Wisdom Teeth Extraction recovery...need Some Patience and Advice.

Updated on June 28, 2013
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
15 answers

More of a vent than anything I guess – sorry if this gets long. My SD (15), who lives with us full-time, had all of her wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday morning. She has never been really sick or injured and has never had anesthesia or strong pain medication before, so we knew that we would have no idea how her body would handle this. So far, it's not been pretty. Her boyfriend had all of his taken out a day later by the same doctor and by comparison, he's fine, so it's just one of those things where it's easier for some people than for others. She's on her fourth day of recovery and is still in pain and very swollen, is having a hard time opening her mouth and swallowing, and chewing is out of the question. She had a fever yesterday despite being on antibiotics so we went back to the oral surgeon just to make sure something more serious wasn't going on and he examined her and said that she was fine, to continue her post-op care (vicoden, ibuprofen, antibiotics, saline rinse, prescription rinse, and ice) and to try to taper off the vicoden and move from ice to heat and that in another few days, she'd feel better. So really, I'm doing everything I can to keep her comfortable and the only thing that will help is additional time.

As you can imagine, she’s pretty miserable and I totally understand that. What I’m having a hard time with today is balancing being compassionate with the urge to say “you need to start helping yourself.” She’s incredibly passive by nature and is really doing nothing to help this process along other than doing what I tell her to do (here’s your medicine…drink this…eat that). For the past two mornings, I’ve been giving her a pain med at midnight and then letting her sleep until 8, then waking her up for more medicine, at which point she’s already in pain. So last night, I did a midnight dose and then she asked if I could give her more at 5 AM so that she didn’t wake up in pain, so I did. I then let her sleep late and checked in on her at 10 and she was dead asleep and looked comfortable, so I figured that the 5 AM dose was holding her and went back to work (I have been allowed to work at home this week to care for her). At 11:15 I went to check on her and she was awake and in pain. She said that she had woken up an hour before and was sore when she woke up. I asked her why she didn’t call out to me (we have a ranch home and her bedroom is maybe 20 feet away from where I was working), or call me on her cell, or use the bell I gave her so that I could have gone in to help her rather than have her lie there in pain waiting for me to check in on her. She had no answer. We then also went through the rigormarole of “you should eat something…do you want to try some scrambled eggs? Mashed potatoes? Soup? Jell-O? Pudding? Yogurt? A shake? A smoothie? Ice cream? A popsicle?” Her response is just to whimper that it’s hard to swallow, it’s hard to eat, she’s tired of liquids, etc. I respond with “I know, honey, but you really need to keep eating and drinking to get your energy up and help your body heal so…yogurt? Pudding? Applesauce? Oatmeal? Juice?”

Maybe I’m tired but I’m losing my patience here and just need perspective. With three other kids at home and a full-time job, I can’t play ICU nurse and do nothing but tend to her all day. At this stage of recovery, is it too much to ask that a teenager at least try to articulate her own needs? She’s been off of the vicoden for 12 hours now so she’s no longer loopy and drowsy and the ibuprofen seems to be holding the pain at bay if taken every 5-6 hours, so IMO, I think that having her refresh the heating pad in the microwave or refilling her own water glass or getting a yogurt or pudding from the fridge is all a reasonable expectation.

If your kids went through this, or you remember your own experience, at what point did it help in recovery to be pushed back into the real world a bit? My extractions were relatively easy and I was fully functional within a day but that’s not a fair comparison to what she’s going through. FWIW, she normally doesn’t ask anyone to do anything for her, ever, so it’s not like I feel like I’m being take advantage of or that she’s being lazy or anything, I just think she’s never been uncomfortable like this before and is wallowing a bit and would feel better if she starts doing some self-care.

What’s your experience with this recovery? Is there anything else I can do to help speed this along?

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answers from Anchorage on

She is 15, not 5. Stop babying her and tell her to take some responsibility for herself. She does not need a bell, she is not disabled and can walk. If she needs meds she can ask for them, if she is hungry she can make something to eat or ask for help. She may very well still be in pain, but it sounds like she is taking advantage. If she needs meds at 5 am tell her to set an alarm and leave a does on her night stand, no need for you to get up multiple times a nights.

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answers from Cumberland on

I had my colon resectioned and the recovery is much easier and the pain is nothing compared to wisdom teeth extraction. In fact, wisdom teeth removal is so barbaric and the recovery so immense, that that is generally why they are done all at once-who would go back and have this done over and over? My son-age 21-had this done last fall-I was literally crying and screaming within 3 minutes of being home because of his discomfort and inability to even have a grip on what the hell we were supposed to be doing!!! He formed dry sockets-don't let her suck anything through a straw or off a spoon-wouldn't stay iced, etc-it was hell. Months later, shards of bone were still working their way out of his gums. I would have rather endured the procedure in lieu of going through this with my son-it blows your mind-and compounding it with opiates-don't even go there-it's the worst. My son took steroids to aid healing -clove oil is the best-that is probably what worked the most-take the antibiotics at precise intervals-and lean on the doctor-I'm sure you paid thousands for this procedure-I know we did. All the best!!

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answers from Dallas on

My 18 yr old had hers out on June 17. She was scared out if her mind.

When she was in recovery she freaked out due to the numbness. This scared her because she didn't realize she'd numb. This was the first dental experience she ever had other than routine cleanings.

She was sore for a few days. Surgery was Monday and she stated in bed til cabin fever caught up with her and she went out briefly on Friday night.

Never had much swelling but she was afraid to open her mouth. Just yesterday she started more normal foods and is very cautious of the sore area.

Dr sent her home with Vicodin, antibiotics, and a steroid pack.

She's not 100% right now, but she's getting there. Today is day 3 and last day of a Dale Carnegie training from 9-6 and she's made it through that fine.

Her best friend had her's out 3 days after daughters and she bounced back faster than daughter did.

I made sure she stayed ahead of the pain, I pushed liquids and rest. We're hoping all is well and there will be no dry sockets, etc. at this point, I think she's in the clear.

Best wishes to yours.... It effects everyone differently.

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answers from St. Louis on

Are you sure her boyfriend isn't playing the role of strong man, and she is the damsel in distress? Like she is playing up how much stronger he is and acting worse than she is....and you are caught in the middle.

My ex was the biggest baby on earth, called the doctor all day...thought he was going to die. Even he shut the heck up after a couple days when no one cared anymore.

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answers from St. Louis on

I did not read the other responses but I had a horrible recovery with getting 2 of mine out (but I did have dry sockets). It was miserable all the time pain for 2 weeks straight. And I was 21 years old!!! So other than baby her, I do not think there is anything else you can do. Sure you can request she get her own foods/wake herself up to take meds/etc but I wouldn't push it. What she needs right now is a mother to just be there and let her revert to the little kid that is sick!

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answers from Philadelphia on

My wisdom teeth were impacted and the tops ones were up high in my sinus cavity. I remember it being a rough recovery. I think my brother ate a hamburger the same day he had his out. Like you said people recover at their own pace and it just takes time.
Can you leave ibprofen, snacks and drinks in her room with her so she can help herself and just tell her to call you if she needs anything?

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answers from Dallas on

I had a very hard recovery and my mom had to do a lot for me and I was 19. I got dry socket after as well that caused much more pain. At 15 I had surgery on my jaw and had lots of pain. My mom had to wake up in the middle of the night to give me my meds. We learned not to let them wear off. If I was sleeping she would wake me up about 15 mins before the dose we actually due and give it to me because if she didn't I would be in so much pain. I also know there are times that my pain is so bad that my brain just does not work.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I haven't had this exact situation, but I will say that my older son reacts like that to anesthesia. It makes him zombie-like for awhile - it's really strange. He will barely even talk. To a lesser degree he does this even with local anesthetic - the type you get with a tooth filling. Since she's not typically the lazy type I wouldn't be surprised if her body has been thrown for a loop by all this.

I can understand your frustration. Where is her dad? Can he chip in a bit on nursing duties?

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answers from Denver on

You are not being unreasonable. It does sound like she's had a tougher recovery than some. Glad she's off the vicoden... that stuff makes anyone miserable (although it does help with the pain). Yep, it's time she gets up and about little by little. I bet in just a couple more days she'll be feeling much better :) Let's hope so! Good job Mom

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answers from New York on

She needs to be a lot more responsible for herself. Being off the Vicodin will help. That stuff is nasty. Tell her to get up and she can start doing for herself. Don't mean to sound so harsh, but sounds like it you keep doing for her, she will continue to want to be waited on. I am still not over the waking her to give her pain meds. If she was in pain, she would have and could have gotten it herself.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I don't have any advice but I just wanted to say that I have had 2 wisdom teeth removed and the recovery was VERY different for both of them. First one I was back to normal the next day. The second one, I was out for a good week. It sucked!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I've always enjoyed caring for my kids when they need me, especially when recovering from something as major as that!

I say cut her some slack...it will be over soon enough!

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answers from Dover on

I had three wisdom teeth extracted, I don't have the 4th. I did great that day and night but had some issues the following two or three days. I didn't feel like eating so I was just drinking. I also hurt so bad at times it made me nausiated. Then taking pain medicine on a relatively empty stomache would actually make me sick. When I went back for a recheck, the doctor said it all looked good but he packed the one with more gauze after soaking it in "oil of clove"..it tasted weird but it helped with the pain and helped me not feel so sick. After that, I was on the mend.

The ideal is to keep the pain from coming on because keeping it away is much easier than getting rid of it once it starts. Swalling should not hurt (they didn't do anything to her throat).

It would seem reasonable that she should be able to get up and get her own pudding or applesauce as long as she's not "out of it" from the medication. She definately needs to get some nourishment in her.

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answers from Austin on

I have a high tolerance for pain. My husband has none.

I may have a loud voice, but every dental professional I have used has told me, my mouth is small.. I also respond very strongly to medications.So I will tend to sleep longer. I will be nauseous, I will be a bit out of it.

I actually was a bit bruised on my jaws after the oral surgery. I was in pain, I was exhausted.. But I really tried to keep going.. This surgery was done about 2 weeks before my high school graduation.. looking back at the photos you can see how swollen my face was throughout all of the activities,

Eating was a problem, but I did my best.

Just let stepdaughter know, you know she still does not feel perfect, but YOU can tell she is looking better. Be as positive about how she appears to be. That way she will begin to feel better.

The more pitiful she is treated, the more pitiful she may react. (my husband can be like this).

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answers from Jacksonville on

Sounds like you have done all that you can be expected to do, and more. So don't sweat starting to feel a little "over it" with her and her pain.

I suspect not being on the vicodin will allow her to be more functional, but she may continue to milk it a little if you don't expect her to step up a little now that she is off of it. For me, I'm not getting why you need to bring her meds to her in bed by day 4. If she woke up and was in pain, most normal people (even teens!) will get up and go in search of. (mom, meds, someone to listen to them complain...) She was waiting for you to wait on her at that point. That doesn't fly for me.

Yes, I baby my kids a little when they aren't well. But day 4 and I am over it for the most part and expect them to be accepting their situation and learning to manage it. There's a learning curve of learning to deal with pain. She's should be closer to the end of the curve (where you've figured out what helps and what doesn't, and how to mentally push through) than it sounds like she is.

At this point, I wouldn't be giving her the litany of food choices and encouraging her to eat. She will eat if she is hungry, and she KNOWS what she can and can't eat at this point. Point her towards the kitchen and tell her if she wants something that she needs help preparing to let you know. Otherwise, help herself to whatever sounds good. And let her wallow in her misery if she wants. But don't feel guilty that you aren't doing more. There isn't anything more to do.

I wouldn't be bringing her her meds at this point either. When it is time, call her out of her room to go take them. Even my 14 year old son can dose himself with the medication he needs. Heck, my 12 year old daughter can too, she just never needs any. Just leave her medication on the counter and tell her "Susie, it's time for you to take ____." When she complains of pain, tell her, "You have to wait until ____o'clock to take any more ___." or "it's been long enough that you can have some more ___." And let her take it, or sit. Her choice.

Your mouth being in pain, doesn't make you unable to walk.
Oh, and I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth surgically extracted when I was about 21. I rebounded quickly, like many people do. And I get that not everyone does. But once you are off narcotics, you can walk and manage a lot more than you may "want" to... I was single and my family was 6 hours away. I pretty much recovered on my own. Nobody brought me ANYTHING in bed. Not once. If I wanted it, I got up and got it.


Another little story.. my 12 year old daughter, last summer, when she had just turned 11, had 4 teeth extracted at the dentists office (for orthodontic reasons). They were baby teeth, but weren't coming out on their own (and the complete roots were attached to them to prove it--those suckers were an inch long, each). She was not put under general anesthesia. And she cried (but still loves our dentist). But by the next day, she was up behaving normally, except for be careful about the foods she ate. Not the same as cutting out wisdom teeth, but it was still 4 at once.

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