Recovering from wisdom tooth surgery

Wisdom teeth

We often remove wisdom teeth that cause problems. Everyone has different levels of pain and other side effects after surgery.

If you had a general anaesthetic, you can read our information about leaving hospital after dental surgery.

Side effects after wisdom tooth surgery

The side effects that you have after wisdom tooth surgery usually depend on if the surgery was complex. The average recovery time is 3 to 7 days.

Our dental surgery and recovery page has more information about possible side effects. They include:

  • bleeding. If you have bleeding that does not stop, contact your local dentist. If you cannot contact your usual dentist, call the hospital dental team or go to your nearest emergency department (A&E)
  • dry socket (pain and inflammation where we remove the tooth) and bad breath
  • pain, which you can expect for 3 to 7 days after surgery. Your surgeon tells you which painkillers to take and gives you a prescription if necessary
  • swelling
  • sensitive teeth

There are other side effects that can happen with wisdom tooth removal.


You might get some mild temporary bruising on the cheek, face and sometimes on the upper part of the neck.

Jaw stiffness

Opening your mouth is likely to be sore and uncomfortable for 3 to 4 days. During this time, a soft diet might be better for you.

You might also have pain and stiffness in the jaw joints. This usually disappears after a few days, but can last up to 4 weeks.

Difficulty swallowing

You might find swallowing uncomfortable for a few days after having your wisdom teeth removed. This is more common if you had a general anaesthetic. If you have a soft diet, you might find it more comfortable to swallow.


About 1 in 100 people who have wisdom tooth surgery get an infection. This can happen 3 to 7 days after surgery. You might have an infection if you:

  • have pain and swelling that are getting worse
  • have a bad taste in your mouth
  • get discharge from the wound
  • feel unwell

If you are concerned, contact the dental surgery department or your local dentist for more advice.

These symptoms might not be an infection. They might be caused by a side effect called dry socket, which is pain and inflammation in the area. Dry socket usually happens 3 to 5 days after surgery. It can be treated by carefully washing the area and putting on an antiseptic dressing. 

Recovery time

If you have a simple wisdom tooth removal, you might not need to take time off work. You can return to normal activities on the day after treatment.

If you have more complex surgery, there is likely to be more pain and discomfort. Everyone recovers differently, but the average recovery time from more complex wisdom tooth removal is 2 to 4 days.

Returning to work

If you have pain and discomfort, you might need time off work. Your employer should not ask for medical evidence if you are off sick for 7 days or less. Instead, they ask you to confirm that you have been unwell. You can do this by filling in a form when you return to work. This is called self-certification.

We do not give you a doctor's fit note for wisdom tooth removal. You only need this if you are off sick for more than 7 days.


It is best to avoid any heavy exercise for a few days.

You should not drive any vehicle or operate machinery:

  • until the day after your procedure, if you had intravenous sedation
  • 48 hours after your procedure, if you had a general anaesthetic

There are no restrictions on driving after a local anaesthetic injection into your mouth.

Follow-up appointments

Most people do not need a follow-up appointment after having a wisdom tooth removed.

Your surgeon decides if you need a follow-up appointment.  On the day of your surgery, we arrange any follow-up appointment that you might need.

Resource number: 4131/VER2
Last reviewed: April 2019
Next review: April 2022

Contact us

If you have any questions about your wisdom tooth surgery, please contact the oral surgery department.

Phone: 020 7188 3885, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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