Wisdom tooth extraction is a common procedure that involves removing one or more of your wisdom teeth - the four adult teeth found at the back of your mouth. In this month’s Treatment Spotlight, we’re taking a look at what’s involved in a wisdom tooth extraction and why your dentist might advise you to undergo this procedure.
What are wisdom teeth and does everyone have them?
Wisdom teeth are located at the very back of the mouth. There are four wisdom teeth in total - two on the top and two on the bottom. The last of your adult teeth to come through, wisdom teeth usually grow (erupt) when you’re in your late teens or early twenties.
However, not everyone has wisdom teeth and some people have less than four. For those who do have wisdom teeth, a small percentage will have no complications when they erupt; for others, this process can be uncomfortable, painful and may result in infection. In these circumstances, wisdom tooth extraction (removing the wisdom teeth) is the best course of action.
Why would I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?
If there’s not enough room in your mouth for the wisdom teeth to come through, the teeth may erupt at an angle and damage the surrounding teeth and soft tissue. In some cases, the impacted wisdom teeth only partially come through - this can create a flap of gum tissue in which food and debris may become trapped and cause an infection to develop.
Cysts can also form around impacted wisdom teeth and cause damage to the bone, teeth and gums surrounding the tooth. Although this can sometimes be treated with antibiotics, removing the wisdom teeth is often the best option to avoid ongoing issues.
Do I only need to have my wisdom teeth taken out if I’m experiencing pain?
Dental x-rays in teens and young adults can show whether the wisdom teeth are present below the gum line and if there’s enough room in the mouth for them to erupt. If your dentist can see that the tooth or teeth will become impacted, they may recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if you aren’t experiencing any pain or discomfort.
How do I prepare for my wisdom tooth extraction?
Once your dentist has confirmed that your wisdom teeth need to be removed, you will usually have your procedure performed at the dental practice under local anaesthesia (your teeth and gums will be numbed, but you’ll still be awake). You may also be given a sedative to keep you comfortable during the procedure.
However, if the teeth are severely impacted or there are other complications, you may need to have the procedure performed by an oral surgeon under general anaesthesia (this may also be preferable if you are very anxious about the procedure).
If you’re having the procedure under general anaesthesia, you’ll be told how long you’ll need to fast for before surgery, and will also need to arrange for someone to pick you up afterwards, as you can’t drive after having general anaesthesia or sedatives.
How long does wisdom tooth extraction take?
Wisdom tooth extraction usually takes between ten minutes and an hour, depending on how many teeth need to be removed and how difficult they are to extract.
What happens after I’ve had my wisdom teeth removed?
Aside from the personalised post-op instructions that your dentist provides you with, here are some general guidelines for what to expect after your wisdom tooth extraction:
- Jaw swelling, pain and some bleeding are normal. Ice packs can be used to reduce swelling; if bleeding occurs, you can use a clean gauze and apply pressure to the area.
- Your dentist may recommend certain over-the-counter pain medications or prescription medications to help manage pain.
- In some cases, you’ll need to take antibiotics after the procedure.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid smoking, vaping, or drinking out of a straw.
- Eat soft foods after your wisdom teeth extraction (plan ahead so you have suitable foods ready).
- Avoid hot food and beverages for the first 24 hours after your wisdom teeth removal.
- Avoid strenuous work or exercise for 24 to 48 hours.
In most cases, post-surgery pain and discomfort will clear up within a week. During the first 1-2 days after your procedure, you might want to have some help around the house while you rest.
How much does wisdom tooth extraction cost?
The cost of wisdom tooth extraction is dependent on a number of factors, including how difficult the teeth are to remove, where you have the surgery, and whether it’s performed by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
Check with your health fund about coverage for wisdom teeth extraction and talk to your dentist about the costs of your procedure.
Your dentist can provide you with more information about wisdom tooth extraction and advise whether this is the best option for you. To arrange an appointment, Book Online with a National Dental Care Group practitioner.