Having wisdom teeth extracted is one of the most common reasons for having oral surgery. Wisdom teeth usually start to grow any time after the age of 16. While many people grow their wisdom teeth without a problem, sometimes they can become impacted. This happens usually because there is not enough room for the wisdom teeth to grow properly and don’t grow in the right direction.
An impacted wisdom tooth can cause a number of problems which lead to it being removed. The most common problems are:
- Repeated attacks of infection in the gum surrounding the tooth. This leads to pain and swelling.
- Food packing which causes decay in either the wisdom tooth or the tooth in front.
- Cysts can form around the wisdom tooth if it does not come into the mouth properly. A cyst occurs when fluid fills the sack that normally surrounds a developing wisdom tooth.
What does the treatment involve?
Whatever method we use to treat your wisdom teeth, we will always use anaesthetic to make the treatment as pain-free and non-invasive as possible. In cases where the wisdom tooth has not fully erupted into the mouth, it is often necessary to make a cut in the gum over the tooth.
Sometimes it is also necessary to remove some bone surrounding the crown of the wisdom tooth. The tooth may need to be cut into 2 or 3 pieces to remove it. Once the wisdom tooth has been removed the gum is put back into place with stitches. In the majority of cases these stitches are dissolvable and take around two weeks to disappear.
Is there much pain or swelling after the removal of wisdom teeth?
It is likely there will be some discomfort and swelling both on the inside and outside of your mouth after surgery. This is usually worse for the first three days, but it may take up to two weeks before all the soreness goes.
You may also find that your jaw is stiff and you may need to eat soft foods for a week or so. If it is likely to be sore, your surgeon will arrange painkillers for you. It may also be necessary for you to have a course of antibiotics after the extraction. There may be some bruising of the skin on your face that can take up to a fortnight to fade away.
What are the possible problems?
Although there may be a little bleeding at the time of the extraction, this usually stops very quickly and it is unlikely to be a problem if the wound is stitched. If the area bleeds again when you get home, this can usually be stopped by applying gentle pressure over the area for at least 10 minutes with a rolled up handkerchief or swab. If the bleeding does not stop, please contact the practice or hospital where you had your treatment.
Although infection is uncommon, it is possible, particularly in patients who smoke after surgery. You may be prescribed a course of antibiotics following your surgery. There are two nerves that lie very close to the roots of the lower wisdom teeth. One of these nerves supplies feeling to your lower lip, chin and lower teeth. The other supplies feeling to your tongue and helps with taste.
Sometimes these nerves may be bruised or stretched when a wisdom tooth is taken out. This can cause tingling or numbness in your lip, chin or tongue and more rarely, altered taste. About one in 10 people will have some tingling or numbness that can last several weeks. Less than 1% of people will have problems that last more than a year and very rarely can be permanent. These risks may be higher if your tooth is in a difficult position. The surgeon will tell you if you are considered to be at an increased risk.
Upper wisdom teeth often lie very close to the sinuses. During removal it may be possible to create a hole between the mouth and sinus. If this happens, in the majority of cases, it will heal on its own but very rarely you may need a second operation to close the hole.