What are wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) are the last molars to erupt and generally come around that ages of 17-25 years old. These teeth are generally located at the back of your mouth, and most people have four wisdom teeth, two in the lower jaw and two in the upper jaw. However, some people don’t develop all their wisdom teeth and can be missing one or more. The jaw is often already too crowded to accommodate the new teeth, so their eruption can cause pain and require removal.

How much does it cost

The cost of wisdom teeth removal depends on how complex your treatment is – the less complicated the removal procedure is, the more affordable it will be. In Australia, treatment can cost up to $500 per tooth, and a simple removal of all four teeth with local anaesthetic can cost up to $2,322. Removal under general anaesthetic is pricier, ranging from around $1,500 to $3,000 per tooth.

How are they removed

If your wisdom teeth are decided to be a problem, your dentist may recommend removal.  Before the procedure, your dentist will numb the area and/or suppress your consciousness by using local/general anaesthesia or sedation. An incision in then made in the gum to expose the tooth. Any bone blocking access to the roots of the wisdom tooth will be removed. In cases where the tooth is hard to remove, it can be divided into smaller pieces first. After the tooth is removed, the site is cleaned of any debris. The site is stitched up if required and then a gauze is placed at the site to help control bleeding and assist in blood clot formation.

Do I need to get them removed

Depending on your jaw size and how your wisdom teeth develop, you might not have any need to get them removed. If you are unsure whether your wisdom teeth are problematic, it is best to visit a dentist for an evaluation. If your teeth are an issue, removal may be suggested to eliminate/prevent any pain or discomfort. 

Why should I get them removed

If there isn’t enough space for a wisdom tooth to emerge, it may do so at an angle. The angled tooth might start pushing against another tooth, which can cause pain and irritation to the surrounding tissue. This wisdom tooth is now called an impacted tooth. Impacted teeth can lead to gum infection, tooth decay, jaw cysts and damage to other teeth. Recurring infections can lead to sore lymph glands under the jaw. If a problem is detected with your wisdom teeth, it is best to get them removed as soon as possible. In young people, the roots aren’t fully formed yet and the surrounding bone is softer which allows for easier removal and faster healing.

Where can I get them removed

Depending on your teeth, your dentist will be able to recommend a tailored treatment plan. In most cases, the procedure will happen at the dentist with the use of local or general anaesthesia. If your teeth are a more complex case, your dentist might refer you to a specialist. Specialist procedures are performed while you’re asleep under general anaesthetic in the hospital.

Preparing for surgery:

  • Make arrangements for travel post-operation if required
  • Avoid eating or drinking if specified by your dentist
  • Avoid any prescription or non-prescription drugs if specified

Post operation

Bleeding –  The first day after your wisdom tooth removal, there may be blood surrounding the area. To make sure the blood clot doesn’t dislodge, avoid excessive spitting. Replace gauze as often as directed by your dentist.

Pain management – pain can be managed with an over the counter pain reliever, or a prescription pain medication from your dentist. 

Swelling and bruising – Use an ice pack as directed by your dentist. Swelling will subside in a few days whereas bruising can take up to a week.

Activity – After your surgery, be sure to rest for the rest of your day. For the next week avoid strenuous activity to make sure the blood clot stays in place

Tobacco use – don’t smoke for at least 3 days after surgery – wait longer if possible. Using tobacco can delay healing and increase the risk of complications.

Eating and drinking

  • Beverages – make sure to stay hydrated after surgery. Don’t drink alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot drinks for the first 24 hours. Don’t drink with a straw for at least a week as the sucking action can upset the blood clot
  • Food – for the first 24 hours eat only soft foods such as : cottage cheese, apple sauce, pudding, soup, mashed potatoes and smoothies. Avoid foods that are hard, chewy, hot or spicy as they can irritate the wound. Also avoid nuts or seeds that might get stuck around the wound.

Minimising dry socket risk

After a wisdom tooth is extracted an empty socket is left behind, and a blood clot forms in the space. This blood clot serves as protection for any bone or nerve endings that are exposed underneath. If the clot doesn’t form or becomes dislodged, this is called ‘dry socket’. Dry socket can cause pain and other complications.

Sometimes dry socket happens for uncontrollable reasons. However, intake of alcohol, tobacco or certain contraceptives can affect how the wound heals and increase the risk of dry socket.

Cleaning your mouth

Don’t brush your teeth, or use mouthwash during the first 24 hours after surgery. During this time it is also best to avoid spitting as well. After 24 hours, you can begin to brush your teeth as normal but make sure to be very gentle, especially around the wound. For the next week, rinse your mouth with warm salt water every two hours and after every meal.

When to call your dentist

Call your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms, as they could indicate complications such as infection:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • A bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away even after rinsing
  • Pus in or around the socket
  • Persistent numbness 
  • Blood or pus in nasal discharge
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fever
  • Severe pain (even after you take painkillers)
  • Swelling that worsens