Patients often decline to remove their wisdom teeth due to the perceived discomfort during the procedure. However, a delay in wisdom tooth removal can cause you more harm.
There are several situations where wisdom teeth may not need to be removed. They are:
- Grown in the mouth completely (fully erupted)
- Easily accessed during brushing
- Biting with the opposing tooth and functioning well
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth on the lower jaw often do not have room to grow due to our softer diets. Thus, the erupting wisdom teeth can grow at various angles in the jaw, sometimes even horizontally.
Wisdom teeth that emerge partially through the gums create an opening for bacteria to reside and flourish, which eventually lead to gum disease and infection. We recommend early removal of wisdom teeth during late teens or early twenties. This is because wisdom tooth removal is more straightforward when the roots of the tooth are not fully formed. Also, the recovery time is usually shorter for younger people. This is why some young adults have their wisdom teeth extracted before the teeth become more firmly rooted in the jaw and cause problems.
Wisdom tooth removal can be carried out by a general dentist or an oral surgeon. If your dentist recommends removing your wisdom teeth, an OPG x-ray of your mouth will be taken to determine the position of the wisdom teeth. The degree of impaction of wisdom teeth affects the difficulty of the procedure.
Before having your wisdom teeth removed, you will be given topical anaesthesia to numb the gums in order to minimize discomfort. After which, local anaesthesia will be injected to numb the tooth and surrounding area. If you are particularly anxious about the procedure, an anaesthetist may be required to administer sedation.
Removing the wisdom tooth
If the tooth has not come through the gum, a small cut (incision) will be made in the gum to access it. A small piece of the bone covering the tooth may also need to be removed. The tooth may be cut into smaller parts to make the extraction process easier. There is less need to make an incision if the tooth has broken through the gum.
You will feel some pressure just before the tooth is removed. This is because your dentist or oral surgeon needs to widen the tooth socket by rocking the tooth back and forth before taking it out. Surgery to remove wisdom teeth shouldn’t be painful because the area will be numb. However, if you feel pain during the procedure, inform your dentist or oral surgeon so as to get more anesthetic.
The length of time to remove the tooth will vary. Simple procedures can take a few minutes, but it can take longer than 20 minutes if it’s more complicated.
If an incision has been made, dissolving stitches or black silk suture may be used to seal the gum. Your dentist will tell you how long the stitches will take to dissolve (usually 7 to 10 days). If non-resorbable stitches were used, you may need to return for suture removal.
Gauze will be placed over the site of the extraction and you will be asked to keep pressure on it by biting your jaws together for up to an hour. This is to allow a blood clot to form in the empty tooth socket. Blood clots are part of the healing process, so try not to dislodge them. Patients are also reminded to swallow the saliva and keep mouth dry.
In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed if you have an ongoing infection.
For 24 hours after removing your wisdom tooth, you should avoid:
- Rinsing your mouth out with liquid
- Drinking alcohol and smoking
- Drinking hot liquids such as tea or soup
- Strenuous physical activities