Recovering from wisdom tooth surgery

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth that cause problems will often be removed. Everyone has different levels of pain and other side effects after surgery.

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

Side effects after wisdom tooth surgery

The side effects you have after wisdom tooth surgery will usually depend on how complex your surgery is. The average recovery time is 3 to 7 days.

Our dental surgery and recovery page has more information about:

  • bleeding. If bleeding 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 and bad breath
  • pain, which you can expect for 3 to 7 days after surgery. Your surgeon will tell you which painkillers to take and give you a prescription if necessary. 
  • swelling
  • sensitive teeth

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


This can occur 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, and a soft diet might be better for you. You might also have pain and stiffness of the jaw joints. This will normally disappear 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 have had a general anaesthetic. A soft diet might help reduce the discomfort of swallowing when eating.


Around 1 in 100 people who have wisdom tooth removal get an infection. This can happen 3 to 7 days after surgery. You might have an infection if you have pain and swelling that is getting worse, a bad taste, discharge from the wound or you 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 due to a side effect known as dry socket, which is pain and inflammation in the area. This usually starts 2 days after treatment. This can be treated by carefully washing the area, and having an antiseptic dressing put on. 

Recovery time

For simple wisdom tooth removal, time off work might not be needed. You can return to normal activities the day after treatment.

With more complex surgery, more pain and discomfort can be expected. Everyone recovers differently, but the average time for recovery from more complex wisdom tooth removal is 2 to 4 days.

Returning to work

Pain and discomfort might mean you need time off work. You can self-certificate with your employer for up to 7 days. A doctor’s fit note will not be given for this treatment.


We would advise you to avoid strenuous exercise for a few days.

You should not drive any vehicle or operate machinery:

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 tooth removed.

Your surgeon will decide if you need a follow-up appointment, and arrangements will be made for this on the day of your surgery.

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.

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