Wisdom teeth are synonymous with pain and discomfort. Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars to grow in an adult. They are four in number and grow in the back corners of your mouth. Wisdom teeth grow in between ages 17 and 25. This is the reason why they are called wisdom teeth.
Unfortunately, having to get them removed is a procedure that most young adults or teenagers have to go through. Wisdom teeth extraction is a fairly major procedure and people might need some time to recover.
What Should You Know About Wisdom Tooth Extraction?
Wisdom teeth may need to be removed when they become misaligned, impacted or cause problems to the other teeth. They may also be removed preemptively, to prevent dental problems in the future.
Impacted wisdom teeth: a wisdom tooth becomes impacted when it grows but remains enclosed in the soft gum tissue and/or the jawbone. An impacted tooth may also erupt partially through the gum. A partial impaction allows bacteria to enter the area surrounding the tooth. This might lead to an infection and consequently cause pain, stiffness and swelling.
Teeth that erupt partially are more likely to decay or cause gum disease. This is because wisdom teeth are hard to reach when brushing and flossing.
Misalignment: An impacted wisdom teeth can cause other teeth to grow out of shape. Wisdom teeth grow in an already crowded space and they may lean into other teeth instead of growing straight up. Misaligned wisdom teeth may grow angled away or towards the second molars, outwards or inwards, or horizontally. This affects the shape of nearby teeth and may even affect the nerves or the jawbone.
In addition, they may also be removed when:
- Jaw damage: cysts may form around the wisdom teeth. If these cysts are untreated, they can damage the nerves and cause the bones of the jaw to hollow out.
- Cavities: a cavity is a hole/gap formed between teeth. Cavities enable the growth of bacteria and may cause gums to swell.
- They start to damage other teeth: many times, wisdom teeth may push other teeth out of place. This can cause pain and difficulty in chewing.
- Inflamed gums: when a wisdom truth grows poorly, it can cause the tissue around the new growth to swell. The swelling is often painful and may make the mouth hard to clean.
- Sinus Issues: severe wisdom teeth problems can affect the sinuses leading to congestion, pressure and pain.
If you experience any of these or your dentist notices them, you may need to get your wisdom tooth out.
A wisdom tooth extraction is performed by an oral surgeon or a dentist, depending on the complexity of the operation. Before the surgery, local or general anaesthesia is administered to prevent pain during the procedure. During the surgery, any bone obstructing clear access to the root of the tooth is removed.
After this, the wisdom tooth is removed. Stitches might be put in to close the site, but this is not always necessary. Gauze is placed over the area where the tooth was removed to control bleeding and allow a blood clot to form. The blood clot speeds up healing and prevents foods and other substances from getting into the tooth socket.
After the surgery, pain or discomfort is a common symptom experienced by most people. The level of pain or discomfort felt is affected by your pain threshold, if you choose to use pain medication and it depends on the magnitude of the surgery performed.
After the removal, you will have to implement specific care tips to ensure your teeth heal fast, properly and with minimal pain.
- Managing pain: Your dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe pain medication for you to use. You may also use over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to reduce pain. A cold pack may help to alleviate pain, just hold it against your jaw.
- Bleeding: Use gauze to staunch any bleeding from the area. Replace the gauze frequently. Avoid spitting to prevent the blood clot from being dislodged.
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water. Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and hot beverages in the initial 24 hours after the surgery. Do not drink carbonated drinks(soda). Drink lots of water after the surgery. Do not use a straw for drinking for at least a week after surgery. This is because the sucking motions may dislodge the blood clot from the socket.
- Cleaning your mouth: try not to brush your teeth for the first 24 hours after surgery. Do not rinse and spit as well. If necessary, use a damp cloth or cotton ball to clean your mouth and tongue. Avoid touching your stitches. Don’t use commercial mouthwashes because they can irritate the tooth removal site. On the second day, you can start brushing your teeth gently.
- Foods that are spicy, hot, chewy or hard should be avoided. They can irritate the extraction site or get lodged in the socket. Soft foods such as soup, yoghurt or apple-sauce are ideal during the first 24 hours. Slowly include semi-soft foods when you feel you can handle them.
- Swelling usually occurs on the part of the face or jaw where the tooth was removed. Ice packs can help to reduce swelling. Hold an ice pack against the swollen area for about 10 minutes, keep the pack off for the next 20 minutes. Repeat this process as often as necessary for the first 24-hours.
Your teeth should heal fine if you are careful, but make sure to see your oral care specialist if you notice any of these signs or symptoms
Experiencing certain signs and symptoms after your wisdom tooth removal is a cause for concern. These signs and symptoms may indicate a complication such as nerve damage or an infection.
- Excessive bleeding
- Severe pain not alleviated by pain medication (prescribed or otherwise)
- The swelling on your face or jaw worsens after 48 hours or more
- Pus in the tooth socket
- Pus or blood or in your nasal discharge
- Difficulty when swallowing or breathing
- Persistent numbness in the removal area
- A foul taste in your mouth which is not removed with saltwater rinsing
Contact or visit your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience any of these signs or symptoms after your wisdom tooth removal.
- Dry socket
This is a common complication of wisdom tooth removal. It results from the removal or dislodgement of blood clot from the socket or when blood does not clot in the tooth socket. The healing process is if a blood clot fails to form.
Dry socket happens 3 or 4 days after wisdom tooth extraction. It is accompanied by a revolting mouth odour and pain which ranges from dull to severe. Dry socket is treated by inserting medication in the tooth socket to relieve the symptoms. This is done by your oral care surgeon or dentist.
Paresthesia is a very rare complication of wisdom teeth removal. It is the numbness felt when the nerves in the jaw/mouth are bruised or damaged when the wisdom tooth is being removed. This happens during removal of wisdom teeth deeply set in the jawbone, close to nerves. This results in a numbness of the chin, lips and tongue. This numbness can last a few days or weeks. It may even be felt for months or may be permanent.
A follow-up appointment after a wisdom tooth extraction may not be necessary unless you need to have stitches removed or have any complications. But it is good for you to maintain dental hygiene and see the dentist regularly. This will prevent other dental issues from arising.