Almost everyone I know is scared to go to the dentist to get their wisdom teeth removed for one reason, pain. Even after surgery, you can’t eat, you’re in pain, and your throat is swelling.
It hurts before the dentist removes them, it hurts while the dentist removes them, but even after the appointment when the tooth is removed why does your throat hurt? Why does removing a tooth lead to discomfort, bleeding, and pain in your jaw, face, and neck?
We’ll look at why these seemingly unrelated body parts hurt after removing your wisdom teeth, how you can manage the pain, and if you should see a doctor for the pain.
Having a sore throat is completely normal after wisdom teeth removal
Your sore throat is very likely happening because of your gum muscles being sore after the tooth removal. The muscles in your jaw aren’t too far from your throat muscles and this soreness in the muscles gives you a sore throat that lasts a couple of days at the most.
But in some cases, people have noticed that they had a sore throat before the wisdom teeth removal. How can that be?
In those instances, the wisdom teeth actually caused food and plaque to build up in your gums causing a bacterial infection. This infection goes on to become a sore throat, which your dentist will identify and recommend that you remove your wisdom teeth.
The most common symptoms experienced side by side with a sore throat are…
- Sore, stiff, and swollen jaws
- Numbness inside your mouth
- A mild fever
- A dry mouth and lips
- Dry socket
The strange thing is, excessive bleeding and ear pain have also been identified as possible symptoms in a study conducted by Dr. Guido Sigron in 2014.
But that was only in 5 out of the total 1,199 cases (less than 0.5%). This may be a symptom of dry socket, which we will look at next.
What is dry socket? Does dry socket make my throat hurt?
Do you remember when you were a kid, how you’d play with your friends, fall down and hurt yourself? If you started to bleed, an adult would wash the wound and apply a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding.
Whenever you injure yourself and draw blood, your blood starts clotting at the surface to stop you from bleeding out and to allow time for your wound to heal.
The inside of your mouth is exactly the same. After removing your wisdom tooth, there is a gap where the tooth used to be. This empty socket is full of nerves and is connected to your jawbone. Now naturally, your blood clots in the socket to make sure that nothing touches these nerve endings while your tissue and bone grows and heals.
A dry socket happens when this blood clot gets removed from the socket while the wound is still healing. As you can imagine, this will cause radiating, intense pain in your jaw and face.
But if you are not sure whether the pain you feel is because of dry socket or just expected pain, the below list of symptoms can help you make sure.
- Sudden pain in mouth and throat, days after the surgery
- Bad breath and taste in your mouth
- Pain radiating from your jaw to your ear, eye, and neck
If you are suddenly feeling the above symptoms days after the surgery, then that means your socket clot may have been removed.
In that case, you should immediately contact your dentist. But luckily as we discuss later on, proper diet and cleaning can help prevent dry socket from happening at all.
Managing and reducing the discomfort in your throat
When you’ve had wisdom tooth surgery, your whole mouth is in a very tender stage. The best thing that you can do is to rinse your mouth with some saltwater. Here’s how.
- Warm up a glass of water – Make sure the water is not too warm. Remember, the insides of your mouth are very raw after the surgery so you don’t want to risk burning it. The temperature of the water should be just warm enough for you to keep within your mouth for about 30 seconds.
- Add a tablespoon of salt – A few stirs with a spoon and the salt should dissolve completely in the lukewarm water.
- Rinse and gargle with the saltwater – Again, remember that you shouldn’t do this with force because it might hurt your swollen muscles. Too much force might just break the clotting blood, causing dry socket.
- Gently let the gargled water fall from your mouth – Do not spit it out because it will hurt your jaw and stop your gums from healing.
Repeat these steps twice a day, and you’ll notice a big impact on your sore and swollen throat.
This is because the salt in the water actually pulls out all the mucus stored in your swollen muscles. As an added bonus, the salt also acts as a disinfectant, killing the bacteria in your throat.
Before moving on to seeing your dentist, let’s take a quick look at how we can manage the other symptoms that we saw above, in the comfort of your own home.
- Sore, stiff, and swollen jaws – Very gently massage your jaw with an ice pack. The swelling means that your body has begun to heal itself after the surgery. If the swelling is still there after a couple of days you should switch from an icepack to a warm cloth.
- Numbness inside your mouth – This should pass naturally but until it does, make sure you pay attention to your tongue while eating chewing.
- A mild fever – If you do have a mild fever, you can try taking Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or any medication given to you by your doctor. The best option is to rest and follow up with your doctor if the fever doesn’t go down.
- Dizziness – You probably haven’t eaten before the surgery and it’s very hard to eat after. Chewing hurts your mouth and the pain medication also makes you drowsy. So make sure you get plenty of rest, eat soft foods, and move slowly.
- Dry mouth and lips – Your lips and mouth might feel dry after the surgery so make sure you stay hydrated. A lip balm can help your lips stay fresh.
When to see your dentist regarding dry socket
If you have noticed some improvement in the past two days but still feel some pain, you should know that in most cases it takes at least 7 to 9 days for the pain to completely disappear. So as long as you can feel your symptoms getting better, you can continue your home treatment.
If you have done all of the above and are still having serious pain in your throat or jaw after 3 days, then it’s time to visit a doctor and get yourself checked out.
The discomfort can be there for a few days but the pain and much of the symptoms should have reduced within 3 days of the surgery.
Speeding up the healing process – Dos and Don’ts
Getting your wisdom teeth removed can be a pain in the neck, literally. So let’s take a look at what we can do to get our mouth back to normal as soon as possible.
- Do follow a strict diet. Food such as yogurt doesn’t need much chewing.
- Do drink smoothies and soups to avoid damaging your socket (a liquid diet).
- Do get as much sleep and rest as possible, especially in the first few days.
- Do make sure you wash your mouth with salt water after the first 24 hours.
- Do be gentle when doing anything, even if unrelated to your mouth.
- Do use antiseptic mouthwash instead of toothbrushes and flossing.
- Don’t rinse or brush your teeth within the first 24 hours.
- Don’t touch or scratch near the impacted region of your face.
- Don’t smoke or use a straw.
- Don’t eat any hard food that needs you to chew thoroughly (Carrots, nuts, chips, etc.).
- Don’t eat any spicy or food that might get stuck between your gums.
- Don’t spit (even after rinsing).
- Don’t exercise for a few days (to avoid fatigue and involuntary jaw movements).
Following the above guide will have you feeling better as soon as possible, by making sure you are helping your body heal faster.
Is it normal to have pains in my neck and face?
Yes, it is for up to 3 days, but if you haven’t noticed any improvement since day 1 it is best to visit your dentist.
Can I eat after getting my wisdom teeth removed?
It is best to avoid all solid food for 3 days after the surgery and live off a liquid diet. After 3 days you can slowly work your way up to solid but soft food.
Is it okay to brush my teeth?
It is recommended that you don’t especially in the first 24 hours. You can use mouthwash as a safe replacement. After the first two days, you can brush your teeth but be very gentle and careful.
From what we’ve read so far, you can see that while there are many things you can do to help get rid of your sore throat, there are just as many things you can NOT do to recover soon.
While your throat, jaws, and neck may hurt, it is something expected, and by following the above guidelines you can greatly reduce all your wisdom tooth removal related pains within a few days and go back to your normal lifestyle within a couple of weeks at the most.