What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal: Everything You Need To Know

It’s not uncommon for Australians to have problems with their wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars that grow in, and most people will start having issues when they’re between 17-25 years old. This blog post will discuss what a wisdom tooth is and why some people end up with them. We’ll also discuss signs of an impacted tooth and how it’s usually treated, and how they affect oral health in many different ways. It will also give you some signs and symptoms that should warrant a visit to your dentist, as well as an overview of the process of removing these pesky third molars!

What Is a Wisdom Tooth?

Wisdom teeth are often categorized by their placement and function. They’re the flatter type of tooth, called molars. Molars are found in the back of your mouth, behind your other teeth. Adults usually have three sets of them on top and bottom, and they’re found on both sides of the mouth.

They are the last set of molars to develop, usually emerging in your late teens or early twenties. They are often impacted and require removal because they do not have enough room to grow properly due to a lack of space created by overcrowding that causes crooked teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain, swelling, infection, or cysts that may need medical attention if left untreated.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

The earliest ancestors survived life by eating nuts, uncooked meat, leaves, etc. Eating this type of food requires more vital molars (type of teeth) and a wider jaw. Hence, a broader jaw, a strong set of teeth, including wisdom teeth, were common among early ancestors of humans.

Teeth come in three waves. During your infancy, you developed your first set of teeth; they were around 20 baby teeth. At around middle childhood age, you could lose some teeth and get a new set. The final set of your permanent teeth emerge as you enter adolescence, probably appearing somewhere around age 20 to 25.

They are called “wisdom teeth” because they’re the last set of teeth to emerge, and you’re expectedly wiser when they develop.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Third molars, commonly called wisdom teeth, are often not extracted. Wisdom teeth will emerge when you are between the ages of 17 and 25. A third molar always develops in the back of your mouth behind the second molar teeth. However, some people have a crowded space for their third molars, which can cause impaction if they don’t emerge properly. An impacted tooth is when teeth are blocked by other teeth or under the gums.

If your wisdom tooth is impacted, your dentist will observe the situation. If you are suffering from continuous pain due to swelling or infected gum tissue, there is a high chance your dentist will recommend wisdom tooth removal.

Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Tooth

For some people, an impacted tooth may not show any symptoms or cause pain. If your dentist is not bothered by the position of your teeth, removal may not be necessary even if an x-ray shows that you have impacted wisdom teeth. However, if you are uncomfortable or experiencing any pain, you should take your dentist’s advice. These are the most common signs and symptoms of an impacted tooth:

  • Pain-you may experience pain at the back of the mouth, behind the molars. This pain will gradually worsen as the wisdom teeth continue to grow, unaligned or sideways, and press against nerves and bone.
  • When your wisdom tooth starts to erupt, you may observe redness or swelling in your gum tissue.
  • Headaches-sometimes, tooth eruptions may cause headaches.
  • Inflammation-this is common for partially emerging wisdom teeth. Since there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge, the gum tissue covers part of the tooth. The gum tissue can be traumatized by the upper wisdom teeth, which cause swollen or bleeding gums.
  • Tooth Decay-sometimes, if the tooth is erupting horizontally, it may be stopped by the molar ahead of it. But as the tooth continues to grow, it will damage the roots of the nearby teeth, which causes tooth decay and bad breath.
  • Infection-if a wisdom tooth erupts horizontally, it could stop once the next tooth is reached. If the gum tissue is open, it will become prone to bacteria, and a severe oral infection or gum disease can develop.

What Causes an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

The human jaw has evolved over the years. There are probably a few reasons for this evolution of the human jaw. Some scientists believe that as our brain is growing, the jaw has gotten smaller to make space. Experts believe that narrowing our jaws, which happens as we age, is most likely due to how we prepare and consume food, making it more common for wisdom teeth to grow in with difficulty.

While you usually have about 32 teeth in your mouth, sometimes space won’t be available for the wisdom teeth to grow due to not enough room in the jaw.

When this happens, the wisdom tooth may erupt at an angle instead of coming through normally. If it continues to grow without any freedom of movement, it will start pushing against other teeth, causing them to become impacted teeth.

Two kinds of Impacted Wisdom Tooth:

  • Fully Impacted Wisdom Tooth-when the tooth is still fully covered by the gum tissue.
  • Partially Impacted Wisdom Tooth-the tooth breaks through the gum tissue but is unable to emerge fully. In most cases, this is most likely to lead to infection, decay or gum disease because the opening area of the gum tissue could trap food particles, which later attract bacteria.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure

Wisdom teeth are usually removed if they show signs or symptoms of being impacted. While this procedure can be expensive and time-consuming, it is a good option for someone experiencing pain from an affected tooth. Here is the common procedure:

  • Anesthesia & Sedation-Patients are given a local anesthetic that numbs the entire area of surgery. This anesthesia is administered either by itself or with some aid from nitrous oxide, used as an oral sedation medication, premedication, or intravenous sedation. Surgery does not start until it has taken full effect on the patient.
  • Tooth access-Dentists will use a scalpel to cut and peel back the gum tissue from the bone of emerging wisdom teeth. The soft tissues are pulled apart with high-speed suction, keeping the area dry and clean from dirt.
  • Extraction-After the tooth is removed, the socket is examined for any remaining particles that need to be extracted. If necessary, these are removed before continuing with post-operative care instructions and arranging a follow-up appointment. This procedure takes 30 minutes or less.
  • Post extraction-after the extraction, the gum tissue or surgical area will suture back to cover it, which eventually promotes healing. The wound left behind won’t be completely healed, so you may still develop infection weeks after surgery.

Cost Of Wisdom Teeth Extraction

The cost of wisdom teeth removal will depend on the complexity of your treatment-the less invasive the procedure, the more likely your wisdom teeth can be extracted in the dental chair, and the more affordable wisdom teeth removal will be. So, how much does a wisdom tooth extraction cost?

Discussing the specific wisdom teeth removal price can be tricky as most dental services offer different prices depending on your treatment. Simple procedures vary between $200 to $250, while complex processes or surgical removal can cost from $250 to $400, and these prices are per tooth.

Wisdom tooth removal in Australia can be expensive. The national dental fee survey estimates that a simple extraction using local anaesthetic can cost between $2,322. In comparison, the general anaesthetic can be more expensive, ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 per tooth.

Meanwhile, you can look for different dental services that provide payment plan options, discounts, or dental care coverage so you can save more.

Do Health Funds Cover Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

Dental insurance coverage for wisdom teeth removal varies depending on your dental plan. Many will cover 80% of the Wisdom Tooth Removal costs.

Typically, Wisdom Teeth Removal is covered to some extent by private health funds. If you are insured by private health insurance, part of your wisdom tooth extraction costs is covered depending on your health fund and the level of cover. Mostly, wisdom tooth extraction falls under the general dental category.

Does Medicare Cover Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

In Australia, Medicare does not cover all dental services. Hence, if you are planning to have Wisdom Tooth Removal Surgery, you will incur an out-of-pocket expense.

On the other hand, if you are qualified under the Children’s Dental Benefit Scheme (CDBS) through Medicare, your wisdom teeth surgery may be covered by Medicare. CDBS offers dental care for children for $1000 over two years. It includes dental health checkups, x-rays, teeth cleaning, extractions and fillings. Medicare also provides general anaesthesia coverage.

What Impacts the Cost of Wisdom Tooth Removal?

Removal of wisdom teeth is generally more complicated than other types of dental procedures. If your tooth extraction is difficult to perform or consumes more time, it could affect the cost of your treatment. The procedure can be performed in a dental chair with only local anaesthesia or under general anaesthesia in a hospital. However, it will cost more to extract the tooth when under general anaesthetic.

Learn More: The Cost of Wisdom Teeth Removal

Risk of Not Removing an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Most wisdom teeth are never removed and do not cause problems. Removal is mainly done only when there’s a problem or when it’s likely that the tooth could become problematic in the future.

However, since the wisdom teeth are placed at the back of your mouth, sometimes cleaning them can be tricky, making food debris prone to bacteria. In some cases, if an impacted wisdom tooth is not removed but causes you persistent pain problems, like:

  • Wisdom Teeth Infection
  • Gum Disease
  • Tooth Decay or Cavities
  • Cysts (Jaw damage)
  • Damage to other teeth
  • Crowding (alignment issues)

may arise. It would be best to get professional advice from your dentist to avoid future problems with neighbouring teeth, and wisdom teeth surgery may be recommended to prevent severe damage.

Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Painful?

The day after surgery, you may experience some complications, such as discomfort or swelling. While these come with any tooth extraction, it is crucial not to dislodge the blood clot and harm your gums. To reduce swelling in your mouth after a procedure like this, use ice packs and frozen vegetables wrapped in towels (or other garments) for comfort. Your dentist will use an anaesthetic during the process, which will help. However, if you still prefer medicines containing opioids for more pain relief, consult your family doctor about medication options.

Common Remedies for Wisdom Teeth Pain

There are many home remedies available to help reduce the pain from a wisdom tooth. These remedies often include warm salt water, cloves and clove oil, rice, onions, cucumber slices, tea bags, baking soda paste or peppermint.

If you’re experiencing pain, you should visit your dentist for more long-term solutions, as these remedies are only short-term fixes.

  • Saltwater rinse

One of the most well-known remedies for a toothache (even for a sore throat) is a saltwater rinse. Rinsing your gums with warm water and dissolved sodium chloride (salt) has been shown to promote healthy gums and could kill bacteria. Besides pain, wisdom teeth can also cause cysts when they erupt through the gum tissue. Keeping your mouth clear of any harmful bacteria is highly recommended.

  • Peppermint 

Peppermint is a herbal extract that can reduce pain and inflammation. You can put a cotton ball dipped in peppermint extract on the area of discomfort or apply it directly to your teeth for immediate relief. You may also try chewing on a peppermint leaf to release the oils contained within its leaves. To use as a mouth rinse after cooling off, make a tea out of some peppermint leaves and rinse them with water afterwards.

  • Clove oil

Cloves are a popular home remedy for tooth decay and impacted wisdom teeth. Cut or crush a fresh clove, then place it directly in the painful area of your mouth and leave it there until you experience numbing in that spot. This will not only numb discomfort but also prevent infection due to its antibacterial properties.

  • Liquor 

It may be surprising, but liquors like brandy, bourbon, and whiskey can be pain relievers because of their numbing qualities. Rubbing strong alcohol onto your wisdom teeth as they emerge from the gums might decrease pain signals and lessen discomfort.

  • Aloe vera

Aloe vera reduces inflammation from your wisdom teeth cautiously growing in. It also helps heal any gum scratches or cuts you may have, which can come about while your teeth grow. To use the gel, apply it anywhere on the back of your mouth and wait for temporary pain relief to set in.

  • Tea tree oil 

Another powerful antibacterial agent is tea tree oil. It has been proven to kill harmful bacteria. But it should never be applied directly to your teeth because this remedy is so potent. You can use a diluted mixture of tea tree oil and coconut oil on your impacted gum area for relief. Tea tree essential oils shouldn’t be swallowed, so make sure you rinse and spit out any residue immediately after this treatment, which will help eliminate the pain of an impacted wisdom tooth in no time!

  • Crushed garlic oil 

Experts have proven that crushed garlic oil is the most effective killer of pathogens that occupy and cause infection at the gum line. Researchers have shown that it produces greater antimicrobial action. You can make a paste-like consistency of crushed raw garlic and chopped ginger and apply it to your gums.

  • Aspirin

The aspirin you take to ease a severe headache often relieves the pain associated with a wisdom tooth. Aspirin is generally a safe pain-relieving agent for people who are experiencing discomfort in their mouth. Remember not to take more than the recommended amount and only take this drug if you have been prescribed or monitored by a dentist or doctor.

  • Menthol

-It is a natural analgesic that brings a cooling effect directly to your skin. If you’ve got a wisdom tooth problem and need to use menthol for pain relief, dilute a mouthwash that contains alcohol, peppermint flavour, or menthol so you can apply it straight to the area.

  • Turmeric 

Turmeric, a spice that’s been used for centuries as both a flavour and a remedy for stomach pain, can also alleviate toothaches. This is because it contains analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. One source recommended rubbing crushed turmeric directly onto inflammatory gums or rinsing your mouth with water boiled with 5 grams of turmeric and two cloves.

  • Cold & heat therapy 

When swelling is causing pain, you can apply an ice pack to the affected area for temporary relief. Ice packs are available at local pharmacies, or you can create your own with a block of frozen veggies.

  • Wheatgrass 

The ability of wheatgrass to heal wounds, as well as prevent cavities and inflammation, makes it an effective dental treatment for pain associated with wisdom teeth. It is because of the high chlorophyll content. Wheatgrass also contains an infection, which can cause more severe problems later on.

  • Oregano Oil

Aside from its ability to heal colds and sore throats, Oregano oil can be a remedy for swelling, inflammation, and pain. It has ingredients to kill the bacteria. Just like tea tree oil, oregano oil is potent and must be appropriately diluted. Apply the oil using a cotton ball on your teeth or affected gums.

  • Thyme essential oil 

Thyme is used to relieve pain and inflammation that may come with emerging wisdom teeth. Add a few drops of thyme essential oil to a cotton ball. Use the mixture each day to coat your teeth and gums a few times a day. You can also rinse it in your mouth by adding one drop of oil to a glass of warm water.

  • Capsaicin

-It has an active ingredient that is said to relieve pain and inflammation. You must always start with a small amount to test how your body reacts since it has a possible side effect of irritation.

  • Lavender essential oil

Studies show that lavender oil is effective in alleviating signs of inflammation and pain.

Wisdom Teeth Post-Surgery Aftercare

How Long Is the Recovery Time?

Instructions for recovery and what to expect are available before the procedure takes place. This includes possible side effects and recovery advice.

For some people, wisdom teeth are large. If you are one of them, you may need stitches (surgical) to close the surgical area or wound. Dental surgery may cause swelling or bleeding issues after a few days of removal. If so, aspirin and other over-the-counter treatments can help alleviate the pain. Your surgeon will give you post-op instructions, and don’t hesitate to ask questions about your recovery.

Learn More: The Wisdom Tooth Removal Recovery Time

What Can I Eat After Wisdom Tooth Surgery?

Your dentist will instruct you that in the first 24 hours after removal, it is best not to apply pressure or suction to the wound. If you need to rinse your mouth, try being gentle and using a soft toothbrush to do so.

Many people find it uncomfortable to eat for the first three weeks following a tooth extraction. Avoid hard and chewy foods so as not to cause additional discomfort. Your dentist may also recommend you go on a soft diet. It is best to eat soft foods like mashed potatoes or soup, or any food that does not require chewing. Avoid hot foods and beverages too! Your dentist will tell you when you can go back to your regular diet.

Learn More: What Food Can I Eat After Wisdom Teeth Surgery?

Wisdom Tooth Removal FAQ’s

Can I smoke after wisdom tooth surgery?

Smoking after your wisdom tooth surgery is undoubtedly not a good idea as it can lead to complications and a more extended period of recovery time. A dry socket is a particular wisdom tooth complication, and smoking could increase the chance of it.

If you’re a smoker, avoiding smoking can be difficult. But for your fast recovery, the best option is to avoid smoking for the first 24 to 72 hours to avoid developing complications after tooth removal.

What happens if I don’t remove my impacted wisdom teeth?

It is common to encounter problematic wisdom tooth development. That is one of the reasons why most people decide to remove their wisdom teeth. On the other hand, Wisdom Tooth Removal is not necessary unless you are experiencing continuous severe pain, gum bleeding or swelling. All in all, it is best to consult your dentist to have them monitored and report any discomfort you may have.

Alternatives to wisdom tooth removal

An alternative to removing wisdom teeth is just keeping them. Although some people can keep their wisdom teeth, it is not the same for most people and delaying removal can cause serious problems.

Impacted wisdom teeth can push other teeth out of alignment and lead to tooth decay. An infected wisdom tooth can be excruciatingly painful despite taking antibiotics alone and will cause even more damage without surgery. Wisdom teeth should be checked by a professional dentist to see if there is any build-up of plaque. Plaques can damage your teeth, which can lead to cavities and even more severe diseases. Since a wisdom tooth can develop in a sac within the jaw bone, it can be filled with fluid, forming a cyst. When this happens, you may experience significant bone damage or jaw pain.

Do I need a specialist for wisdom teeth extraction?

For many people, a general dentist can easily remove their wisdom teeth. So, generally speaking, you do not need a specialist to remove your wisdom teeth. Oral surgeons don’t usually handle these types of procedures unless the patient has more complex problems.

At what age should I get my wisdom teeth extracted?

Dental practitioners and expert oral surgeons recommend that a person have their wisdom teeth removed before the teeth’s roots are developed enough to cause dental problems. Usually, it occurs during adolescence or young adulthood.

Risks of wisdom teeth removal

The removal process can be risky. It’s essential to contact a dentist if you experience difficulty swallowing, breathing, or excessive bleeding, fever, pus at the extraction site, or any other complications. A minor side effect is a dry socket, which is usually experienced within the days following removal. Other long-term complications may include a dry socket, so it’s best to consult your dentist for advice if these symptoms occur.

Is wisdom teeth removal considered an emergency?

Wisdom tooth removal is not a dental emergency, but if one or more of your wisdom teeth are impacted, they may cause you severe pain or discomfort. In this case, you need immediate procedures to alleviate the problems caused by the impacted wisdom tooth.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it all up in a nutshell, wisdom tooth problems are prevalent. Hence, most people have decided to follow a treatment plan. If left untreated, it could lead to severe damage like infection, oral cysts, gum bleeding, tooth decay, bad taste and even damage to another tooth. It is recommended that you visit your dentist regularly and have your teeth checked. If you may or may not experience any pain from an emerging wisdom tooth, it will be monitored, and possible complications can be avoided.

After the wisdom teeth removal, it is best to eat only food that minimizes chewing, avoid hot beverages or drinking using a straw so as not to experience suction, which causes additional pain.

One of the challenging notes after your surgery is avoiding smoking if you’re a smoker. But your dentist will recommend you avoid it during the first few days of wisdom teeth removal. If not, complications like dry sockets will occur.

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Peel Dental Studio


Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.