily imagine the right having the same issue in future. You can see why in my x-ray (left). My almost horizontal wisdom teeth had created very hard-to-reach gaps where small pieces of food like to lodge themselves. Brushing them out was always a challenge.

I didn’t want to have to go for the procedure twice so I decided to remove both my lower wisdom teeth at one time.

Before my surgery

My surgery was scheduled at 1pm, and I’d been told to make sure to have lunch beforehand. I’d already read up a bit about the recovery process so I knew I had to eat because I wouldn’t be able to have solid food for a while.

My goal was to heal from my surgery well. I made sure to take extra Vitamin C (about 5 grams) that morning. I had the fresh juice of 4 carrots, 2 apples and bit of ginger. This is my usual cup of juice that I have almost every morning. When I got a bit hungry later that same morning, I had tuna with some bread for lunch. I figured tuna would have good fats (omega 3) and provide me with enough energy.

I wasn’t very concerned about being hungry initially. From my past experience of being under the weather and recovering from illness/injuries, I knew that I wouldn’t have much of an appetite anyway. Rest would be more important as my gums healed.

I made one big mistake though. About an hour before my surgery, I had a turmeric drink, thinking this would help stave off any possible infections and reduce gum inflammation after surgery. My turmeric drink was simple but powerful — about a teaspoon of turmeric powder and some freshly-ground black pepper in a bit of hot water (black pepper is for the piperine it contains, which makes the curcumin in turmeric more easily absorbed by the body).

Unfortunately, taking turmeric might have been the reason why I bled for so much and for longer than expected after my surgery. Hindsight is 20/20 as I later remembered that turmeric is a blood thinner and has anti-clotting properties. Oh well… live and learn, right?

How my surgery went — a bad case of the nerves and lots of blood…

All in all, I was lucky because I had an excellent dentist and nurse. My dentist sat me down and spoke to me about the procedure, showing me diagrams and my x-ray. She might have done this for purely legal reasons, but I appreciated her patience in answering my questions and her thoroughness nonetheless.

The downside is that I got very anxious after she described what she would be doing to my gums. I knew there would have to be an incision to get to my teeth, but I’d imagined a single incision on the top of my gums.

I was very wrong. What she described would happen was so much worse.

She said that she would cut my gums open at the sides and bring them down to expose my teeth/bone in order to get the teeth out (because of the way mine were positioned). A diagram showed me that there would be flaps of my gums lying flat at the sides once the incisions were made. Unfortunately, seeing that freaky diagram put me in a state of internal panic.

I admitted to them that I was feeling very nervous, but I tried my best to breathe deeply and keep myself calm. I asked if I could listen to music because I didn’t want to hear my teeth breaking (which would probably make me even more anxious). My dentist said this was fine.

Once I was in the chair, with my headphones plugged in, she leaned over to inject my gums with a local anaesthetic. I was shaking quite visibly at that point (so much for my deep breathing!).

But my nurse was very kind — she rubbed my arms and told me to take deep breaths. The injections hurt, but the pain wasn’t too bad. I was more disturbed by the size of the needle and the depth at which they appeared to be going into my gums (I could feel it going in more and more).

She injected both my left and right lower gums at the same time. My lips and chin tingled before becoming quite numb. After the injections, she tested my gums by poking down on them with a lot of force to make sure there was no feeling at all. I had some residual feeling on one side (like the prick of a needle), so she gave me a few more injections until it was completely numb.

[Note: It’s been proven that women respond more poorly to anaesthesia than men. Good doctors/anaesthetians should already know this and will be able to respond appropriately. So if you’re a woman and you’re slated for surgery, don’t be shy about asking for more local anaesthetic if you need it. The pain you feel is not in your head and there’s nothing wrong with your body or its responses. ]

After the injections, my trembling gradually subsided until they went away completely. I was relieved because this was not only very embarassing to me (I’m a grown-up afterall!), but I also didn’t want my fear/anxiety to bleed through to my dentist and affect her concentration. I wanted her to do the best she could. Going by my past experience, I’ve found that when I’m calm and happy, other people are as well.

Before she made the first incision, my dentist told me that anytime I was uncomfortable or in pain, I should raise my left hand and she would stop. She actually reminded me this a few times throughout the whole surgery. While I didn’t have to ask her to stop once, her words really calmed me and made me feel that I was in safe and caring hands.

It took about 45 minutes for her to finish each side.

This included:

  • cutting my gums open
  • drilling and breaking my jawbone (to reach my teeth)
  • drilling my teeth (to break them into smaller pieces)
  • extracting the broken pieces
  • and the final stitching of my gums back up

Yes, I know all these sound absolutely horrific, but please don’t let it scare you. Mine was a special case because of how badly my teeth were positioned. Most people’s wisdom teeth surgery are a lot less complicated.

After the surgery, she sat me down and told me about the correct aftercare. She said that because she had to remove some jawbone on both sides to access my wisdom teeth, my surgery was more traumatic than usual, and that I could expect a lot of swelling. She then put some gauze over my gums and told me to bite down.

At the end of the visit, I thanked her by scribbling on a piece of paper (since I couldn’t talk at all).

A friend of mine walked me home after. I wasn’t groggy since it was just local anesthetic, but I felt quite tired and sleepy nonetheless, presumably from the blood loss. Apparently, she said I’d bled a lot during the surgery (likely due to the turmeric I’d ingested pre-surgery).

Once I was home, I had to keep the gauze on and bite down on it, with checks every half hour. I was told that if the gauze was soaked in blood, I had to replace it with fresh gauze and wait another 30 minutes. I could only stop using it once the bleeding had reduced to a small spot on the white gauze. It took me about 6 hours to get the bleeding to slow enough. Suffice it to say, I will never take turmeric before surgery ever again.

This process alone was exhausting because all I wanted to do was lie down and rest, but couldn’t because my mouth was still numb from the anaesthetic (I couldn’t swallow well), and my gums kept filling my mouth with blood.

To top it off, my mouth was propped open due to the gauze. Let’s just say there was a lot of blood and drool that day.

A lot.

The days after my wisdom teeth surgery — no painkillers!

As I slowly recovered from my surgery, the most surprising thing wasn’t the pain, but how exhausted I was all day.

I spent most of the first three days either sleeping or just lying in bed. A few times, I got lightheaded walking to the kitchen and had to stagger back to bed before I fell. I stayed at home for the first few days because of this.

I could also only open my mouth a little — any wider than a finger’s width and everything would hurt. My gums, my jaw, and some facial muscles. Before that, I’d never really thought much about the muscles in my face and jaw.

I chose not to take any painkillers at all beyond the few that I took during the day of my surgery. I’m not a fan of painkillers or pharmaceuticals, and I was worried about how they’d affect my overall health.

So things hurt, but strangely enough, I found that I could tolerate the pain in my gums and jaw better than I could ever tolerate a headache (which for some reason automatically turns me into a whiny baby).

The pain was also helpful because it prevented me from overdoing anything. If I couldn’t feel that something was causing me pain, I might unknowingly injure or stress the area.

I had some external swelling around my jaw, but not much. I still looked about the same. While there were also no visible bruises on my face or neck, the flesh around my jaw, cheeks and upper neck were sore to the slightest touch. I had to wash and dry those areas with a very gentle touch.

Since I could only open my mouth a little, I kept my mouth clean with warm saltwater rinses. And I stuck to soft liquid foods and supplements for nutrition until I’d healed enough to chew.

What I ate and drank

  • Soft-boiled and runny eggs, topped with 1-2 tablespoons of melted butter (good fats are essential to healing and I started feeling much better after adding the butter)
  • Green barley powder dissolved in cool water
  • Glucose powder in water (not my choice, but I drank this anyway because my dad bought it for me. I think he was afraid I’d waste away. I love my dad 🙂 )
  • Soy pudding and soy milk (high in protein and very filling)
  • Fresh fruit/vegetable juices of mostly carrots and apples (after my 1st glass of this, I was thirsting for more. I think my body knows it needed the vitamins. )
  • Vitamin C powder (~30 grams a day) dissolved in cool water ***
  • Magnesium chloride supplements
  • Homemade iced chocolate (A *very* bad idea. I only had this once because even though it was delicious, I really regretted drinking it. The milk in this gave me phlegm almost immediately, which is a sign of inflammation and not something you’d want when trying to heal. It was also very hard and painful for me to brush my tongue thoroughly since I couldn’t open my mouth still at that point, so I had to tolerate that horrible, sour milk aftertaste, which I not only dislike but associate with bacteria breeding. This made me anxious that I was going to get my gums infected. It was sooo not worth what little pleasure it gave me. )

*** About my high-dose Vitamin C intake: I take 3-5 grams of Vitamin C a day and I’ve learnt that my bowel tolerance limit is anywhere between 5 to 10 grams. The fact that I can take 30 grams of Vitamin C a day after my wisdom teeth surgery without reaching my bowel tolerance limit shows that my body was really using it up! If you’re interested in learning more about titrating Vitamin C, this is an excellent page (Table 1 shows that the usual tolerance dosage after surgery is 25-150 grams).

The appearance of white tissue (or granulation tissue) on Day 4

I had more strength and energy by the 4th day.

On the 4th day, I also got very worried that there was food stuck at the healing site because of a bad taste in my mouth that kept coming back even with repeated saltwater rinses.

So I got a small torch, opened my mouth as big as I could and looked at my gums properly for the first time after my extraction in a mirror.

(Note: I’ve made this picture as small as possible as who wants to see inside another person’s mouth? Click only if you want to see the full-sized image.)

Bruising and white granulation tissue after my wisdom teeth surgery

I was glad I did that because it didn’t look as bad as the horror I had been picturing in my mind. I could see the black stitches and the red bruising at the back of my gums that indicate where my two lower wisdom teeth had been.

There was also some soft white thing on both sides, roped around, above and under the black stitches. I thought it might be food, but nudging it softly with a Q-tip showed me that they were quite firmly stuck there.

I later found out that this was white tissue (or granulation tissue) and is a good sign that healing is taking place. This granulation tissue contains blood vessels, fibroblasts, and chronic inflammatory cells, and will eventually develop into a “collagen plug”. This white tissue eventually disappeared and transformed into healthy, pink flesh.

Trismus: muscle tightness and jaw stiffness that lasted two weeks

While I was lucky and didn’t have any permanent nerve damage from my wisdom teeth surgery, I developed trismus.

I could only open my mouth slightly — just wide enough to fit one finger in between my teeth (and I have bony fingers).

Trismus felt like my jaw joint and muscles were “caught” at one point and refused to move further. Trying to force it open even a little proved incredibly painful.

I thought some gentle stretching would help loosen the catch, so I started gently stretching and moving my jaw every day.

On the 5th day, I was smiling and laughing again. It still hurt a little to do so, but it felt like a breakthrough to me. I’m a naturally smiley person, so it felt really good to be back to feeling like myself again. I also noticed that whenever I smiled, I can feel my cheek and jaw muscles temporarily relax for some reason.

On the 6th day, I still had trismus, but I could talk normally again. I could also sing along to music again. Singing along to music not only exercised my jaw naturally, but really lifted my spirits and made me feel like I was getting better.

One week after my surgery, I was scheduled to go back to the dentist to get my stitches removed. I’d called ahead to let them know that I couldn’t open my mouth fully yet, but the nurse said to come in anyway for a review. In the end, my dentist managed to get the stitches out with some difficulty.

I also asked her about my jaw stiffness and she said that it was normal and probably due to internal muscle damage and bruising, and that it would get better as the damage repairs itself over time.

She was right. I also kept stretching my jaw after I got the stitches out, a little bit each time I ate. It hurt to do it, but I could open my jaw fully about two weeks after my surgery (woo hoo!).

Oddly enough, the rest of my lower teeth hurt for three weeks

After my wisdom teeth were extracted, the rest of my teeth felt very sore for about 3 weeks. I was most aware of this whenever I was lying down in bed. It was a dull, pulsing throb — as if my heart was beating in my lower gums.

I had no clue why my other teeth would hurt when it was only my lower wisdom teeth that were pulled out.

But apparently this is normal and is either caused by nerve injury at the wisdom teeth site that has extended to the rest of the gums and/or the shifting of the rest of the teeth now that the wisdom teeth “supports” have been removed.

My gum and teeth soreness went away after about three weeks.

Rapid weight loss (kind of expected)

I lost a little over 5 pounds (2.4 kg) the first week alone. This wasn’t surprising since I was eating maybe 500 calories a day and was on a mostly liquid diet.

I know that some of it was also due to water loss and dehydration. Eventhough I was drinking water everyday, I had to make an effort to remember to do so and it was much less than what I’d normally drink naturally throughout the day.

But I wasn’t too worried because this kind of sudden weight loss is usually temporary. I knew that I’d gain back the weight once I started eating normally again. And I did, but it took a while because my stomach had shrunk quite a bit from my very limited diet during the week after my surgery.

When I went back to eating regular, solid meals, just a small amount of food would be enough to make me full. I didn’t force the issue though, I just ate smaller meals more frequently until I eventually could eat my normal portions again.

If you’re headed for your own wisdom teeth surgery, I do hope it won’t be as complicated as mine was. And if it is, that’s okay too — you’ll be just fine.

The end 🙂