If you are a smoker, you will no doubt be concerned about how your habit could affect your recovery from wisdom teeth removal. As your oral hygiene directly influences how well your wounds heal and your chances of infection and further complications, you need to be aware of the impact of smoking, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes.
The bad news is this: for the best chance of healing quickly and avoiding complications is to stop smoking after your surgery. The good news is that this could be a good time to quit smoking altogether!
Why is Smoking Bad for Your Teeth?
Smoking is often the main cause of periodontal disease as the smoke causes inflammation of the gums and nicotine can interact with the bacteria already on your teeth. One of the most obvious symptoms of smoking is discolouration of the enamel on your teeth and bad breath. This can lead to gum inflammation and disease as well as tooth decay.
Many smokers have their wisdom teeth removed due to damage caused by their smoking habits and it is worth remembering that all kinds of smoking can lead to damage. This means that whether you smoke a pipe, cigarettes or cigars, you are putting your dental and oral health at risk.
Smoking can also cause a lack of oxygen to your bloodstream. This means that if you have a wound, such as after an operation to remove wisdom teeth, it may not heal as quickly. The longer it takes for a wound to heal, the more time it is in danger of becoming infected. And, if your blood lacks oxygen, it will not be able to combat an infection as effectively.
Can You Smoke After Wisdom Teeth Removal?
The best advice is to stop smoking altogether but if you intend to continue smoking, you should at least try to avoid smoking until your wounds have fully healed. 72-hours might be regarded as a minimum withdrawal period but the longer, the better. If you are experiencing any problems healing, you should not return to smoking until you are fully recovered.
To see whether your gums are healed, simply look in the mirror to check their condition. If your gums are still red and inflamed, you shouldn’t smoke as this will only exacerbate their state. However, if your gums look pink and have healed over, you should be able to resume smoking.
Alternatives to Smoking
If you need nicotine and you are determined not to smoke, the best option is to use aids to help you quit such as nicotine patches. These patches will deliver nicotine to your system through your skin so won’t directly irritate the site of your wound.
While e-cigarettes are often recommended to people who intend to quit smoking, this alternative isn’t suitable for after wisdom teeth removal. This is because a sucking motion can affect the formation of a clot at the site of your wound and lead to dry socket, which is very unpleasant. The vapour from e-cigarettes can also cause irritation.
Nicotine gum should also be avoided along with all other chewy foods.
Complications Caused By Smoking
The main complication caused by smoking is the extended period of healing time. As the smoke will continue to irritate the wound, it will take longer to heal over and may become infected before a clot can fully form. Don’t forget that cigarettes contain many harmful toxins, all of which could lead to serious medical issues later on, not just oral or dental issues.
Dry socket is one of the major complications caused by smoking after wisdom teeth removal and can be even more painful that the initial surgery. The problem is caused when the blood clot, which forms to protect your bone and nerves, is broken down and the socket (the hole in the bone) becomes infected.
Dry socket infection significantly lengthens the healing time and can cause severe pain for around a week. This pain usually radiates from your gum right up to your eyes and ears and down through your neck. Dry socket also causes bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Needless to say, if eating is a tender process after wisdom teeth extraction, it is easy compared to the consequences of trying to eat with dry socket!
The worst-case scenario with dry socket is chronic bone infection (osteomyelitis).
Even once your wounds have healed, continuing to smoke will continue to have an impact on your dental health. Many smokers find that they have to have further teeth removed due to smoking.
Time to Quit
Stopping smoking for medical reasons is one of the best motivations you can get and, once you have overcome the first few days of withdrawal, you are more likely to be able to continue not smoking. In other words, if you can view this as an opportunity to quit once and for all, you should.
Many dentists will offer you help and guidance through quitting smoking and the benefits for your teeth but you can also find support online and with your own doctor. It’s never too late to quit smoking and taking this opportunity could have a significant impact on your ongoing health, including your oral and dental health.
There is no good time to smoke for your dental and oral health but you should be particularly cautious after wisdom teeth – or any tooth – removal. You must ensure that your wound is fully healed before you resume smoking, which usually takes around 72 hours but may be longer.
If you do choose to smoke while your wounds are healing, you run the risk of serious infections, including dry socket. This is a very painful condition and will lengthen your overall recovery time.
Smoking has a significant negative impact on your oral health and if you can use this time to quit for good, you should give it a go. Asking your medical professionals for advice to help you quit is a very good idea but there is plenty of information online too.