As the “wisdom teeth” – a conventional name for our third molars – emerge, they unfortunately often cause problems due to overcrowding in our mouths. Wisdom teeth removal is a very common surgical procedure, most often performed on teenagers and young adults, and one that is important to prevent damage to other teeth in the mouth and to the gums.
Read on for a brief rundown of what you need to know about your upcoming wisdom teeth removal surgery:
Considerable swelling and gum soreness are normal during early recovery, and patients will need to stick to a diet of soft foods. Be sure to stock up on applesauce, soup, ice cream, or whatever other dishes you’d prefer. You’ll also need to arrange for a responsible adult to accompany you to the appointment and take you home afterwards – due to lingering effects of the anesthesia, patients will be in no condition to drive themselves.
Finally, speak with your dentist personally to determine whether they recommend any special steps for your particular circumstances. Some patients, for instance, may be instructed to abstain from certain nonprescription medications in the days or weeks before their surgery.
Your dentist will often strongly recommend a particular type of anesthesia, especially if the teeth are severely impacted and will require more aggressive extraction methods. Otherwise, patients may have the option to select between three courses of action:
The gums and surrounding regions are numbed with topical and injected anesthetics. This allows patients to remain awake and aware during the procedure, and while you may feel some pressure as the operation continues, pain shouldn’t be an issue.
In combination with local anesthesia to the gums, you’ll be provided an intravenous anesthetic to suppress consciousness. Patients will have no awareness of the procedure, and will not feel any pain.
In more extreme cases, general anesthesia (inhaled through a facial mask) may be appropriate. Similarly to sedation anesthesia, consciousness is suppressed and no pain is felt. Your vital signs will be monitored throughout the operation by the surgical team.
The Surgical Procedure
The procedure is a fairly quick one, lasting no more than an hour or so in most circumstances (though this will depend in part on the number of teeth being extracted and the extent to which they are impacted). Your oral surgeon will begin by lifting the gum tissue to better access the molars. It may be possible to simply pull the teeth, but in cases of more severe impaction it may be necessary to remove them in sections, or even to make cuts into the jawbone. Afterwards, the gums are stitched up and gauze is placed to combat any lingering bleeding.
You’ll rest up in our office as the anesthesia wears off, after which you’ll be released into the supervision of your adult friend or family member. We’ll also provide you with written post-operative instructions, some additional gauze, and a prescription for pain management medication (and, in some cases, an antibiotic as well).
Be prepared to take it easy for the first few days following surgery. Some discomfort is normal, but should be largely alleviated by the painkillers. Ice packs will help control the initial swelling, and most patients are able to resume a more normal diet within a week or so. Do avoid using straws during the recovery period, as the suction action can loosen blood clots in the wound and cause complications.