Oral Health Resources | 22 August, 2019

Wisdom Teeth – What You Need to Know

Anyone who has had their wisdom teeth taken out knows it’s not a piece of cake. In fact, get that thought of cake out of your mind all together (it’s a liquid diet for the first 24 hours!)

Wisdom teeth are so called because they are the last teeth to come in, usually between the ages of 17 and 21, presumably the age when a person gains maturity and thus wisdom.

Getting your wisdom teeth out is a common occurrence albeit one which is still a major producer that requires some recovery time.

Why remove Wisdom teeth?

Most people have four wisdom teeth, two in the upper and two in the lower jaw. It is not uncommon for these teeth to become impacted.

An impacted tooth is one which has not grown through the gum into the mouth or has grown only part way through, and is in an abnormal position.

This is an unhealthy situation and the tooth should be removed to prevent problems with erosion, cysts, infection or crowding.

Learn more about Wisdom Teeth Removal.

Problems that can arise with impacted wisdom teeth

  • Infection may develop in the gum flap overlaying the tooth, or decay may develop in the tooth.
  • Impacted teeth may damage the teeth beside them.
  • Wisdom teeth can be difficult to clean, making them prone to decay and infection.
  • Should the tooth fail to erupt, a cyst may form and, by gradual enlargement, endanger the health of the nearby bone and teeth.

These problems can be prevented by the timely surgical removal of the teeth.

Ok, I have an impacted wisdom tooth or teeth. What next?

The worst thing anyone can do is ignore their wisdom teeth. So, go see your dentist. They will assess the situation in your mouth, book you in for the removal, or if they don’t offer the service, refer you to a specialist.

How are my wisdom teeth removed?

A cut is made in the gum to expose the whole tooth. Some of the surrounding bone may need to be removed, and sometimes the tooth may be divided into pieces to assist in its removal. The area from which it has been removed is cleansed, and stitched to restore the normal contour of the gum and to help keep food out of the socket. The stitches used may dissolve or may require removal at a later date.

It’s going to hurt, right?

The dentist will assess the difficulty of extracting the wisdom tooth and discuss your options. A wisdom tooth can be removed with a simple local anaesthetic to numb the area, so no pain is felt during the procedure. The dentist can also offer sedation to help you feel more relaxed during the surgery or ensure you have limited memory of the procedure. If general anaesthetic is required, then this is done by a specialist in a hospital.

Recovery – what can I eat and what can I expect post-procedure?

You are likely to experience pain and swelling after the procedure, however the level of discomfort depends on the person.

You will be given care instructions and sometimes an antibiotic to take during the healing period.

Pain, numbness and swelling will last about 1 week, then it will subside. There are two nerves that run close to the wisdom teeth. If they are damaged, they cause a tingling or numbness of the chin, tongue or lip on the side worked on.

Sometimes damage can occur to the adjacent teeth and fillings during the surgery. Your clinician will advise you of the degree of risk for you.

Good news if you’re an ice-cream fan! Ice-cream is soft and cooling – ideal for recovery. A liquid diet (including yogurt, pudding, smoothies) is recommended the first 24 hours and then it’s a soft foods diet for four to five days – think mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and pasta.  Avoid anything that requires significant chewing and opt for colder foods that will feel soothing.