Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth, usually between the age of 17 to 25 years old. Most people will develop four wisdom teeth but sometimes there may be less, and occasionally there may be none. These wisdom teeth can often cause problems, including pain, cysts, infection, damage to nearby teeth, and decay. These issues usually occur when the tooth is impacted, meaning that it is growing in the wrong direction or position. For these reasons, many people will need to have these teeth removed.
If you feel as though your wisdom teeth are causing problems, your first appointment with the dentist will be a consultation. At this stage the dentist will take an X-ray, and perhaps refer you for a 3D scan of the jaw to ensure that the teeth are not lying too close to the main nerve in the lower jaw. If the wisdom teeth do happen to be too close to this nerve or in a particularly difficult position, your dentist may recommend that you see a specialist oral-maxillofacial surgeon to perform the extraction. At this consultation, your dentist will also discuss your options for pain control during the procedure: local anaesthetic, twilight sedation, or general anaesthetic. Your dentist will also explain any risks and complications associated with the procedure.
If your dentist has confirmed that the teeth can be removed in a general practice setting and you have opted for local anaesthetic, your next appointment will be in your dentist’s office for the extraction/s. The dentist will completely numb the teeth and gums so that you will experience no pain or discomfort during the procedure. Depending on the position of the wisdom tooth, sometimes the dentist will need to make a small incision in the gums to better access the tooth. After the tooth is removed, the dentist may place some stitches, and will explain to you how to best care for your mouth in the healing process.
In some cases, your dentist may feel it is necessary to prescribe antibiotics and pain relief for you to use after your extractions. You should use ice-packs intermittently to help to control any swelling that may occur and take pain relief as necessary which will be discussed with your dentist. After the extraction, you should avoid strenuous exercise for at least a few days. It is usually ok to drive yourself to and from the appointment for a simple extraction using local anaesthetic, but if you are feeling particularly anxious or ill, it may be better to arrange alternate transport. Avoid smoking for at least 24 hours minimum, and eat soft, cool foods such as yoghurt and smoothies. Your dentist may arrange for you to have a follow up appointment to monitor the healing process.
While wisdom tooth extraction may seem daunting, most people will have a very quick and easy healing process provided they follow the instructions given by their dentist.
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