What to Expect When Extracting: Wisdom Tooth Surgery Tips

The Wisdom of Removing Third Molars

The third molars earned their nickname, wisdom teeth, from the fact that they typically emerge during late adolescence or early adulthood. However, because of the problems that improperly aligned wisdom teeth can cause, the wise course of action is usually to have wisdom teeth removed.  The problem arises because the average adult mouth is large enough to hold twenty-eight fully erupted teeth. Wisdom teeth add four more teeth to the mouth - two each on the upper and lower jaw - for a total of thirty-two teeth. As a result, these extra teeth often grow in sideways or at some other odd angle.

During wisdom tooth removal, the oral surgeon will make an incision in your gum and remove any bone that blocks access to the tooth. The surgeon then divides the tooth into sections if necessary, removes the tooth and cleans the site of debris. He or she then places a gauze pack over the incision to control bleeding and encourage formation of a blood clot to promote healing of the incision site.  You may or may not receive stitches, and if you do, the stitches may or may not need to be manually removed.

Like all tooth extractions, wisdom tooth extraction requires some type of anesthesia for the patient undergoing the procedure. Be honest with your oral surgeon about your tolerance for pain as well as any fears that you may have about dental procedures, as this will help him or her decide what level of anesthesia to administer. Ultimately, the appropriate anesthesia for you depends on the complexity of the wisdom tooth removal surgery, as well as your comfort level.

Local Anesthesia

If you are young and your wisdom teeth are not impacted, that is, blocked by bone growth from reaching the surface of your gums, your oral surgeon may opt for local anesthesia. Local anesthesia for wisdom tooth extraction works much like anesthesia for any tooth extraction: the oral surgeon applies a numbing agent to the gum, and then injects anesthesia into the gum near the incision site. You remain awake during the procedure but you should not feel pain.

Sedation Anesthesia

If the wisdom tooth extraction process is expected to be more complex, or if you are a fearful dental patient, the oral surgeon may opt for sedation anesthesia. You receive an injection into your arm which places you in a relaxed, semiconscious state. You will also receive local anesthesia at the incision site to eliminate pain during the procedure.

General Anesthesia

If you are older, if your wisdom tooth is fully impacted or if you are especially fearful of having dental procedures done, the oral surgeon may opt for general anesthesia. You will receive anesthesia through your nose, which will render you completely unconscious. As a result, you should feel no pain during the procedure. Your breathing, blood pressure and other vital signs will be carefully monitored during the surgical procedure. Afterwards, you will experience a short recovery period before you are allowed to leave.

After the Procedure

Do not plan strenuous activity immediately after wisdom tooth extraction, even if you only receive local anesthesia.

Avoid spicy, chewy foods that could dislodge the blood clot that forms over the incision site.

Rinse your mouth with warm salt water every two hours for the first twenty-four hours after surgery and after every meal for the next week.

Drink lots of water to remain hydrated after your surgery but refrain from drinking alcohol or soft drinks for at least twenty-four hours.

Jessica Watts is a dental assistant in a small rural clinic. When she has free time, she likes to write about dental topics on a variety of blog sites.