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