If your dentist has suggested your teenager have their wisdom teeth extracted, here's what you can expect as you prepare for the day of surgery and immediately thereafter.
Oh, and before we get started, it might be fun to bring along your video camera, or camera phone.
For some, exposure to the anesthesia used during surgery takes a while to wear off, and a bit of post-surgery hilarity can ensue. You might want to record for posterity!
So, with no further ado here are the guidelines.
- Your teen should wear loose, comfortable clothing with short sleeves, and remove all jewelry.
- Have your child leave their contact lenses at home.
- Your doctor will have specific guidelines about eating and drinking prior to surgery, but in general, your teen should be prepared to go without food or drink for at least six hours prior to surgery.
- Ensure your child has a ride to and from the surgery center.
- Inform your surgeon the dosages and types of medications your teen may take regularly.
- Do not allow the consumption of alcohol of any kind. Doing so can lethally interact with anesthesia medicine lingering in your child's system. This is very important.
- Be sure your teen avoids rinsing or spitting for 24 hours after surgery to prevent the premature release of the blood clot that lodges in the surgical pocket. This clot is necessary for healing and prevents a painful side effect called "dry socket."
- A moistened tea bag can help aid in clotting thanks to the tannic acid in tea. This process can be repeated if a small degree of bleeding continues; if heavy bleeding continues to occur, contact your dentist or oral surgeon.
- Have your teen refrain from brushing for the first 24 hours for the same reason above.
- Your teen should avoid inserting their fingers in their mouth after surgery, and should also refrain from using their tongue to "feel-around" the surgical wound. This will help prevent the loosening of any stitches as well as ensure the blood clot that helps prevent dry socket stays in place.
- Feel free to use ice packs on the side of the face for the first 24 hours. Do so in 20 minute increments, with a 10-minute rest in-between applications.
- Pain medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen is okay to take as recommended for mild pain, but only if your child can tolerate these medicines.
- In anticipation of severe pain, your doctor may provide a stronger medication.
- Ensure your teen remains hydrated, but avoid the use of straws so as not to accidentally "stab" the surgical wound, or allow for the "sucking" out of that all-too-important blood clot.
- Avoid hot liquids like soup, coffee and tea. Each can dissolve the healing clot.
- After the first post-operative day, and through the first week, your teen should begin using a warm salt-water rinse following meals to flush out particles of food and debris, which may get stuck in the surgical area.
- Your teen should eat soft foods that won't irritate the wound, and avoid foods that can get stuck in the wound pocket like nuts, rice and seeds.
- Smoking should be avoided for at least five to seven days, because nicotine can break down the blood clot. Maybe this five-day break could be used as a launching pad to quitting altogether!
Your teen will return to the surgeon's office to ensure healing is progressing at a satisfactory rate, so it's wise to plan for that eventuality.
Lastly, some dentists and surgeons recommend doing these extractions during high school or college break times to avoid "chipmunk face," and to also avoid interrupting their coursework.
Enjoy this rite of passage with your child … and don't forget the video camera!