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How to sleep after wisdom teeth removal

Maximize wisdom teeth recovery with these nine tips. Learn the dos and don'ts for a smooth healing process post-surgery.

If you’re having wisdom teeth surgery soon, you may be wondering how you can avoid a painful recovery and get back to your regular schedule more quickly.  

There are a few things you’ll want to consider to ensure your recovery is as smooth as possible, including knowing how to improve sleep post-surgery and what not to do during the early stages of your recovery.  

Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll cover:  

  • Nine tips to improve sleep after your wisdom teeth removal 

  • What not to do after your wisdom teeth removal 

9 Tips to improve sleep after your wisdom teeth removal

Sleeping after having your wisdom teeth removed can be a challenging task, but it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep the first few days after receiving oral surgery. Here are a few tips to improve your rest and recovery.  

Remove any remaining gauze before falling asleep

After your procedure is completed, your surgeon will place gauze in your mouth to help control any bleeding. This gauze should be left in place for at least 30 minutes after the surgery is completed and can be replaced as necessary – but should be removed before falling asleep.  

Having someone around to supervise you during the first 24 hours post-surgery is highly recommended.  

Take the pain medicine as prescribed by your doctor

Your surgeon will likely prescribe you some form of pain reliever, and you should take them as directed. By accurately taking the medication and sticking to the schedule, you can manage the pain before it starts.  

While you may not feel like you need the medication right away, once the medication from the procedure wears off and a few hours have gone by, your pain likely will increase. Managing the pain before it starts will help your body to get the rest it needs to begin to heal the area. 

If you find that the medication that your provider prescribed is not helping to ease the pain, contact them to discuss your concerns. It’s never a good idea to take more medicine than prescribed.  

Keep your head elevated while sleeping

You should keep your head elevated with an extra pillow for the first few nights. Keeping your head elevated will allow gravity to move any blood downward rather than allowing it to pool where the teeth were extracted, which can lead to swelling and bruising.

 A man lying in bed with pillows supporting his head, following instructions to keep his head elevated for proper sleep after wisdom teeth removal.

Try to avoid sleeping on a surface or area that may allow your head to slip or slide down when sleeping. If your head or body slips while sleeping, you may no longer have your head elevated enough to benefit from the position.  

By keeping your head elevated, you can help decrease swelling and pain and help your mouth heal quicker. 

Find a comfortable resting position and relax  

Finding a comfortable sleeping position will make falling asleep after your wisdom teeth extraction easier.  

Having the right sleeping conditions is also important to sleeping comfortably. If the room is too hot or too cold, it could cause you to have problems falling or staying asleep. Try sleeping in a cool, dark room for optimal conditions. 

Try your best to relax when going to bed. Whether you need to read a book or listen to music to ease your mind, relaxation will make it easier for you to fall asleep. 

Ice the area to help reduce swelling and pain

Applying ice to the cheek beside where the teeth were removed can help to reduce swelling and pain.

A woman applying ice pack to her cheek to reduce swelling after wisdom teeth removal.

Using ice to help reduce swelling is a great way to prevent additional pain and discomfort. Just make sure that you’re limiting how long you’re using your skin to avoid any adverse effects from the cold. 

When applying ice, it’s recommended that you wrap it in a cloth and only hold it to your jaw for 20 minutes at a time. Ice should only be used for a few days after the oral surgery.

Stay hydrated during your recovery process    

You’ll want to make sure to stay hydrated during your recovery process. 

Drinking plenty of water will help your body heal, which will result in less pain and discomfort, keeping you from sleeping well at night.  

Just make sure that when you’re drinking water, you’re not drinking it out of a straw. This can cause more harm than good and lead to painful dry sockets. Avoid drinking anything too hot.  

Avoid complications and discomfort from dry sockets

Dry sockets are one of the most common complications that can occur when wisdom teeth are extracted.  

A dry socket happens when the blood clot that has formed becomes dislodged. This results in a hole that is left open and exposed to food, water, and air. Dry sockets can be very uncomfortable, making it even harder to fall asleep at night.

A graphic of a dry socket, a condition that may occur after wisdom teeth extraction.

Dry sockets can be an uncomfortable complication that can occur after having your wisdom teeth extracted. When the blood clot that has formed where the tooth used to be is dislodged, it causes the bone to become exposed and can often cause severe pain. 

If you suspect you have a dry socket, you will need to contact your doctor to address the concern. They’ll likely give you medication to help with the pain and swelling or apply the medicated paste to the area to help initiate healing.  

Follow any additional aftercare instruction from your doctor

Your surgeon will provide you with aftercare instructions to help you make the most out of your post-surgery recovery. Following these instructions is vital to ensuring you are comfortable, and your mouth is healing properly.  

The less pain you’re in and the sooner your wound heals, the better you’ll be able to sleep and get back to your normal self-care and oral hygiene routine.

Follow these steps to get plenty of sleep to help your body heal

One of the best things you can do after surgery is get plenty of restful sleep.  

Sleep is one of the most important parts of the healing process and if you aren’t giving yourself plenty of time to rest, you’ll be slowing down your recovery. It’s recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep, but the more sleep you can get post-surgery the better.  

Getting the proper amount of sleep will help your body by:

  • Keeping your immune system strong 

  • Replenish your lost energy 

  • Support tissue growth and regeneration 

All these things will aid your recovery and avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort due to pushing yourself too hard.  

By following these steps, you can promote healthy sleeping behaviors that will allow you to heal your body quicker, allowing you to get back to your daily activities in no time.

What not to do after wisdom tooth extraction:
No straws a few days
Keep your smile clean
No alcohol or smoking
Avoid hard-to-chew foods

What not to do after your wisdom teeth removal

For the most successful recovery after having your wisdom teeth removed, there are a few additional things you’ll want to consider beyond how you sleep. Following the right steps after your surgery will help promote positive healing and make your recovery process much smoother.  

Do not use straws for the first few days 

One of the things your surgeon will tell you to avoid is using straws when drinking for the first three days. This is because it can remove blood clots and cause dry sockets. Avoid using a straw for at least a week to allow your mouth to heal. 

Keep your smile clean, but be gentle

In most cases, your dental provider will advise you to wait a while before brushing or rinsing your mouth after your wisdom teeth are removed. Brushing or rinsing too soon, you could cause the mouth to bleed more or dislodge the blood clot that is forming to heal the tooth.  

That being said, you don’t want to forget your oral hygiene care for too long.  

Generally, you can gently brush your teeth the night of the surgery but take caution to avoid the area where the wisdom teeth were removed. Vigorous brushing and close contact with the area can result in bleeding, dry sockets, and additional discomfort. It’s best to be gentle and rinse with warm water and add a bit of salt to keep your mouth clean.       

Neglecting your oral health post-surgery will only result in bad breath and buildup of plaque and decay. Just be sure to proceed with caution when cleaning your mouth for the first few days.   

Do not drink alcohol or smoke for at least 24 hours

Both alcohol and tobacco are off-limits after you've had your wisdom teeth extracted. They can both interfere with your body’s ability to heal itself and slow down the recovery process.  

When it comes to drinking alcohol, it’s a bad decision because it can cause the blood clot forming in the area to form improperly or can cause them to become dislodged. To ensure your mouth is healing properly, avoiding alcohol is an important step.  

Avoid hard-to-chew foods that can harm the gums 

Certain foods will be off limits right after your surgery and during your recovery time.  Some of the most common types of foods you should avoid are hard-to-chew or could get stuck in the healing area.  

This may include food like chips, pretzels, cookies, candies, popcorn, seeds, and nuts. All these foods can cause problems with the sensitive gums and delay the healing process. For the best recovery results, stick to soft foods that are easy to chew and digest.

Graphic of top 5 foods that you can eat after wisdom teeth removal:
Scrambled eggs
Ice cream
Mashed potatoes

After your wisdom teeth are removed, you’ll want to stick to soft foods that won’t cut or damage your gums. Following this diet for about a week or two will allow your gums to heal and avoid any cuts or food particles from getting stuck in the extraction site.   Consider buying soft foods like:

  • Blended soups 

  • Broths 

  • Yogurt 

  • Mashed potatoes 

  • Applesauce 

  • Scrambled eggs 

  • Smoothies 

Eating the right kinds of foods can help you avoid any unnecessary pain or discomfort that may occur from food particles getting lodged into the area while it heals or cutting the gums while chewing.  

Make the most of your recovery post wisdom teeth surgery

If you’re having surgery to extract your wisdom teeth soon and want to make the most out of your recovery period – then you’ll want to make sure to follow these tips and tricks.  

By making yourself as comfortable as possible when sleeping and avoiding some of the common don’ts, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful recovery. Planning and knowing what to expect can make all the difference when it comes to decreasing pain, getting a good night's sleep, and avoiding possible complications.  

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