A wisdom tooth is extracted to correct an actual problem or to prevent problems that may come up in the future. When wisdom teeth come in, a number of problems can occur:
- Your jaw may not be large enough for them, and they may become impacted and unable to break through your gums.
- Your wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. Food and germs can get trapped under the flap and cause your gums to become red, swollen, and painful. These are signs of infection.
- More serious problems can develop from impacted teeth, such as infection, damage to other teeth and bone, or a cyst.
- One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can remove a wisdom tooth. The procedure often can be done in the surgeon's office. If you have any infections, surgery will usually be delayed until the infection has cleared up. Your doctor may have you take antibiotics to help heal the infection.
Before removing a wisdom tooth, your surgeon will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. A general anesthetic may be used, especially if several or all of your wisdom teeth will be removed at the same time. A general anesthetic prevents pain in the whole body and will cause you to sleep through the procedure.
To remove the wisdom tooth, the will open up the gum tissue over the tooth and take out any bone that is covering the tooth. He or she will separate the tissue connecting the tooth to the bone and then remove the tooth. Sometimes the tooth will be cut into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.
After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches. Some stitches dissolve over time. A folded cotton gauze pad placed over the wound will help stop the bleeding.
In most cases, the recovery period lasts only a few days. Take painkillers as prescribed by your surgeon. The following tips will help speed your recovery.
- Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after your surgery.
- While your mouth is numb, be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek or lip, or your tongue.
- Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.
- Try using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours. You can use moist heatsuch as a washcloth soaked in warm water and wrung outfor the following 2 or 3 days.
- Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
- Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.
- Do not use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.
- After the first day, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. You can make your own salt water by mixing 1 tsp (5 g) of salt in a medium-sized glass [8 fl oz (240 mL)] of warm water.
- Do not smoke for at least 24 hours after your surgery. The sucking motion can loosen the clot and delay healing. Also, smoking decreases the blood supply and can bring germs and contaminants to the surgery area.
- Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.
- Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.
Wisdom tooth removal usually is effective in preventing:
- Crowding of the back teeth.
- A wisdom tooth becoming stuck in the jaw (impacted) and never breaking through the gums.
- Red, swollen, and painful gums caused by a flap of skin around a wisdom tooth that has only partially come in.
- Gum disease and tooth decay in the wisdom tooth, which may be harder to clean than other teeth, or in the teeth and jaw in the area of the wisdom tooth.
The information listed above is the opinion of the doctors of the Department of Maxillofacial Surgery, AZ Sint Jan Bruges, Belgium and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the specialty as a whole.