Removing wisdom teeth
There are several reasons why wisdom teeth may be removed.
- The teeth are impacted.
- They are at risk of developing tooth decay or gum disease.
- The gum around the wisdom tooth becomes infected multiple times.
- They may be affected by a cyst or tumour.
Wisdom teeth can be removed by your general dentist or a dental specialist, such as an oral surgeon or a maxillofacial surgeon. The teeth can be removed in the dental chair or within a hospital.
Wisdom teeth may be removed under local anaesthesia. The anaesthetic is provided in a similar way to when a dentist makes a tooth numb for a filling.
Other types of anesthetic include local anesthetic in combination with conscious sedation, or general anaesthesia. Conscious sedation is a combination of medicines to help you relax and to block pain during a medical or dental procedure, such as nitrous oxide, commonly known as 'happy gas'. These anaesthetics can be performed in hospitals and some dental clinics.
Risks and complications
The risks and complications of removing wisdom teeth will be explained prior to any treatment. Possible complications following wisdom tooth removal can include:
- Damage to the nerves that travel to and supply feeling to the wisdom teeth and nearby parts of the face. This can cause feelings of numbness or 'pins and needles' in the parts of the face and mouth that these nerves give feeling to.
- A dry socket.
- Swelling and/or infection.
- Damage to nearby teeth.
- Difficulty opening the mouth, often associated with swelling.
- Excessive bleeding.
- An opening from the mouth to the maxillary sinus (upper wisdom teeth only).
When is the best time to remove them?
Wisdom teeth that are causing problems or at high risk of causing problems in the future are best removed at a younger age. Removing these teeth by around age 25 is easier than doing so at an older age.
If you are experiencing issues with your wisdom teeth, it is best to see your dentist. They can provide you with personalised advice. Visit the ADA's Find-A-Dentist service to find an ADA member dentist near you.
Will I need to take time off work?
Depending on the difficulty of the treatment, it may be necessary to take a few days off work. After a general anaesthetic, you are unable to drive for 48 hours.
After any tooth extraction, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise.