Wisdom teeth are common in most people, but not all of them erupt without causing dental problems. If you’re one of these people, then you may be considering having them removed.
Wisdom teeth removal is a common dental procedure, but like any surgery, wisdom tooth extraction comes with some risks.
In this blog post, we’ll look at the most common risks of wisdom tooth removal and what you can do to minimise the possibility of experiencing them. Hopefully, all this information can give you an idea of what to expect before making the big decision of having them removed.
What are Wisdom Teeth?
Many people get their wisdom teeth during their late teens or early twenties. These teeth are the third and final set of molars. They are called such because they typically erupt around the age of wisdom—late adolescence or early adulthood.
Wisdom teeth that are able to erupt fully into the mouth usually don’t cause any problems and can be cared for just like the other molars. However, some people have them removed if they are causing problems.
When Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?
Wisdom teeth removal is a procedure recommended when wisdom teeth are causing problems or are likely to cause problems in the future.
If wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to grow, they become impacted. Growing at an angle, they may become stuck under the gum tissue or jaw bone. This can cause pain, crowding, infection, and other oral health problems.
In some cases, wisdom teeth may come in without causing any problems. However, if your dentist observes that they’re still at risk of causing problems in the future, they may recommend wisdom teeth extraction even in these cases.
The best way to determine whether wisdom teeth removal is necessary is to consult with a dentist. They will be able to assess your situation and make a recommendation based on your specific needs.
How are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth surgery consists of five stages:
Stage One: Local Anaesthesia or Sedation
The dentist administers local anaesthesia to the surgical site. This numbs the area so that the patient remains comfortable and pain-free during the procedure.
Sedation may be necessary when a patient’s anxiety level is too high. The complexity of the case will also affect the need for sedation. There are a couple of sedation methods a patient can choose from. These include oral sedation and intravenous sedation.
Stage Two: Tooth Access
As soon as anaesthesia is in full effect, the dentist will start the procedure by gaining access to the tooth. The dentist will cut through the gums surrounding the tooth using a scalpel. The gums are then peeled back from the underlying bone.
Stage Three: Tooth Extraction
The dentist removes the wisdom tooth. Sometimes, this may necessitate the removal of bone to expose the tooth or cutting the tooth to remove it piece by piece. Once the tooth has been extracted, the dentist examines the socket for remaining fragments.
Stage Four: After Extraction
Once the tooth is removed, the dentist may suture the gum tissues back into place. This is done to cover the underlying bone and also promote healing.
Stage Five: After Surgery
The dentist will ask you to bite on gauze to stop the bleeding from the tooth socket. Additionally, pain medications and antibiotics will be prescribed.
Are There Possible Risks During Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Wisdom teeth removal is a relatively common procedure. While wisdom teeth removal is generally safe, there are a few potential risks that patients should be aware of.
- Adverse Reaction to Anaesthesia: Although rare, adverse effects of anaesthesia during wisdom teeth removal can occur in some people. If you’re concerned about an anaesthesia allergy, talk to your dentist about it before wisdom tooth removal surgery.
- Dry Socket: Wisdom teeth removal can sometimes lead to a dry socket, a condition in which the blood clot that forms at the site of the extraction fails to properly form, gets dislodged or dissolves before the wound has healed. This leaves the underlying bone, tissue, and nerve endings exposed, resulting in inflammation.
- Infection: An infection occurs when there is a dry socket or when the patient is not able to clean the extraction site. Bacteria enter the extraction site, causing pain, swelling, and pus formation. The patient may also experience fever. Untreated, an infection can delay healing, spread to adjacent areas and cause more severe problems.
- Lockjaw: Also called trismus, lockjaw is a painful condition that occurs when the muscles of the jaw spasm, preventing the patient from opening or closing their mouth.
- Nerve Damage: Because wisdom teeth are located near sensitive nerves in the jaw, there is also a risk of damage to nerves. This is characterised by numbness in the lip, tongue, or cheek that persists even after the anesthesia wears off. This may be temporary. The sensation may come back in a couple of weeks. However, in some rare cases, the damage may be permanent.
Although wisdom teeth removal risks are relatively rare, discussing all potential risks with your dentist before the procedure is important.
What to Expect After Wisdom Teeth Removal
After wisdom teeth removal, it is normal to experience some bleeding, swelling, and discomfort. It is important to take it easy and rest for the first few days following surgery.
Ice packs can help reduce swelling. Pain relief medications can help manage discomfort. It is also important to avoid drinking through a straw, as this can dislodge the blood clot from the extraction site and cause dry sockets.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Wisdom Teeth Removal?
It may take some time to fully recover from wisdom teeth removal. This depends on the difficulty of surgery, wound care after the procedure, and the healing capacity of the patient. Most people recover completely within a week or two. Some take longer.
A clear sign that you’re on your way to recovery is seeing some improvement day after day. Pain and swelling may be very evident during the first 2-4 days but this should taper and slowly resolve after.
If you experience any persistent pain or other unusual symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist.
How to Prevent Dry Socket
To prevent a dry socket, dentists recommend that you do the following:
- Gently rinse your mouth a few times each day but avoid forceful spitting. You might spit out the blood clot.
- Keep the extraction site clean. Brush the area to remove any food debris stuck in the area. Be very gentle!
- Only eat soft foods such as mashed potatoes, soup, eggs, and smoothies the first two days after surgery.
- Do not drink caffeinated and carbonated beverages, hot liquids, or alcohol until the extraction site heals.
- Avoid hot foods and spicy foods.
- Do not smoke tobacco products.
- Avoid using straws.
What to Do in Case of Complications After Wisdom Teeth Removal
While uncommon, complications from wisdom teeth removal can sometimes happen.
Seek emergency care if:
- You lost consciousness.
- You’re experiencing difficulty breathing.
Call your dentist and seek immediate medical care if:
- Your pain doesn’t respond to prescribed pain medications.
- Your extraction site has new or worsened bleeding.
- There’s pus coming out of your extraction site.
- You have a fever.
- You’re nauseous and vomiting, and you can’t keep fluids down.
- You have signs of infection such as warmth, redness, swelling, and severe pain in the area.
Are There Alternatives to Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Coronectomy, or the partial removal of the crown of the tooth, is increasingly being used as an alternative treatment option to the removal of wisdom teeth. This dental treatment involves removing the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line while leaving the root in place.
There are several advantages to coronectomy, including a shorter recovery time and a reduced risk of causing nerve damage or nerve injury. However, a coronectomy is not suitable for all patients, and it is important to consult with a dentist to determine if the procedure is right for you.
Consequences of Not Removing an Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Wisdom teeth can come in without any problems. However, for some people, wisdom teeth can become impacted. They grow at an angle and become stuck under the gums. When this happens, wisdom teeth removal may be necessary to avoid serious complications.
If an impacted wisdom tooth is not removed, it can lead to pain, gum infections, tooth decay, and damage to adjacent teeth. In extreme cases, impacted wisdom teeth can even cause cyst formation. As a result, wisdom teeth extraction is typically recommended when wisdom teeth become impacted. By taking a proactive step of having it removed, you can avoid a host of potential problems down the road.
When Should I Call My Dentist?
Most people will eventually need to have their wisdom teeth removed. If you are experiencing pain or other problems with your wisdom teeth, it is important to call your dentist to discuss your options for wisdom teeth removal.
With today’s advances in dental technology, wisdom teeth removal is typically a quick, minimally-invasive and safe procedure so don’t wait until your wisdom teeth are causing problems.
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, but it’s not without risks. Weighing the pros and cons of wisdom teeth removal is an important decision that should be made with your dentist.
At Maylands Dental Centre, we believe that an informed choice is the best choice. If you have questions about wisdom teeth removal or any other dental procedure, please get in touch with us by calling our dental clinic at (08) 9370 5464. Our team of oral health professionals would be happy to discuss your options with you and help you make the best decision for your oral health.