Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure to remove one or more wisdom teeth — the four permanent adult teeth located at the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom.
If a wisdom tooth doesn’t have room to grow (impacted wisdom tooth), resulting in pain, infection or other dental problems, you’ll likely need to have it pulled. Wisdom tooth extraction may be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
To prevent potential future problems, some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if impacted teeth aren’t currently causing problems.
During wisdom tooth extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon:
- Makes an incision in the gum tissue to expose the tooth and bone
- Removes bone that blocks access to the tooth root
- Divides the tooth into sections if it’s easier to remove in pieces
- Removes the tooth
- Cleans the site of the removed tooth of any debris from the tooth or bone
- Stitches the wound closed to promote healing, though this isn’t always necessary
- Places gauze over the extraction site to control bleeding and to help a blood clot form
If you receive sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia, you’re taken to a recovery room after the procedure. If you have local anesthesia, your brief recovery time is likely in the dental chair.
As you heal from your surgery, follow your dentist’s instructions on:
- Bleeding. Some oozing of blood may occur the first day after wisdom tooth removal. Try to avoid excessive spitting so that you don’t dislodge the blood clot from the socket. Replace gauze over the extraction site as directed by your dentist or oral surgeon.
- Pain management. You may be able to manage pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), or a prescription pain medication from your dentist or oral surgeon. Prescription pain medication may be especially helpful if bone has been removed during the procedure. Holding a cold pack against your jaw also may relieve pain.
- Swelling and bruising. Use an ice pack as directed by your dentist or surgeon. Any swelling of your cheeks usually improves in two or three days. Bruising may take several more days to resolve.
- Activity. After your surgery, plan to rest for the remainder of the day. Resume normal activities the next day, but for at least a week, avoid strenuous activity that might result in losing the blood clot from the socket.
- Beverages. Drink lots of water after the surgery. Don’t drink alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot beverages in the first 24 hours. Don’t drink with a straw for at least a week because the sucking action can dislodge the blood clot from the socket.
- Food. Eat only soft foods, such as yogurt or applesauce, for the first 24 hours. Start eating semisoft foods when you can tolerate them. Avoid hard, chewy, hot or spicy foods that might get stuck in the socket or irritate the wound.
- Cleaning your mouth. Don’t brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, spit or use mouthwash during the first 24 hours after surgery. Typically you’ll be told to resume brushing your teeth after the first 24 hours. Be particularly gentle near the surgical wound when brushing and gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water every two hours and after meals for a week.
- Tobacco use. If you smoke, don’t do so for at least 72 hours after surgery — and wait longer than that if possible. If you chew tobacco, don’t use it for at least a week. Using tobacco products after oral surgery can delay healing and increase the risk of complications.
- Stitches. You may have stitches that dissolve within a few weeks or no stitches at all. If your stitches need to be removed, schedule an appointment to have them taken out.
To learn more about wisdom teeth removal, and to discover whether getting your wisdom teeth removed is right for you, we invite you to call or visit Dr. Parham today.