Being the parent of teenagers is an emotionally exhausting job. From the time we teach them what to expect in junior high to the advice for teens when they get their license, we endure the ups and downs of their hormone-driven emotions. You can create a positive relationship through family bonding and find effective ways to empower your kids, but the hard truth is that it’s not easy. You have to make difficult decisions like finding an orthodontist for your teenager and enforcing the rules using modern discipline.
Then there are the aches and pains that come with injuries, illnesses and necessary medical procedures. Seeing your child uncomfortable or in pain (physically or emotionally) is one of the worst things about parenting. In preparation for braces, Kennedy had several baby teeth pulled along with some permanent teeth. The unorthodox surgeries were the result of her small stature so not something many parents will experience. On the other hand, Madison recently had her wisdom teeth pulled and that’s something that’s far more common. As a result, we decided to craft some thoughts on what to expect when your child gets wisdom teeth removed.
Things to Do Before Wisdom Teeth Surgery
Schedule surgery for summer or school break. Recovery times vary by person and how invasive the surgery is expected to be, but you can expect it to be around a week.
Schedule a consultation with the doctor. Arrive with a list of questions and bring a notepad so you can make notes specific to your child’s surgery. The doctor will provide information on what to do to prepare for the surgery (no food/drink, no contacts, no sandals, short sleeves, etc.) as well as what to do afterwards. Read these cover-to-cover and plan to abide by all their recommendations. Period.
Schedule time off work and/or sports. If your child is old enough to have wisdom teeth removed, chances are they’re also involved in extra-curricular activities, team sports or a part-time job. Let all associated coaches, bosses and leaders know that your child will be unavailable for a week following surgery. You’ll also want to make sure an adult has planned time off as well. The surgery center typically requires a parent be on site during the surgery and someone should be on hand in the days immediately following to assist with food, medicine and possible complications.
Go grocery shopping. You’ll need to have a variety of soft foods to consume the first couple of days following surgery. While your child is going to claim it’s an excuse for a milkshake diet, it isn’t. First and foremost, they won’t be allowed to drink through a straw. Second, they need nutrition because that helps in the healing process.
Talk about the camera. There are plenty of examples of viral videos of teens in their post-wisdom-surgery happy hour. Many kids welcome the opportunity to have awesome shareable videos of themselves, but it isn’t the parent’s decision to make alone. Talk to your child about how they feel. If they DO want video or pictures, then use their camera or phone so they are ultimately in control when they regain their presence of mind after recovery. If they do NOT want any video or photos, respect their decision.
What to Expect When Wisdom Teeth are Removed
Expect pain and discomfort. Let’s be completely honest here. There will be pain. Make sure the child is vocal about it, but it’s best to be on top of controlling it. The doctor will prescribe pain relief and likely recommend over-the-counter medication as well, but it will need to be monitored to ensure the child doesn’t overdose.
Expect swelling. Removal of wisdom teeth causes trauma to the mouth so it’s natural that there will be swelling. As my daughter put is, “There will be tons of swelling. They will look like a chipmunk.” The doctor should prescribe or encourage over-the-counter ibuprofen to help reduce the swelling. In addition, our surgeon instructed us to heat for the first 24 hours then said to switch to ice. We were provided with a hot and cold face wrap system that had inserts that could be put in the microwave to be warmed or in the freezer to become ice packs. 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. We set the timer on our Amazon Echo to remind us every 20 minutes to move to the next step.
Expect to need to fill prescriptions on the way home. Since it’s likely one will be a prescription narcotic for pain, you’ll need to physically take the prescription into the pharmacy to be filled. The anesthesia contains pain medicines and shouldn’t wear off for a couple hours. It’s best to plan to pick up the prescriptions on the way home so you’ll have them in hand, at home, when the pain medicine received at the doctor’s office wears off. Since the patient will be drowsy (and loopy), you’ll want to make sure someone stays in the vehicle with them while an adult goes into the pharmacy to fill the prescription.
You’ll need to track medicine intake. The doctor will probably prescribe the pain reliever and ibuprofen previously mentioned as well as antibiotics as a prophylactic measure to prevent infection. We kept a Sharpie by the medicine bottles and wrote down the times when each was taken. It helped ensure they were all taken as prescribed or recommended and eliminated the concern for whether they were too close together and an overdose might occur.
Expect your child to sleep. It’s not uncommon for teens to want to spend their summer sleeping in, vegging on the couch playing video games and generally just being bums. This is one time where it’s okay. Sleep is needed! They will sleep a lot and rest will help them recover.
Vomiting is possible. The first day can sometimes be problematic for the stomach. From fasting the night before to a body full of anesthesia, what your child eats and drinks will make a huge difference.
What your child eats matters. Your child should eat soft and bland foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal and cottage cheese for the first few days and drink clear, carbonated, sugary beverages such as 7-Up, Sprite and Ginger Ale. After that, whatever sounds good to drink is fine as long as it isn’t sticky or crunchy. Chips, popcorn and seeds can get lodged in the sockets. Be careful.
Expect bleeding. There are literally holes in your mouth where the teeth had to come out. The number of stitches will vary based on the difficulty of the surgery, but no matter how hard or easy, there will be bleeding afterwards. The doctor will send you home with gauze. It’s very important that you remind your child to leave the gauze in place for at least half an hour (or whatever amount of time your doctor recommends). It’s detrimental to the healing process if the gauze is removed too soon.
No spitting or sucking. Definitely no straws for the first few days. Consult with your doctor to find out how long your child should wait.
Expect to change your oral care procedures. You’ll need to make sure the patient follows directions for any recommended mouthwash or saltwater treatments. These are crucial to avoid infections. Ask your doctor for specifics on the type of toothbrush you use. We opted to set aside the Sonicare during the healing process and use a traditional soft-bristle brush instead to have better control over what is being brushed.
Alter your orthodontic care. Due to the swelling, the patient will need to refrain from wearing any retainers until they can get them to fit properly. Don’t force them into place.
Messing with the stitches is off limits. Most likely they will dissolve or fall out in a week, but it’s important that your child leave them be!
In the grand scheme of things, this surgery is pretty common and the recovery time generally pretty short. If the guidelines and instructions provided by your doctor are followed then the whole process should be smooth sailing. Madison provided many thoughts for compiling this article but my favorite was this little nugget, “Getting wisdom teeth removed is a very tough obstacle, both physically and emotionally. Emotional support is always respected and appreciated.” As with anything, having someone by your side when you’re trying to navigate the unfamiliar always provides a special layer of comfort… and this is prime example of that.
Have you ever had your wisdom teeth removed?