The removal of your wisdom teeth is a common and relatively simple dental procedure that millions of people under go each year. However, the pain and inconvenience that it brings after the surgery can cause anxiety to those who have to undergo it. After all, having surgery in your mouth can be a terrifying experience and it is only natural to wonder what you should or shouldn’t do afterwards.
In particular, many have asked if it is possible to fly the day after the surgery, and why. While it may be tempting to jump on a plane and head out on your next adventure, you should understand the risks associated with flying too soon after wisdom teeth removal.
As a general rule of thumb, you should only fly 48 hours after your wisdom teeth removal surgery. A change in air pressure during a flight can lead to discomfort, swelling, and bleeding at the surgical site. This could potentially lead to medical complications such as a dry socket and delay the recovery.
In this article, we will explore the reason behind the 48 hours and and why it is important to take certain precautions to avoid post-operative complications.
Flying After 48 Hours
After the removal of your wisdom teeth, the body is in a weakened state due to the surgery and the stress of undergoing it. The surgical site is also swollen while the gumline is sensitive.
It is best that you wait for at least 48 hours after the operation before flying as it allows time for your body to rest and the wound to heal. Adding on, this also gives time for the blood clot to fully form in the socket where the removed wisdom teeth once was, thus reducing the chances of dry socket.
A dry socket (also known as alveolar osteitis) is a painful medical condition that happens in approximately 5 to 8% of the patients who had their wisdom teeth removed. The condition occurs when the blood clot formed in the socket is dislodged or dissolves. This exposes the underlying bone and nerves to the harsh elements of the mouth, causing a wide range of symptoms including a persistent and intense pain, bad breath, and a foul taste in the mouth. In the worse cases, the dry socket becomes infected and it progresses to chronic bone infection, or osteomyelitis.
You may be interested in: Headache After Wisdom Teeth Removal. Why and How You Can Reduce It
If you are looking to fly within the first 48 hours of your wisdom teeth removal, here are the what you should consider:
- Consult your dentist. Your dentist or oral surgeon will examine the extraction site to ensure that it is healing as it should. They can also provide you with specific instruction on caring for your wound during the flight and answer any concerns you may have.
- Prepare a couple gauze pads. During the first 12 hours of your post-surgery, bleeding will likely continue as the wound has yet to fully close. Bite on the gauze pad (with some force) to place pressure on the wound and stop the bleeding.
- Prepare sufficient pain medication. You will likely experience some pain or discomfort during the flight. Cabin pressure as well as general anxiety during the flight can intensify any pain you are already suffering from. Adding on, you should avoid narcotic painkillers before and during the flight as it may lead to unwanted side effects including dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness.
- Request for ice packs. To reduce the swelling on your cheeks, ask for ice packs from the flight attendants. Place it on the swollen area for approximately 10 minutes for every 4 to 6 hours. You may want to prepare a Ziploc bag beforehand so that it can be filled up with ice during the flight.
- Request or prepare soft food. After the surgery, you should stick to a soft food diet to avoid injuring the surgical site. This means abstaining from hard, crunchy food and consuming soft and mushy food. Examples of soft food include mash potatoes, scrambled eggs, ice cream, yogurt, and soup. If you are on a long haul flight, submit a request to the airline at least a day before the flight.
- Have your dental clinic’s contact information. This is to ensure that you are always able to contact your clinic and seek help in the event of an emergency.
Precautions to Take Note Of
Apart from needing to wait for 48 hours before flying, there are several things you should take note of to not only prevent complications but also ensure a speedy recovery.
- Avoid rinsing your mouth too vigorously with water or mouthwash. This can irritate the surgical site and potentially dislodge the blood clot from the socket.
- Avoid using a straw. The use of a straw can create suction in the mouth, which can dislodge the blood clot in the surgical site.
- Avoid smoking. The harmful ingredients in a cigarette can irritate the wound and slow down the recovery process. Furthermore, the continuous inhaling and exhaling of hot smoke creates suction.
- Avoid streneous exercise. Any intense exercise increases blood pressure and heart rate, and this can lead to increased bleeding from the surgical site. Furthermore, contact sport or vigorous exercise can potentially dislodge the blood clot.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of an infection. It also thin out the blood, causing increased bleeding.
- Avoid touching the extraction site. Touching the extraction site with your fingers can introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection
To conclude, while there are no hard and fast rules, you should always wait at least 48 hours after your wisdom teeth removal surgery to allow the initial healing process to take place. This is due to the fact that one can experience increased risk of complications such as bleeding or dry socket during the flight.
Also, it is important that you consult with your dentist or oral surgeon as they are able to provide personalized advice and recommendations based on the recovery of your surgical wound. Some people may be able to fly within 24 hours of their procedure, while others may need more time before they feel comfortable doing so. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide when you are comfortable enough to take a flight.