What are Wisdom Teeth?
‘Wisdom teeth’ is a common term for the third molars, the back-most teeth in the human mouth. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to grow, and usually make their presence felt in our late teenage years. Unfortunately, most of us have insufficient space in our mouths to allow our wisdom teeth to come through the gums, or ‘erupt’ fully, and they become stuck, or ‘impacted’. Both impacted and non-impacted wisdom teeth can cause a number of problems, for which the extraction of the tooth or teeth is the best solution.
Issues with wisdom teeth can cause much more than just a toothache:
- Gum infections / pericoronitis
- Cysts that corrode the jaw bone which can cause weakness
- Damage to existing teeth from pressure that can erode roots of adjacent teeth
- Decay from improper cleaning
However, thanks to advancements in techniques and equipment, the procedure to remove them is now quite straightforward with discomfort kept to a minimum.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure
The complexity of this procedure really depends on how your wisdom teeth are growing. During the procedure your dentist will use local anaesthesia. If an IV sedative is required, it is generally administered by a specialist anaesthetist. General anaesthesia is only given for very complicated cases and this would be carried out at a hospital. Learn more about sedation options.
During the procedure you should not feel any pain, the discomfort will most likely come in after the sedative wears off. This will be managed well by pain medication which will be prescribed to you.
Depending on the number of teeth you are having removed and the complexity of your case, you may or may not have to take time off. You can discuss this with your dentist before you schedule the procedure.
Common Problems Caused by Wisdom Teeth
The most common problem caused by partially erupted wisdom teeth is infection of the gum around the wisdom tooth. This condition, called pericoronitis, can be enormously painful and can also cause significant swelling of the face. Antibiotics can usually remedy the problem, however once it occurs, the chances of it happening again are very high. The only way to permanently prevent pericoronitis is by extraction of the affected tooth.
Unerupted wisdom teeth are prone to the development of cysts around them. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs which form by corroding the surrounding jaw bone. In extreme situations this can cause a weakness in the jaw bone which may then be susceptible to fracture. If your wisdom tooth has developed a cyst, we will remove both tooth and cyst, and place grafting material in the weakened jaw bone. This will ensure optimal healing.
Damage to Adjacent Teeth
In their attempt to erupt into the mouth, impacted wisdom teeth sometimes exert pressure on adjacent teeth. If the pressure exerted by a wisdom tooth is severe, the roots of the adjacent tooth can erode, sometimes enough to warrant the removal of that adjacent tooth. Early extraction of wisdom teeth in this case can therefore save other teeth in the mouth.
If wisdom teeth do come through the gum into the mouth, they stand a very high risk of decay. This is because of the position of the wisdom teeth – they are so far back that most people find them impossible to clean adequately. When wisdom teeth do become decayed, extraction (as opposed to filling) is commonly recommended because of the risk of problems recurring.
Recovery after Wisdom Teeth Extraction
What can I expect after the surgery?
After the surgery you will probably experience some swelling. The amount of swelling will vary depending on the number of extractions you have had, and their difficulty. Swelling usually peaks at about the 48 hour mark, and generally takes about a week to fully subside. Some patients also experience minor bruising of their facial skin. Use of ice packs after your surgery will minimize both swelling and bruising. Most people also do experience some discomfort in the week after surgery, which can be minimised by pain medication that will be prescribed to you.
How much time off work or school will I require?
This will vary depending on the number of wisdom teeth that are removed and the difficulty of the surgery. For example, you may not feel the need to take any time off after the extraction of one straightforward wisdom tooth. Conversely, extraction of four wisdom teeth under sedation or general anaesthetic may require you to take up to a week off work. We can best advise on this at your consultation.