“Should I have my wisdom teeth removed?” This is a common question, and you may have received conflicting advice. Some people may tell you to take them out as soon as you can, to prevent problems to the rest of your teeth. Others say to just let leave them alone as long as you do not experience any pain. However, what is right for you? We explain the facts on wisdom tooth extraction so you know what it entails, and the pros and cons.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars. They tend to appear either in your late teens or early twenties—which is actually how it got its name. Unlike our other permanent teeth, which appear in early childhood, these molars arrive when you are older and hopefully “wiser.”
Reasons for Wisdom Tooth Extraction
If your wisdom teeth grow properly (fully erupted), are positioned correctly, and are easy to clean with proper dental hygiene, you may not need to get a wisdom tooth extraction.
However, wisdom teeth sometimes do not have enough room to grow properly, and cause problems that affect your gums, teeth and oral health.
- Your wisdom tooth is impacted. Your tooth is trapped in the gums, and is not able to emerge properly. Even if you do not feel the pain now, there is a chance that cysts can develop around the tooth. This will affect the surrounding nerves and bone, or even the roots of your other teeth.
- Your wisdom tooth only partially emerges. Sometimes, only a portion of your wisdom tooth erupts through the gums. Since it is more difficult to see and clean, you are at a higher risk for cavities and gum disease.
- Your wisdom tooth crowds your other teeth. Sometimes a wisdom tooth will grow horizontally, or at an angle that pushes against other teeth. That can cause mouth pain and affect your ability to bite and chew properly. It may also cause teeth alignment issues, which may need to be corrected with retainers, braces or Invisalign.
- Your gums have become swollen and inflamed. Wisdom teeth may cause gums to swell, causing pain and creating pockets between the teeth where bacteria can collect. This can cause bad breath, and increase your risk for cavities and gum disease.
Do I need to have my wisdom tooth removed?
Your dentist can determine whether or not your wisdom tooth should be removed. You should have your wisdom tooth examined early, before it causes any problems that may need more extensive treatment later on.
During your appointment, your dentist will:
- Ask you about your general health, and any dental symptoms like tooth sensitivity, pain whenever you chew, or bleeding when you brush or floss
- Examine your teeth and gums
- Perform a dental x-ray, which can confirm if your wisdom tooth is impacted, or if there is any hidden damage to the teeth and bones
From there, your dentist will recommend the proper treatment. In some cases, he may suggest a wisdom tooth extraction even if there is no cavity, swelling or pain. This is to avoid more painful or complicated extractions in the future, since wisdom teeth are easier to remove before the roots and bones are fully formed. Discuss the pros and cons with your dentist.
What happens during a wisdom tooth extraction?
If your wisdom tooth is fully emerged, then it can be removed just like any other tooth. However, if it is only partially emerged, impacted or embedded in the jawbone, then the dentist needs to open the gum tissue. That is why Dental Essence Singapore wisdom tooth extractions are usually performed by dentists who are trained and licensed in dental surgery (also called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon).
Here is what will happen during wisdom teeth surgery:
- Your dentist will apply a local anaesthetic to numb the area. To keep you more comfortable during more complicated procedures that may be more painful, Dental Essence also works with visiting anesthesologists/anaethatists who can provide intravenous sedation.
- Your dentist will open the gum tissue and remove any bone that may be covering the tooth. Depending on your case, he or she may need to cut the tooth into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.
- After removing the wisdom tooth, your dentist will examine the tooth socket and scrape off any infected tissue. If the tooth is located in the upper jaw, he will evaluate it for possible sinus complications.
- He washes off the socket, and may use gauze to control bleeding. If necessary, he stitches the extraction site.
- He will place a folded gauze over the area and ask you to bite down. The pressure will help control the bleeding. You may need to maintain that pressure for about an hour.
Wisdom tooth extraction usually takes 45 minutes, but can take longer for more complicated cases or if you are having several teeth removed.
Is wisdom tooth extraction painful?
Prior to the surgery you will be given local anaesthesia. For more complicated procedures or for anxious patients, Dental Essence works with visiting anaesthetists who can provide Intravenous sedation.
What are the side effects and recovery time?
If you opt for treatment under intravenous sedation, you will feel groggy for several hours after your treatment. Arrange for someone to bring you home.
Expect swelling and some discomfort in the gums and tooth socket. Your dentist will prescribe medicines to help manage the pain. To reduce swelling, press an icepack against your cheek.
Limit eating, drinking and talking for a few hours after your surgery. Also avoid vigorously spitting or gargling with mouthwash. This can dislodge the blood clot that forms over the socket while it heals. If you wash it off prematurely, your nerves will be exposed and this will be very painful.
You will need to rest for about 2 to 3 days, and avoid smoking and heavy physical activity. While complications are rare, call your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- bleeding has not stopped after 24 hours
- you start to feel throbbing, intense pain
- you experience fever or chills
- you see pus on the extraction site
- there is a bad taste or smell in your mouth
- you feel pain when you try to open your jaw
- your lips and mouth feel numb even after the anaesthesia have worn off
- you experience jaw spasms
What should I do after my wisdom teeth are removed?
Your dentist will teach you how to care for the extraction site to avoid infection. Here are some other tips:
For the first two days, try to eat only soft or liquid food like soup, pudding, and yogurt. Cold food like ice cream can also help relieve discomfort. Avoid spicy or acidic food and drinks (such as orange juice) or grains like rice that can get trapped in the extraction site.
On the third day, you can start eating simple food that is easy to chew: eggs, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, etc. Then, gradually go back to your regular diet as the wisdom tooth extraction site heals.
Avoid touching the extraction site when you brush or floss your teeth. After 24 hours, you can start rinsing your mouth with a saline solution. Mix a small cup of lukewarm water with ½ teaspoon of salt.
Rest and pain management
Sleep is the best medicine! To minimize bleeding, make sure that you elevate your head with pillows whenever you lie down.
While you will have pain medicine, also look for natural ways to help soothe and distract you whenever you feel discomfort. Try aromatherapy or relaxing music, or watch your favourite shows so you are focused on something other than your wisdom tooth extraction.
Contact a Wisdom Tooth Surgery Singapore Clinic
Dental Essence is a Singapore dental clinic that is equipped to do wisdom tooth surgery and other dental treatments. Our team includes dentists and specialists, who can provide integrated care and even co-treat complex cases. Contact us for a personalized consultation.