Everything You Need to Know About Having Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure that can solve various dental issues. However, it's natural to feel a little apprehensive before surgery day. This guide explains everything you need to know to put your mind at ease before a wisdom teeth extraction, so you can prepare for a healthy recovery.
Problems with wisdom teeth are relatively common. Sometimes, wisdom teeth fail to emerge from the gums and become stuck (impacted). Impacted wisdom teeth can damage nearby teeth or cause your teeth to become overcrowded. They can also form a breeding ground for bacteria and cause dental infections or cysts.
Your dentist may recommend a wisdom teeth extraction procedure if you experience the following issues:
- Pain or discomfort
- Recurrent infections
- Gum cysts
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Damage to adjacent teeth
Before wisdom tooth surgery, your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into the gums near your wisdom teeth to prevent pain. They may ask you to apply numbing cream or gel to your gums before the procedure to make the injections more comfortable.
Many people remain awake during wisdom teeth removal. However, some people request sedation alongside local anesthetic. Sedation minimizes your awareness and memory of the procedure to prevent distress during surgery.
Occasionally, dentists recommend a general anesthetic for wisdom teeth removal, most commonly for children. However, you may also need a general anesthetic if your surgery is complex or your wisdom teeth are deeply impacted in your jaw.
During the procedure, your dentist will slice into the gum around your wisdom tooth with a scalpel and cut away the surrounding bone to access the root. They may break the tooth into sections to make it easier to remove or pull it out in one piece.
Finally, your dentist will remove any remaining tooth or bone fragments from the tooth socket and clean the area. The area may require stitches to close the wound, and applying gauze can help it heal.
You'll go to the recovery room to wake up if you received sedation or a general anesthetic. Otherwise, you'll remain in the dental chair until you feel well enough to go home.
You may notice bleeding from the surgery site and swelling and bruising around your face for a few days. Generally, dentists recommend taking it easy for the rest of the day after having your wisdom teeth removed, although you can return to work the next day if you feel well. However, you should avoid vigorous exercise for around a week. You might have a longer recovery period if you had a general anesthetic.
Most dentists recommend resuming your regular brushing schedule 24 hours after surgery. However, you'll need to avoid brushing around the removal site. Stitches often dissolve on their own, but you may need to go back to the dentist to have them removed.
Many people find that over-the-counter medication provides adequate pain relief after wisdom teeth removal. However, your dentist may prescribe prescription painkillers if your pain is severe. You're more likely to need prescription pain relief if your dentist removes bone from your jaw.
Generally, you should stick to soft foods for the first day after having your wisdom teeth removed. You can then add semisoft foods until the wound heals. Avoid eating hard or chewy foods while your gums heal to avoid irritating the wound.
After wisdom tooth surgery, a blood clot forms in the empty socket to protect the bone and nerves. Dry socket develops when the blood clot becomes dislodged, causing intense pain, bad breath and a foul taste. You may also see exposed bone at the surgery site.
You can reduce the risk of dry socket by following your dentist's aftercare instructions closely until they tell you it's safe to resume your normal activities. They may ask you to:
- Avoid smoking or using tobacco.
- Abstain from exercise.
- Avoid sucking drinks through a straw.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, alcohol and hot drinks.
Some people develop a dental infection after wisdom teeth removal. Typically, dental infections cause intense pain that doesn't improve when you take prescription pain relief.
You should call your dentist as soon as possible if you think you might have an infection after dental surgery. Other potential warning signs include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Pus or discharge from the wound
- Foul taste
- Blood in your nasal mucus
- Swelling that doesn't improve or worsens
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