Are your wisdom teeth starting to bother you? Is it time to get them removed? While wisdom teeth extraction is a relatively straightforward procedure, the recovery can be complicated for those who smoke. Yes, it can be tempting to have a cigarette following the removal of your wisdom teeth. But you should know that doing so can put you at risk for a painful condition called dry socket.
In this article, we’ll explore wisdom tooth surgery, what you can expect, and why it’s necessary. We’ll also go over everything a smoker needs to know before having the surgery. While most everyone knows that smoking isn’t good for your health, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to quit. If you’re a smoker and need to have your wisdom teeth removed, this might be an excellent time to kick the smoking habit for good. But if you can’t bear to quit, you should still consider having your wisdom teeth removed.
Wisdom teeth extraction procedure
Having a wisdom tooth extracted is a bit different than having a tooth pulled. Wisdom teeth are located in the back of the mouth, where the tooth is far more difficult to access. Removing a wisdom tooth is more like a surgery than a regular extraction. Your dentist will make an incision in the gum line, then he or she will gently pull the tooth out, suturing the wound after.
Reasons for a wisdom tooth extraction
Wisdom teeth were once needed to help us chew tougher foods. Throughout evolution, this has become less necessary, and thus our mouths have adapted, and the space for wisdom teeth to come in has become smaller – often too small to accommodate the teeth.
For patients with a smaller space, crowding can become an issue. Crowding can be very painful and can create unsightly and uncomfortable alignment problems. Most dentists recommend a patient have their wisdom teeth removed if they are causing pain, or if there isn’t enough room for them to come in.
Smoking after removing wisdom teeth
Okay, so you have decided to move forward with your wisdom tooth removal. But you are a little leery about the idea of quitting smoking. Smoking following any oral surgery increases the chances of certain complications. We advise that quitting before the procedure is the best thing a patient can do, not just for their oral health and the procedure, but for their overall health too.
What happens if you smoke?
After wisdom tooth surgery, if you take a puff the first thing you’re likely to notice is extreme discomfort. We recommend patients avoid straws for the same reason: the last thing you want to do after wisdom tooth surgery is create suction in your mouth. The suction will pull on the wound, creating a fair amount of pain and pulling the sutures apart. In addition to causing pain, smoking will delay healing.
What are the risks?
The biggest risk of smoking following a wisdom tooth extraction is a condition called dry socket. If you’ve ever discussed wisdom tooth extraction with a smoker who has had the procedure, they might know a thing or two about this condition. In standard settings, after a tooth is extracted, a blood clot will form in the socket. This is a good thing and is part of the normal healing process. Dry socket is when the blood clot fails to develop, or it becomes dislodged before healing. When this happens, all the nerves under the tooth become exposed, which creates a very painful situation.
If you smoke, the suction could draw the blood clot out, or prevent it from forming. While non-smokers can develop this condition too, dry socket is much more prevalent in smokers.
How long before you can smoke again?
Though we highly recommend that patients don’t smoke, we know that for most smokers, quitting is very difficult. If you must smoke after having your wisdom teeth removed, we highly advise you to wait for at least 72-hours. This will allow the socket to heal somewhat and diminish your chances of complications. We’ve found that many patients don’t want to smoke immediately following the procedure anyway, as taking a draw from the cigarette can be painful.
Having your wisdom teeth out is a very common surgery, but it isn’t an experience that anyone would call fun. Compounding that with not being able to enjoy a habit that you may have had for a long time, that can make an extraction something you may be inclined to put off. But if you are having discomfort with your wisdom teeth, it’s really something you should address sooner rather than later. The chances of infection, damage to your other teeth, not to mention the alignment issues that can happen over time, are important problems to avoid – even if you are a smoker.
Soundview Family Dental can guide you through your wisdom tooth surgery, answer all of your questions, and make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Are your wisdom teeth bothering you? Come see us, we’re here to help.