Wisdom teeth (often called third molars) are the last teeth to come through the gums and usually emerge in the late teens to early twenties.
Most people have four wisdom teeth, some have one, two or three and some people have no wisdom teeth. If there is enough space and wisdom teeth come through straight they cause no problems.
When wisdom teeth develop at an angle they can push other teeth out of alignment, can emerge through the gums only partially and cause an infection. Removal of a wisdom tooth is a very common procedure and should be done as soon as possible before the problems develop.
At Glebe Dental our dental team have extensive experience removing wisdom teeth. Depending on your personal circumstances your procedure may be completed at our practice with or without IV sedation.
Why do wisdom teeth need to come out?
Wisdom teeth grow in behind your back teeth but not everyone has space for them. They can also erupt in ways that cause other problems for your teeth or gums.
For example, some people’s mouths simply don’t have enough room for these teeth. For others, they will grow in at an angle that pushes other teeth out of the way, causing crowding, overlapping and pain.
In some cases, you may not need any teeth out at all but, in others, anywhere from one to all four will need to be removed to maintain good oral health.
It could be your dentist who first mentions that the teeth will need to be extracted after spotting a future issue during an examination or an x-ray. However, your first indication may be pain in the back of your mouth, as some teeth will become infected and impacted as they start to erupt.
What happens during a wisdom tooth extraction?
The first step may be a local anaesthetic to numb the areas of extraction (similar to the process of a standard filling or tooth removal). Alternatively, your oral surgeon or dentist may use a general anaesthetic, which is more common in complicated procedures – for example, when all four teeth need to come out. This second option will typically put you to sleep for the entire procedure.
Once your dentist has ensured you can’t feel anything around the site, they will start the removal. If the tooth hasn’t yet erupted from the gum, they will have to create a cut to access it. They will then pull out the tooth, sometimes breaking it into smaller pieces to make the extraction easier.
Afterwards, they will place stitches in the hole left behind. Most dentists these days use dissolvable thread, which naturally disappears after a few days so that you don’t have to make a return visit to have them removed once the wound has healed. They will place cotton pads over the wounds to minimise any bleeding, which you will keep in your mouth for an hour or so after the procedure.
Wisdom tooth extraction recovery
It will take about a week or two to recover properly from this procedure. Your dentist will advise you on the best ways to care for yourself during this time, but there are a few tips that most people can use, regardless of your circumstances.
You may want to apply ice packs to your jaw, as this can help to reduce any swelling. Over-the-counter pain medication is usually enough to reduce discomfort, but your dentist may prescribe something stronger if you have had a complicated surgery. Some bleeding is to be expected for the first few hours (your dentist will supply you with spare cotton pads), but if it continues for 24 hours or more you should talk to your dentist.
It’s a good idea to prepare some soft meals for the following few days, and to stock up on nutritious items such as smoothie ingredients – you may not be able to chew on the site of the removal until it’s begun to heal. And since the incision area is easily irritated, you should also avoid exercise, drinking through a straw and smoking for the first day or two. Salt water washes are also helpful for encouraging the wound to heal and lowering your risk of infection.