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Wisdom Teeth (Removal)

This page will provide you with information about removing wisdom teeth. For further details, you should speak to your consultant.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are located at the very back of your mouth. They are the third molar teeth that typically come through (erupt) during teenage or early adult years. Sometimes, wisdom teeth get stuck (impacted) or do not come through fully (partly erupt). In most cases, this will leave a gum flap over the wisdom tooth (see figure 1). In other cases, the wisdom tooth may grow too long. 

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There are numerous reasons why a wisdom tooth may need to be removed, such as: to prevent cheek or gum damage, due to repeat or severe infection, tooth decay, or to make space for other teeth.

What are the alternatives to removing a wisdom tooth?

Mild pain can often be treated with paracetamol or painkillers, while infections can be treated through the use of antibiotics, or by gargling with chlorhexidine mouthwash or hot, salty water. However, you should bear in mind that these solutions will only provide you with short-term relief. If a flap of gum is left from the tooth only partially erupted, it may be possible to remove this flap (operculectomy).

What does the procedure entail?

The majority of upper wisdom teeth can be removed easily under local anaesthetic. Lower wisdom teeth, however, sometimes prove problematic and the procedure may need to be carried out under general anaesthetic. The exact procedure will depend on your individual case: it could involve removing the bone around the tooth, using a drill to divide the tooth, or cutting the gum to uncover the tooth. The operation can last anywhere between 10 and 60 minutes.

What are the complications?

As with all surgical procedures, there are complications that may occur. General complications include:

  • Bruising and swelling
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Bleeding

Specific complications include:

  • Sinus issues
  • Jaw stiffness, and not being able to open your mouth properly (trismus)
  • Nerve damage
  • Dry socket
  • Retained roots
  • Damage to other teeth
  • A broken jaw
  • Bisphosphonate-associated osteonecrosis of your jaw

How quickly will I recover?

Most patients are discharged the same day as the procedure. Depending on the exact nature of your surgery, you may be given antibiotics. To help reduce the risk of swelling, bleeding and bruising, you should refrain from exercising, drinking alcohol or taking hot baths for 1-2 weeks. Some patients also find that they need to take a week off work to recover. 

 

References: EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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