Wisdom Teeth and other Extractions
Dr. Cowden strives to save teeth, when possible. However, there are certain instances where extraction(s) will be recommended. This includes wisdom teeth.
A wisdom tooth is extracted to correct an actual problem or to prevent problems that may come up in the future. When wisdom teeth come in, a number of problems can occur:
- Your jaw may not be large enough for them, and they may become impacted and unable to break through your gums.
- Your wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. Food and germs can get trapped under the flap and cause your gums to become red, swollen, and painful. These are signs of infection.
- More serious problems can develop from impacted teeth, such as infection, damage to other teeth and bone, or a cyst.
- One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.
In most cases, the recovery period lasts only a few days. Take painkillers as prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon. The following tips will help speed your recovery.
- Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after your surgery.
- While your mouth is numb, be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek or lip, or your tongue.
- Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.
- Try using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours. You can use moist heat-such as a washcloth soaked in warm water and wrung out-for the following 2 or 3 days.
- Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
- Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.
- Do not use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.
- After the first day, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. You can make your own salt water by mixing 1 tsp (5 g) of salt in a medium-sized glass [8 fl oz (240 mL)] of warm water.
- Do not smoke for at least 24 hours after your surgery. The sucking motion can loosen the clot and delay healing. Also, smoking decreases the blood supply and can bring germs and contaminants to the surgery area.
- Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.
- Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.
- Pain and swelling in your gums and tooth socket where the tooth was removed.
- Bleeding that won’t stop for about 24 hours.
- Difficulty with or pain from opening your jaw.
- Slow-healing gums.
- Damage to existing dental work, such as crowns or bridges, or to roots of a nearby tooth.
- A painful inflammation called dry socket, which happens if the protective blood clot is lost too soon.
- Numbness in your mouth and lips after the local anesthetic wears off, due to injury or inflammation of nerves in the jaw.
- Rare side effects, including:
- Numbness in the mouth or lips that does not go away.1
- A fractured jaw if the tooth was firmly attached to the jaw bone.
- An opening into the sinus cavity when a wisdom tooth is removed from the upper jaw.
Dental surgery may cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have difficulty fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. Such people include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects.
Anesthetic (local and/or general) almost always is used during the extraction procedure. All surgeries, including oral surgery, that use general anesthetic have a small risk of death or other complications.