Are your wisdom teeth troubling you? Some people are lucky and experience no issues when their wisdom teeth come in – if they come in at all. Others find it to be a painful experience. Wisdom tooth removal is the most common treatment. Here is what you need to expect when you’re getting a wisdom tooth removed!
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the teeth at the very back of your mouth, also called the third molars. You can find them on each side of the upper and lower jaw. Wisdom teeth are “evolutionary relics”. When our ancestors were still chewing rough materials like nuts, roots, and raw meat, their teeth would suffer greatly. Having a third set of molars coming in by the time you ruined and possibly lost a few teeth, was quite handy back in the day.
But during the natural course of history, diets changed and we discovered modern oral hygiene. And instead of enjoying two extra sets of teeth, you’re left struggling with wisdom teeth that grow in, push on other teeth and cause all sorts of trouble.
How Did Wisdom Teeth Get Their Name?
You may wonder how something that causes so much pain could be associated with wisdom. There are different theories about the origin of the term “wisdom tooth”. It is commonly believed that the name comes from the stage of life a person is in when they erupt. The age in which third molars break through varies. It usually occurs during the late teens or early twenties. And at that point, you’re presumably, much wiser than any child could be. The eruption of wisdom teeth was so often seen as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Your mouth is able to hold about 28 teeth. Adding four wisdom teeth, things can naturally become a little crowded. When your jaw is too small to accommodate new teeth comfortably, a wisdom tooth eruption can cause a lot of pain.
Depending on the size of your jaw, and how your wisdom teeth grow in, it is possible that you may not have any issues. But since early removal is still the best way to avoid issues, we always recommend a check-up with your dentist.
Only a dentist can evaluate the development and growth of your wisdom teeth properly and plan ahead to avoid any serious problems.
When your wisdom teeth come in and don’t have enough space or grow at an angle, symptoms can be uncomfortable and cause a variety of issues. In that case, the removal of the impacted wisdom teeth offers the only permanent solution.
Reasons why you should have your wisdom teeth removed:
- Wisdom teeth can become trapped beneath the gum, which can result in infections or cysts and damage other teeth’s roots.
- Wisdom teeth can grow out too far and damage the insides of your cheek or gum.
- If you have little space left in your jaw, your wisdom teeth have nowhere to go. As a result, they may push and damage your other teeth.
- If your orthodontist needs space to move other teeth backwards.
- Your wisdom teeth may be growing in a position which is hard to clean and down the road, create decay and further damage.
- If you are in need of surgery which requires your jaw to be moved forwards or backwards. This is often the case with sports injuries, cosmetic surgery or other injuries.
What to Expect During the Wisdom Tooth Removal Procedure
During a check up, your dentist will do an xray of your jaw. This helps determine whether or not you should have your wisdom teeth removed. Nowadays, Dentists are likely to recommend removal before your wisdom teeth become a noticeable problem. If surgery is deemed necessary, the dentist will carefully explain your options. You will be recommended a treatment plan based on your needs and medical history.
There are two ways to get your wisdom teeth removed.
Usually, wisdom tooth removals only require a local anaesthetic. Your dentist at your local clinic is perfectly equipped to undertake this surgery. During the procedure, you will be sitting in the standard dentist chair.
You will stay awake during the surgery, but the anaesthetic completely blocks any pain. Using a
local anaesthetic, we recommend having a light meal and some liquid up to an hour before your scheduled surgery.
If your wisdom tooth has already come through, the extraction may not be much different to the extraction of any other tooth. However, it gets a little bit more complicated if the tooth is still stuck in your gum and hasn’t erupted yet. Once the anaesthetic kicks in, your dentist will then make a small incision in the gum to expose the tooth and bone. Sometimes, wisdom teeth have to be divided into several pieces before being removed.
When the tooth has been removed, the extraction site is cleaned and stitched up. Usually, the procedure takes anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour, per tooth.
However, if your case is more complex, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon at a specialised hospital. This can be an option, if you are worried about staying awake during the procedure, too. At the hospital you could opt in for IV sedation, which is administered through the veins and will put you to sleep immediately.
What Does The Aftercare Look Like?
The proper aftercare is extremely important and will ensure a speedy recovery. You’ll most likely experience swelling, bruising and some bleeding after the surgery. It is in your hands to take proper care of your wound to ensure it heals quickly.
Plan your ride home with a friend or family member, so you aren’t getting behind the wheel all drowsy from the anaesthesia.
Immediately after the surgery, you will need to bite firmly on gauze for at least 1 hour. If you are still bleeding when you remove the gauze then place a new piece of gauze. When the anaesthetic wears off you may also get some bleeding, this is normal. Again place gauze if needed and bite down firmly. Each time you place gauze on the removal site it is important that it stay in place for a minimum time of 30 minutes. If bleeding persists after 5hours you should contact your dentist.
For the next 24hours after wisdom tooth removal we advised that you leave the site alone. Brush your other teeth as normal but do not disturb the tooth removal site. Sleep with an extra pillow behind your head to keep your head elevated. It is also advised that you do not do any strenuous activity over the next 24hours. After 24 hours you may rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water 3-4times a day, this will help the gums heal. These aftercare instructions are advised to ensure the blood clot stays in place over the removal site until the gum heals properly.
It is also very important that you do not smoke or drink alcohol for the next 72hours after tooth removal as this will destroy the blood clot. If you have felt like you are healing well and the pain is subsiding after your extraction, but then a toothache pain returns, this is a sign that you have a dry socket. Please call your dentist immediately, antibiotics are not needed routinely and the treatment is quick and painless. It is important to know that you will heal normally; your dentist will just get you out of pain and ensure the area is kept clean while you continue to heal.
Although there are a few no-can-dos after wisdom tooth surgery, we have good news, too. Recovery may bring back some of your favourite childhood foods and drinks. Soft foods are simply the safest thing to eat until the bleeding stops and your gums heal.
Here is a list of safe foods post-surgery:
- Ice cream
- Apple sauce
- Clear soups
- Scrambled eggs
- Mashed Potatoes
- Mashed Pumpkin
Avoid very hot foods or sucking on straws. This can open up stitches and cause bleeding and infections.
Full recovery usually takes about 2 weeks to 1 month. Your stitches will dissolve in a matter of a few weeks. If you are experiencing unusual pain or discomfort after your surgery, do not hesitate to contact your dentist.
Symptoms to watch out for post-surgery:
- Continuing bleeding
- Bad breath
- Swelling of the gums
- Swelling of the glands in the neck
- Swelling in the jaw
It is unlikely that you will experience any of these complications if you follow all aftercare instructions. But contact your dentist immediately if you do notice any of these symptoms.
Here is a handy video to watch in preparation for your wisdom tooth removal surgery!
Going through and recovering from wisdom tooth surgery may not be fun, but it gets easier with the proper care. At Admire Dentistry, we aim to improve your experience and make you feel at ease the moment you walk through the door.
Our skilled, gentle and dedicated staff are happy to speak with you about your wisdom teeth concerns and options.
Do you have questions about dental pain, wisdom teeth removal or past dental work? Get in touch with us today!