Wisdom teeth are the teeth that grow at the end of your gums, at the back of your mouth. They are the last of your teeth to come out and usually erupt during the late teen years up to around the mid-20s. People can develop up to four wisdom teeth in their lifetime, one tooth in each corner of your mouth. There are some though who are lucky to not develop any at all.
Is it time to get my wisdom tooth extracted?
Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. They usually do not become a problem for most people until they cause pain and discomfort, which usually happens when a tooth is impacted. A tooth becomes impacted when there is not enough space on your gums for it to develop, causing them to come out at an angle or only come out partially.
However, not all impacted wisdom teeth need to be removed. Like all surgeries, complications may arise from the procedure so it is best to leave them alone if they are not causing any problems.
An impacted tooth can cause infection and inflammation around its immediate area. This can lead to pain, swollen gums and stiffness in your jaw area that can spread to the areas near your neck and ear.
However, there are some cases when your dentist may advise doing the procedure even if your wisdom tooth does not hurt. If the tooth is threatening to affect other teeth, it should be removed. Neighboring teeth may be affected because there are tendencies for food and bacteria to get trapped between the wisdom tooth and the adjacent tooth. This can cause tooth decay, gum problems, cellulitis, abscess and in some cases, cysts or benign growths may also develop.
Most of these problems that were caused by infection can be treated by taking antibiotics. However, if these do not work, a wisdom tooth extraction may be the best way to go.
If you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned, go to your dentist immediately. Your dentist may need you to get an x-ray to clearly determine the position and direction that the tooth is going. The dentist will then be able to recommend if an extraction is indeed needed or if you will be needing a hospital surgery.
Ideally, wisdom teeth should be taken out before a person turns 25 years old. It will be harder for your dentist to do the surgery beyond this age since the area surrounding the tooth would have already become harder and the bone in the surrounding area would have already become more compact. Recovery periods for older patients tend to be longer as well.
What will happen during my wisdom tooth surgery?
The procedure starts with administering an anesthesia. Usually, a local anesthesia is used for the procedure to numb the surrounding area. However, if there are several wisdom teeth that will be extracted all at the same time, a general anesthesia may be used. Sometimes, patients may prefer undergoing general anesthesia if they are nervous about the procedure or if the procedure will be difficult.
The procedure will only last for around 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on whether the tooth has erupted or how much it has surfaced, the dentist may start by making an incision on your gums. Once the tooth and bone are exposed, the bone covering the tooth will be removed. The dentist will then loosen the tooth from the socket by moving it around. At this point, you will feel the force from the dentist’s efforts to free the tooth. Sometimes, it may be easier to cut the tooth into pieces before removing it. Afterward, the surrounding areas will be cleaned from particles that may have come from the bone or tooth. If an incision was done, stitches will also be needed to close the wound. These will dissolve after a few days.
After the surgery, the dentist may place a gauze on the site and ask you to put pressure on the area by biting on it. This will help the blood clot in the socket and stop the bleeding.
What should I do after the operation?
- Avoid spitting, rinsing your mouth or drinking hot beverages for the first 24 hours. Doing these may remove the clots that are supposed to make the wound heal.
- You may take painkillers to reduce the pain. Antibiotics may also be required. Make sure to complete the whole round as prescribed by your dentist.
- Following a soft diet is best for the first few days, especially the first few hours. Avoid chewing food near the extraction site. Make sure that food particles do not get stuck in the wound also.
- A cold compress will help reduce and prevent swelling and relieve pain. The swelling is usually at its peak around 72 hours after the procedure.
- Take the rest of the day off after the procedure and rest. Do not engage in strenuous activities for the first few days to prevent the wound from opening up.
- Avoid smoking and drinking beverages other than water to help the wound heal faster.
- You may be advised not to brush your teeth for the first 24 hours. Once you can, be cautious in brushing the area near the wound. Gargle with antiseptic mouthwash for the first few days. You may also gargle with a salt water solution to help aid the healing process.
- Consult your dentist immediately for any unusual pain, bleeding, numbness, swelling, taste, fever, or blood and pus discharges.
- Go back to your dentist if there are stitches that have not dissolved and need to be removed.