How to Sleep After Wisdom Teeth Removal

Make the most out of your wisdom teeth recovery by providing your body with the rest it needs to heal.

If you’re having wisdom teeth surgery in the near future, 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. 

In this article, we’ll help you understand what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to sleeping in the first few days after having your wisdom teeth removed. This will help you prepare and successfully recover with minimal complications and fewer sleepless nights. 

Here’s a quick look at the two main topics 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 often be a challenging task, but it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep the first few days after the procedure. 

There are a few things you can do to help yourself get a good night’s sleep after your wisdom teeth extraction. The more you can sleep and let your body heal itself, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to your habits and feeling like your normal self. 

  1. 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. 

If you forget to remove the gauze before falling asleep, you could be putting yourself at risk of choking. The gauze can quickly become loose and work its way into your throat and could clog your airway. 

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

It’s very likely that after the procedure, you’ll likely still be feeling off from the medication used to help sedate you during the extraction. This caretaker can help to ensure that you’re following all after-care instructions and don’t accidentally fall asleep with gauze in your mouth. 

  1. Take the pain medicine as prescribed by your doctor

Trying to ignore that pain and fall asleep is no easy task. 

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. 

  1. Keep your head elevated while sleeping

You should keep your head elevated 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. 

This can be done by simply adding an extra pillow or two under your head. Sleeping on your side with an extra pillow can also be another good way to ensure your head stays elevated while sleeping. Sleeping on your side will increase swelling on the lower side so recommend sitting more upright. Many patients use a reclining chair the first night.

illustration of a person sleeping on their side
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.

  1. Find a comfortable resting position and relax

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

  1. Ice the area to help reduce swelling and pain

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

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 procedure is completed as it won’t be as effective once the area begins to heal. 

Make sure that if you’re taking a nap with ice on your face that you have someone wake you after about 20 minutes to take the ice off of the area to rest. 

Using ice to reduce the swelling and discomfort you’re experiencing post-surgery could help you to fall asleep easier 

  1. Stay hydrated during your recovery process

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

Keeping yourself hydrated helps your mouth to heal properly and avoid any complications that may come with dehydration during recovery. You should try to drink the recommended eight glasses of water every day to promote positive healing. 

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. 

Hot fluids can lead to the clot breaking down and starting to bleed again. Cold fluids can trigger nerve discomfort because it is less protected until the socket heals.

  1. 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. 

dry socket following tooth extraction illustration
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.

You can avoid dry sockets by keeping your head elevated, avoiding brushing the area around the extracted teeth, not spitting or smoking, and not drinking out of straws. 

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. 

A red, brown, or white color at the extraction site are signs that the clot is in place and healing. Typically with a dry socket, there would be an empty hole accompanied by a ton of pain that starts about 3-5 days after the tooth was removed.

  1. 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 routine.  

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  1. 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 of these things will help aid in 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 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.

From avoiding drinking out of straws to trying not to blow your nose too hard – let’s take a look at a number of things you’ll want to avoid post surgery. 

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. 

Using a straw can dislodge the blood clot that forms in the area where the teeth are pulled. It’s important that the blood clot that forms in the area where the teeth were pulled remains in place to help the healing process. 

When this blood clot becomes dislodged, it can cause dry sockets and will result in additional pain and discomfort. If you think you’ve dislodge the clot and have a dry socket, you will be able to tell if you can see the bone where the tooth once was rather than a dark blood clot. 

In some cases you’ll need to visit your dental provider to help heal the dry socket but they can heal on their own in some instances. If you start to experience severe pain or notice that the blood clot is no longer in place, it’s always best to give your dental provider a call. 

Do not forget to keep your mouth clean and don’t over do it

In most cases, your dental provider will advise you to wait a period of time before brushing or rinsing your mouth after your wisdom teeth have been 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 to the area can result in bleeding, dry sockets, and additional discomfort. 

The day after the surgery you’ll want to start to rinse your mouth on a more regular basis. This should be done after eating to remove any food debris or particles that may have gotten caught in the healing area. When rinsing, make sure to use warm water and mix in a little salt. This should be done very gently, more so by moving the head and allowing the liquid to pass over the site rather than vigorous swishing using the cheeks to forcibly move the liquid.

Neglecting your oral health post surgery will only result in bad breath and build up 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 both 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. 

Alcohol can also have adverse effects when taken with certain prescription medications. This is another prime reason why you should avoid having alcohol for at least 48 hours post operation, but ideally until any pain medication has been completed. 

Smoking is another thing you’ll want to avoid for a period of time following your wisdom teeth removal – for two reasons. 

The first is that when you suck the smoke in, you’re risking dislodging the blood clot protecting the area where the tooth was extracted. This is the same reason why you are told to avoid using straws early on. 

Secondly, cigarettes and other tobacco products have many harmful substances in them. When you smoke these after your teeth have been extracted, you’re exposing the open wound to these substances and can cause more harm than good. 

For the best results, you’ll want to avoid both alcohol and tobacco products during the early stages of your recovery period. However there are options. You can use alternative methods, such as a patch, while you are healing. If you absolutely cannot go 1 week without smoking, your dentist may tell you to take a piece of gauze and wet it, then bite firmly and take extremely light drags. Avoid smoking longer than 24 hours.

Do not blow your nose too hard 

This might be one that you didn’t think of, but blowing your nose too hard can actually cause problems after your wisdom teeth have been pulled.In fact, this is something that you should avoid doing for about 14 days after your surgery. 

A few other tips: use nasal decongestants or saline spray to reduce congestion. And if you have to sneeze, do so with a partially open mouth to make sure not to over-pressurize the area.

So why can’t you blow your nose? 

Blowing your nose too hard can cause the area to bleed and the force may dislodge the blood clot. To avoid this from happening, your dental provider will tell you to gently wipe your nose rather than fully blow it during your recovery time. 

This one can be a tricky one to avoid if you’re experiencing a cold or have a drippy nose, but it’s important to keep your mouth on the right track during the healing process. 

Do not eat 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 things that 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 of these types of foods can cause problems with the sensitive gums and delay the healing process. 

Your doctor will most likely suggest that you follow a soft food diet for the first week or two after your wisdom teeth are extracted. 

This means you’ll likely want to head to the grocery store prior to your surgery to prepare and have the right types of foods handy. 

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. 

Do not pick or poke the area while it is healing

While it might be tempting as the area begins to heal, it’s important to leave the gums where your teeth were extracted alone. 

You’ll want to avoid picking or poking the area with your fingers or tongue. This can lead to irritation and dislodge the blood clot causing a dry socket – but it can also expose the wound to additional bacteria. 

If you’re touching the healing wound with your fingers or tongue, you could be putting bacteria directly into the area. This could cause problems with healing and even result in more serious problems like infection. 

It’s best to leave the area where the teeth were extracted alone for as long as you possibly can to promote the most optimal healing environment possible. 

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 ahead 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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