Wisdom teeth or third molars generally erupt into the mouth between the ages of 17 and 25. These molars come in behind our 2nd molars which came in at about 12 years old. Most people develop 4 wisdom teeth, while others may develop less or even sometimes more than 4. Wisdom teeth commonly become an issue because of lack of room or odd positioning. Wisdom teeth can affect other teeth in the mouth by moving them, damaging root structure or causing tooth decay or periodontal issue. Wisdom teeth can come in sideways, horizontally, backwards, or even become impacted (partially or fully unable to erupt into the mouth). When these complications arise, it is recommended that the wisdom teeth are removed to avoid permanent damage to other teeth.
What To Expect Following Wisdom Teeth Extraction
While most wisdom teeth extractions go quite easily with little to no pain or complications. There can always be complications no matter how minor they may seem. These can include:
–Bleeding. This is quite normal following any type of oral surgery. It is not unusual to see slight bleeding or oozing into the saliva following wisdom teeth extraction. Excessive bleeding ( mouth filling with blood) is not normal and your dentist or surgeon should be contacted immediately. The general instructions given by your doctor to control this oozing or slight bleeding is to bite down on a fresh gauze pad for about 30 minutes. You can repeat if necessary. This usually does the trick but if more action is needed biting on a moist tea bag will help even further. Tea bags contain tannic acid which helps with clotting of the blood. Activity should be limited directly following surgery. If bleeding continues or you are unsure of what to do, call your dentist immediately.
–Pain/Discomfort. Some minor pain following wisdom teeth removal is normal. A dull ache is expected after the local anesthesia wears off. This usually will subside on its own over 8-12 hours following surgery. Your dentist or surgeon will evaluate what may be necessary for pain management based upon your particular surgery. For more severe pain your dentist or surgeon will give you a prescription pain medicine. It is important to note that most prescription pain medication is much stronger and will make you groggy and reduce your reflexive actions. Driving as well as alcohol intake should be avoided while on these painkillers. The pain should begin to subside within 8-12 hours and be almost gone by end of 2nd day. If pain persists call your dentist immediately as you may be experiencing dry socket. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot gets dislodged prematurely from area where the tooth was extracted. Symptoms of severe and/or throbbing pain at the surgical site 3-4 days following surgery, that does not respond to pain medication, can indicate a dry socket in the area of the wisdom teeth. If this occurs call your dentist so they can relieve your pain.
–Swelling. Another very normal complication of wisdom teeth removal. Swelling can usually be found around the mouth and sides of the face. The swelling can be controlled or minimized by the use of ice packs. After 36 hours, ice has little beneficial effect and can be replaced with the application of moist heat to the sides of the face. Moist heat has been found to be helpful in reducing the swelling and increasing the range of motion of your jaws. Most swelling will subside over the course of 3-4 days.
–Dietary Restrictions. Initial nutritional intake should be in liquid form or very soft foods. It is best to avoid chewing on side where wisdom teeth were extracted. Drinking fluids is especially important to avoid dehydration. Stay away from sharp, crunchy foods that can lodge themselves into the extraction site. You need to eat and drink so that you will heal and the stronger you will feel, but not too much if you are experiencing nausea. Do not use a straw when drinking as you may dislodge the clot and cause a dry socket or increased bleeding.
–Nausea/Vomiting. Developing nausea is a real possibility especially if general anesthesia was used. Limit food intake until nausea subsides and try to drink a carbonated beverage (coke or ginger ale) it will help ease your upset stomach.
–Maintain Dental Hygiene. Keeping the mouth clean is important. Rinsing should not be performed the day of surgery. The day after surgery you can rinse 5-6 times a day using a saltwater mix (cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt). Your doctor will let you know when brushing in the area can resume.
–Bruising/Discoloration. In some cases, this can happen and is very normal. Occurs when blood forms beneath the tissues causing black, green, blue, or even yellow discolorations on the skin. Usually occurs 2-3 days after surgery. Application of moist heat to the area may speed up the healing process.
–Infection. Your dentist may place you on a course of antibiotics if there is an infection present. The Antibiotic prescription should be completed as directed by your dentist and pharmaceutical instructions.
–Jaw Stiffness. This can occur from the jaws being open and stretched for an extended period of time. Normally goes away within a day or two.
Less Likely Wisdom Teeth Complications
–Numbness. This can happen and is generally temporary. Be aware that you can bite your lip or tongue while you are numb so be careful. If the numbness persists call your dentist immediately.
–Fever. Development of a fever is a rare occurence following wisdom teeth removal but it can happen. If the temperature lasts more than a few hours or does not go back down after taking Tylenol or Advil call your dentist.
–Dry, Cracked Lips. This can occur from your lips and mouth being stretched during surgery. Most dentists can minimize this by using vaseline on your lips and skin before surgery to keep them moist.
–Irregular Bony Projections. In some cases, patients may feel bony projections with their tongue. This is the bony walls that housed your wisdom teeth. These projections may need to be removed by the dentist if they persist.
Wisdom Teeth Conclusion
It is important to remember that we are all individuals and our bodies will react differently to different events such as wisdom teeth surgery. Many of us will have no complications beyond pain and slight swelling, but for others, bigger complications may arise. It is important to maintain an open line of communication with your dentist in case an issue arises.