Roughly 85% of people have to get their wisdom teeth removed sometime throughout their life. Surgeries usually occur in their teens or early twenties, starting most commonly at the age of 17.
Wisdom teeth are a set of molars that are located in the back corners of the upper and lower parts of your mouth. Not all people have them, but most have one to four. Most cases, they erupt too closely to existing teeth which can lead to crowing, improper bites, and other problems. In this case, they are called impacted wisdom teeth.
The way to treat an impacted wisdom tooth is removal. The reason for removal is because of the pain it causes on your teeth and gums and for the benefit of your oral health. Some symptoms are pain, inflammation, and infection.
If not treated, it may lead to gum disease, tooth decay, damage to the surrounding teeth, bone loss, tooth loss, and other dental problems as wisdom teeth are much harder to keep clean. It is proven that removing wisdom teeth prevent periodontal disease. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, dentists will still recommend removal to prevent problems in the future. Luckily, removal does not interfere with the ability to bite down, speak, or eat properly.
Before the Surgery
Let your surgeon know about any questions or concerns you have before the surgery. They can help you prepare and plan for the recovery process. They will also talk you through the surgery process.
Follow instructions that your surgeon may give you about food and drinks you are allowed to consume before the surgery. It may depend on what kind of anesthesia you will be receiving.
The risk of bleeding can increase with medications such as ibuprofen (Advil), blood thinners such as warfarin, and aspirin. Let your surgeon know of the medications you are on in order to know when to stop taking them before the surgery.
It is also important to avoid any tobacco and alcohol at least eight hours before your surgery. It is important to avoid alcohol before surgery because alcohol can thin the blood causing much more bleeding. Tobacco should also not be used as smoking can decrease blood flow making surgical wounds less likely to close.
In the event that you are getting intravenous anesthesia, you should wear short sleeves to make administration easier.
During the Surgery
Wisdom teeth extraction will be performed by an oral surgeon. Depending on the expected complexity of the surgery, your oral surgeon will use local, sedation, or general anesthesia. Depending on the anesthesia, you may or may not be conscious during the surgery.
Your surgeon will create an incision to expose the gum and bone. If there is excess gum tissue where the tooth is located, it will be removed to expose the area. Any excess bone will be removed as well by drilling.
When the tooth is visible, the surgeon will slowly loosen any connective tissue between the tooth and gum. If necessary, the surgeon will cut the tooth into pieces for an easier removal.
After removing the tooth, the surgeon will clean the site of any debris, and stitch the wound to promote healing, although this may not always be necessary.
After the Surgery
Directly after, you will be brought to a recovery room to be monitored. Once they have determined your vitals, such as blood pressure and pulse are stable and that you are breathing normally, you are cleared to go home.
Immediate effects of the anesthesia may consist of dizziness, nausea, and shivering. There will likely be pain, bleeding, swelling, and bruising. There will not be much pain immediately, but as the anesthesia wears off, the pain will likely increase. You can manage the pain with tylenol and an ice pack for any swelling that occurs.
In some cases, surgeons may prescribe pain medication like opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. These medications are effective and safe but must be used with caution as excessive use can lead to addiction, overdose, and possibly death.
Surgeons will also give you gauze to control the bleeding from the extraction site. If you do not have any gauze available, gently bite on a moistened tea bag. Tea contains compounds, such as tannis, that contract the blood vessels which helps control the bleeding.
On the day of the surgery, relax for the remainder of the day, and refrain from rigorous activity that could result in losing the blood clot from the socket. Drink lots of water and refrain from alcoholic, caffeinated, or carbonated drinks. Refrain from straws as well, as the sucking action can loosen up the stitches.
Eat only soft foods. The tissues in your mouth will be sensitive after the surgery. Avoid spicy, chewy, acidic, chewy, hard, or small foods as they can irritate the extraction site.
As opposed to normal, do not brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, or use mouthwash within 24 hours of the surgery. Return to normal procedures about a week later. Do not smoke or chew tobacco for at least a week as it can delay healing and increase the risk of complications. Usually, you will have stitches that dissolve, but if not, then schedule an appointment for removal.
When to Call Dentist or Surgeon
If you have any of these symptoms, there is a possibility of future infection, nerve damage, or other serious complications: difficulty swallowing or breathing, excessive bleeding, fever, severe pain not relieved from prescribed medicine, increasingly worsening swelling, persistent numbness, or oozing pus.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of dry socket: severe pain radiating from the socket, bone that is visible from the extraction site, and bad taste or putrid smell in the mouth.
If you have any of these symptoms, then call your dentist or surgeon.