The last permanent teeth to emerge in the mouth, wisdom teeth usually develop between the ages of 17 and 25 – although approximately a quarter to a third of the population never develops wisdom teeth. You can have up to four wisdom teeth – or none at all – located at the two ends of each arch of teeth at the very back of your jaw. Those that do develop them may have to contend with a host of complications that can arise.
Since wisdom teeth arrive after all of the other teeth have already occupied their positions, they tend to jostle for the remaining space on your jaw. When this happens, wisdom teeth – also known as “third molars” – may need to be extracted.
The surgical extraction procedure involves the application of either a local or general anaesthetic. The whole procedure shouldn’t take more than a single appointment at the dentist’s office, however, the actual number of visits required depends on the level of difficulty specific to each patient.
Some of the factors that will influence the duration of the procedure include:
- The number of wisdom teeth that needs to be removed;
- Whether general anaesthesia or local anaesthesia – simple numbing of the area – is required;
- The type of wisdom teeth impaction that is causing the problems and symptoms: Is the wisdom tooth protruding out of alignment, emerging in an incorrect position or failing to emerge at all?
- The patient’s age: Dentists recommend that impacted wisdom teeth be removed between the ages of 14 and 23. The risk of complications actually increases with age while the healing process becomes slower.
- Whether the patient is a smoker: Smoking increases the risk of infection and can also slow down the recovery process.
Generally speaking, the procedure is carried out under local anaesthesia. As you will remain awake during the procedure under local anaesthesia, you may request for a sedative if you are not totally comfortable with this arrangement. In some cases, or certain dental surgeries, general anaesthesia may be recommended, in which case no food or drinks may be consumed 6 hours before the procedure.
After the anaesthetics have taken effect, the dentist will proceed to make a small incision through the gum to expose the tooth and its socket, to allow easier access to the wisdom teeth. A section of the jawbone may need to be removed if it is obstructing the wisdom tooth. After the wisdom teeth has been carefully removed – sometimes in sections if that makes the job easier – the dentist will close up the area with stitches, and the wound temporarily packed with gauze. The actual process of removing the wisdom teeth shouldn’t take long. Unless it is a complex case, a typical wisdom teeth removal procedure takes less than 30 minutes.
It may take a while for the anaesthetic “numbness” to wear off, but you will gradually get feeling back in your jaws. The dissolvable stitches will disappear after about a week. In the meantime, you should follow the dentist’s instructions on taking the prescribed antibiotics, painkillers and mouthwash solutions to minimise any pain, swelling or inflammation. Above all, you should exercise caution following the procedure, and that requires a measure of diligence.
There are no real benefits to keeping your wisdom teeth – and no side effects to removing them either. That’s why they are considered vestigial. It’s wise to remove your wisdom tooth before the start of painful symptoms.
For more information on Wisdom Teeth Removal, book an appointment with our Friendly Dentist in Molonglo Valley. Contact Molonglo Dental Surgery at 02 6287 1222.