Why You Get Swollen Cheeks After Wisdom Teeth Removal
If you've had your wisdom teeth out, the picture to the left probably looks familiar.
When I got my wisdom teeth out around ten years ago, our insurance wouldn't cover all four teeth. Sadly, my family was a little short on cash, so my mom decided that I would get my top wisdom teeth out, then wait until the next year to get my bottom wisdom teeth out. That way, it wouldn't cost us any money out of pocket.
Plus, I had the experience of getting my wisdom teeth taken out... twice.
Luckily my cheeks didn't get swollen as badly the second time around.
If you want to know why dentists usually remove wisdom teeth, read the article Why Dentists Extract Wisdom Teeth
Why Your Cheeks Get Swollen After Your Wisdom Teeth are Removed
Your cheeks get puffy and swollen after your wisdom teeth are removed because your body is going through a process that will help heal the damaged tissue. Getting your wisdom teeth taken out can be a traumatic experience for your body. It responds by trying to heal the extraction site as quickly as possible. Inflammation and swelling helps this healing occur.
It is important to know that the swelling is a normal, healthy response that your body is mounting due to the trauma from the extractions.
How Long Will You Have Puffy, Swollen Cheeks?
The book Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery reports that swelling reaches a maximum anywhere from 24-48 hours after removal of the wisdom teeth. One study has reported that cheek swelling after wisdom teeth removal peaks around 24 hours after the surgery (source.) If the swelling is still getting worse three days after the extractions, it could be a sign of infection and you might want to give your dentist/oral surgeon a call.
Note that infections after routine extractions are rare. The oral surgery book listed above states, "The typical signs [of infection] are development of a fever, increasing [swelling] or worsening pain 3 to 4 days after surgery. Infected wounds look inflamed, and some [pus] is usually present."
The puffiness and swelling will start to decrease approzimately three to four days after the wisdom teeth extraction and should completely subside about one week after the extractions.
It is normal to have more swelling in the mornings and then have it gradually subside throughout the day as you stand up and the fluid drains due to the force of gravity.
How to Reduce Cheek Swelling After Wisdom Teeth Removal
If you don't want to look like a chipmunk after your wisdom teeth are removed, here are a few suggestions:
1 - Ask the oral surgeon if he or she can get you some corticosteroids. There have been some studies (here's one) that suggest that steroids can reduce cheek swelling after the wisdom teeth are removed.
The book Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery recommends the steroid dexamethasone to control "postsurgical edema" (which means "swelling after surgery") and had the following to say about this subject:
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.
2 - Heat applied on the third day after surgery can help reduce cheek swelling. Be sure to use water that isn't too hot - you don't want to damage your skin! Heating pads and hot water pads are good suggestions.
Don't apply heat until at least the third day after wisdom teeth extraction.
3 - Keep your head elevated. If you keep your head elevated, it is harder for the fluid to stay up in your head due to the force of gravity. If you spend a lot of time lying down in bed, you may find that you have puffier cheeks!
Do you have any questions or comments about wisdom teeth removal and its associated cheek swelling? If so, please leave them below in the comments section.
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