Wisdom Teeth Removal - FAQ
What to Expect When Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed
Our wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to emerge in our mouths. These teeth usually start to appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth, and others never face any issues when their wisdom teeth erupt. Many people, on the other hand, develop impacted wisdom teeth - this means the teeth don't have enough room to erupt into the mouth or grow properly. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially, or in some cases, not at all.
Having your wisdom teeth removed is the best way to prevent future dental problems, however, most people have no idea what to expect during the procedure.
How to Prepare
Depending on how your wisdom teeth are growing, your dentist may perform the procedure in their office, but in the event that the teeth are deeply impacted or require a more in-depth surgical approach, your dentist may recommend you to an oral surgeon. If that is the case, your surgeon may suggest sedation to ensure you are more comfortable during the procedure. Here are some questions you may want to ask your dentist or oral surgeon prior to the procedure:
How many wisdom teeth need to be removed?
What type of anesthesia will I receive?
How complicated will the procedure be?
How long will the procedure take?
Is there any damage to other teeth caused by the impacted wisdom teeth?
Is there a risk of nerve damage?
What other dental treatments might I need later?
How long does it take to heal completely and return to normal activity?
In most cases, wisdom teeth removal is performed as an outpatient procedure - meaning you get to go home the same day.
In the days leading up to the procedure, you'll receive instructions from the hospital or dental clinic on what to do before and on the day of your surgery. It is important to discuss whether you'll need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from the procedure, what sort of medication - prescription or non-prescription - you are still allowed to take before your surgery, and whether you should fast beforehand or for how long.
What You Can Expect
Depending on the anticipated complexity of the surgery and your comfort level, your dentist or oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia.
Local Anesthesia: This is an injection near the site of each extraction. Your dentist or surgeon will apply a numbing agent to your gums before the injection. You are awake during the procedure, and although you may feel some pressure and movement, you shouldn't experience any pain.
Sedation Anesthesia: This is given through an IV line in your arm. Sedation anesthesia suppresses your consciousness during the procedure. You won't feel any pain, and you will have limited memory of the procedure. You will also receive local anesthesia to numb your gums.
General Anesthesia: This is offered in special situations. With general anesthesia, you may inhale medication through your nose, have an IV line in your arm, or both. You will lose consciousness, and your surgical team will monitor your vitals during the procedure. You will experience no pain and have no memory of the procedure. You will also receive the local anesthesia to numb your gums, helping with postoperative discomfort.
Your surgery should take no more than 45 minutes. During your wisdom tooth extraction, your dentist or surgeon may have to cut your gums or bone to get the teeth out. They may divide the tooth into sections if it's easier to remove in pieces. Once the tooth is removed, they will clean the site of any debris. They will sometimes stitch the wounds shut to promote faster healing, though it isn't always necessary. In most cases, stitches usually dissolve after a few days, though depending on the material used, you may need to go back to have them removed. Finally, your dentist or surgeon will place gauze over the extraction site to control the bleeding and help a blood clot form.
After The Procedure
Everyone responds differently to anesthesia, so if you had a local anesthetic, you may feel alert, be able to drive yourself home, or even feel good enough to return to work or do normal activities. If you had sedation or general anesthesia, you may still feel drowsy and will require someone to drive you home to start your recovery.
You will likely have some swelling and mild discomfort for a few days following your surgery, and your mouth may need a few weeks to heal completely.
It is important to follow your dentists' instructions for a quicker recovery:
Some oozing of blood may occur the first day following the procedure - avoid excessive spitting that could cause the blood clots to dislodge. Replace gauze over the wound as directed.
Drink plenty of fluids - avoid alcohol, caffeinated, carbonated, or hot beverages for the first 24 hours.
Don't drink through a straw for at least a week - the suction may dislodge the blood clots that help your mouth heal.
Use an icepack to help with swelling and bruising.
You may be able to use over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), or prescription medication from your dentist to manage your pain.
Only eat soft foods such as yogurt, applesauce, or soup for the first 24 hours.
Avoid hard, crunchy, chewy, hot, or spicy foods that might get stuck in the socket(s) and irritate the wound(s).
Don't brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, spit, or use mouthwash for the first 24 hours after your surgery.
When you resume brushing - be particularly gentle near the surgical wound(s), taking special care to not brush the clots.
Gently rinse/ gargle with salt water every two hours and after every meal for the first week.
Don't smoke! Smoking can slow healing. Chewing tobacco should not be used for at least a week following your surgery.
If you happen to develop any of the following signs or symptoms during your recovery period, it's essential to call your dentist or oral surgeon as they could be an indication of infection, nerve damage, or other serious complications:
Difficulty breathing swallowing
Swelling that worsens after two or three days
A bad taste in your mouth not removed by a saltwater rinse
Severe pain not relieved by pain medications
Pus in or oozing from the socket
Blood or pus in nasal discharge
Persistent numbness or loss of feeling
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