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How to Reduce Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Reduce Wisdom Teeth SwellingNobody wants to look like a chipmunk after getting their wisdom teeth out, but when their cheeks get swollen, most people do end up looking like a chipmunk!

While some swelling is normal after this procedure, the good news is that you have some control over your swelling.  Here are a few simple things that you can do to reduce your swelling after wisdom teeth extraction.

How to Reduce Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Extraction

1 - Apply Cold & Heat at the Right Time

Many oral surgeons send their patients home with ice packs after getting their wisdom teeth extracted.  There is some controversy over whether or not using ice immediately following wisdom teeth extraction can actually reduce swelling.  Although it may not be proven, it probably wouldn't hurt to try this method.  Applying heat to your cheeks has been shown to reduce swelling after wisdom teeth extraction, but you have to do it at the right time.

Here's a time line of when you should apply cold and heat to your cheeks to reduce swelling:

0-24 hours after wisdom teeth extraction: Apply ice for 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off.

24-48 hours after wisdom teeth extraction: Don't apply ice or heat.

48 hours after wisdom teeth extraction: Apply heat.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't apply ice directly to your skin.  It's a good idea to have a cloth between the ice and your skin to avoid causing damage to your skin.  If you don't have ice packs, you can use a bag of ice cubes or frozen vegetables.  Along the same lines, you don't want to use water that is too hot for too long - you don't want to burn your skin!  Heating pads and hot water pads are good suggestions.

2 - Keep Your Head Held High

Reduce Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Extraction by Keeping Your Head Up

You Can Reduce Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Extraction by Keeping Your Head Elevated

Keep your head held high - literally!  By keeping your head elevated above the rest of your body, gravity will be your friend and cause excess fluid to flow down from your cheeks and back into your bloodstream.  This is the reason why your cheeks are more swollen after a good night's sleep.  By laying down, you don't have gravity helping you keep your swelling to a minimum.

To use this principle to your advantage, it would be a good idea to keep your head propped up with pillows rather than laying down so that your head is at the same level as the rest of your body.

3 - Use Corticostroids

Certain studies (such as this one) show that steroids can reduce cheek swelling after your wisdom teeth get extracted.

The textbook  Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery recommends the steroid dexamethasone to control "postsurgical edema" (which means swelling after surgery) and said the following regarding using steroids to reduce swelling after wisdom teeth extraction:

Dexamethasone is a long-acting steroid and its efficacy in controlling third molar postsurgical edema is documented.  This drug can then be continued in an oral dose of 0.75 to 1.25 mg twice a day for 2 to 3 days to continue edema control.

There are, of course, several drawbacks to using steroids.  You may want to ask your oral surgeon if dexamethasone is a good choice for you to reduce swelling after you get your wisdom teeth extracted.  He or she will be able to help you weigh the pros and cons.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction - Don't Look Like a Chipmunk!

Why Do Your Cheeks Get Swollen After Wisdom Teeth Extraction?

This article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the reason for your swollen cheeks.  Swelling after wisdom teeth extraction is simply a natural, healthy response that helps your body heal.  Many times, the oral surgeon has to cut through your gums and drill through bone to remove your wisdom teeth.  You would probably expect to have swelling after any invasive surgery to remove an appendage of your body, and getting your wisdom teeth out is no exception.

To learn more and to find out how long you can expect to have swollen cheeks after wisdom teeth removal, read the article Why You Get Swollen Cheeks After Wisdom Teeth Removal.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about your swollen cheeks and wisdom teeth extraction?  Go ahead and write them in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!


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7 Comments |  Leave A Comment

  1. I had a tooth pulled out on Tuesday afternoon at 4. It is now 2 days later, Thursday at 3pm. I was wondering, do I still need to keep my head elevated at night? There is still a little swelling.Also when would I be considered in the 'safe' zone and stop worrying about the blood clot coming out? Lastly, when could I start using diluted listerine? Half listerine, half water. Thanks!

  2. PLB, please elaborate as to why someone needs to wait a few months, or are you simply offering misguided and unsubstantiated advice for fun?

    You'll actually find that a dental surgeon won't have a problem with patients using listerine during the healing period.

  3. Actually Lukas, I've just had my wisdom teeth removed and my aftercare instructions specifically say no mouthwash of any kind for at least a week.

    • My post-operative instructions say to rinse gently with salt water three times a day for a week after the first 12 hours after surgery. Which, Allison, you are correct for the first week, but you do not need to wait months before using mouthwash. My surgeon gave me a prescription for a mouthwash to prevent infections during the healing process. It has been 3 weeks now since I have had 4 wisdom teeth removed and I have been using the mouthwash two times a day. All of the swelling has gone down. The only problem I seem to have is a small knot at my jaw which after speaking to my dentist doesn't seem like a problem unless I have a fever or swelling. It causes pain at about a 2 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most severe. A hot pack helps a lot and a mild pain killer makes the pain go away. Since yesterday after hot compression it the knot is about half the size it was. This has not been a fun experience though and best of luck to anyone who has to get their wisdom teeth removed.

  4. How long does the swelling typically last? Is there anything besides the aforementioned to help reduce swelling-- and quick?

  5. It's been 3 days and my face is still very much swollen I've been doing everything you said....and what my doctors said. I haven't ate since July 2nd and I got my teeth pulled July 3rd..and it is now July 6th, because my mouth is so swollen I can't bite down.I have been drinking milk shakes to help feel my stomach but I thought the swelling would be a little better by now and it's not. Any suggestions?

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Tom, Creator of Oral AnswersHi, I'm Tom. I recently graduated from dental school and am now a dentist in Bridgewater, Virginia. I started this blog to help people take better care of their teeth. You can learn more about me or ask me a question.

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