More than half of all teenagers/young adults need to extract their third molars – commonly called wisdom teeth. The main reason for this is the lack of space to accommodate them. In other words, the jaw is not large enough to fit in all of the teeth that want to grow into the mouth.
This problem usually shows itself in the late teen years and manifests as a condition called pericoronitis (inflammation of the gums around the wisdom teeth).
The usual and customary approach for most dentists is to use local anesthetic along with a relaxant such as oral medication and/or sedation. While the procedure itself is usually fairly painless, that is not the case for the post-operative healing time. In fact, the discomfort can become quite high on the pain scale.
Most dentists will give medications such as an opioid or higher dose NSAID (Motrin/Advil/Aleve for example).
These medications have a solid history of reducing swelling and perceived pain. But researchers continue to look for other options. But perhaps as important as these medications are the proper use of cryotherapy immediately after surgery.
Surgeons and dentists almost always give the patient some form of an icepack to place on the face and jaw area for a period of time. But many patients fail to use that simple, effective method to help reduce pain levels. Research shows that in many, if not most cases, the proper application of icepacks and similar modes of cryotherapy can reduce pain symptoms.
We recommend 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for at least the first 8 hours after surgery, more if possible. Recent research has suggested that while the ice will not reduce swelling, it can impact the amount of pain you experience.