Wisdom Teeth Removal: What To Expect During Procedure

Do you have a severe toothache coming from the back of your mouth? Or do you notice that your gums are swollen and red? Maybe it’s one of the early signs that your wisdom tooth is erupting.

Most people will need to have their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their lives. Although wisdom tooth removal is a common procedure, it can still be scary for some people.

If you’re scheduled for a wisdom tooth removal, continue reading and learn what you can expect during the procedure. We will also tackle the procedure and the reasons why it is necessary to remove your wisdom teeth.

What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Wisdom tooth extraction is a dental procedure that involves removing your third molars, or the last permanent adult teeth that you can see at the back of your mouth. There are four wisdom teeth, two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw. Wisdom teeth typically start to grow during young adulthood or between the ages of 17 and 25.

When there’s a lack of space for them to develop, your wisdom teeth can become impacted. This can result in severe pain, discomfort, risk of infection or other complications that may pose a threat to your oral health. Hence, your dentist may likely suggest having them removed.

General dentists perform simple extractions and wisdom tooth removals. However, for complicated cases, they may have to be referred to an oral surgeon. Before the procedure begins, they will administer a type of sedation or anaesthesia to avoid any discomfort or reduce pain during the removal.

Signs That Your Wisdom Tooth Is Impacted

An impacted wisdom tooth may not always cause any signs. Yet, if you suspect that your wisdom tooth is about to erupt, it’s important that you start to observe the following closely:

  • Some bleeding of the gums
  • Tenderness or pain when you touch your gums.
  • Jaw pain and swelling
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Unpleasing breath odour
  • Redness and swollen gums
  • Radiating pain that radiates around your jaw

Wisdom Teeth Removal: Why Is It Done

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last set of teeth to develop. As mentioned, these teeth may commonly erupt during late teens or young adulthood, while some people may never develop their wisdom teeth. For others, their teeth can grow without causing any problems and do not require removal.

The size of the mouth is unique; some individuals have enough space to accommodate all the teeth. Unfortunately, in most cases, erupting wisdom teeth can cause problems if there’s insufficient room for them to grow, resulting in impaction.

Impacted wisdom teeth may develop at an awkward angle like the following:

  • Mesial Impaction. When a wisdom tooth is tilted and points toward the front of your mouth, it’s called mesial impaction. This is, by far, the most common type of impaction.
  • Distal Impaction. The rarest type of impaction is when the tooth is tilted pointing towards the back of your mouth.
  • Vertical Impaction. It occurs when the wisdom tooth is in the correct position but remains underneath the gums.
  • Horizontal Impaction. It happens when the wisdom tooth erupts horizontally under the gums. This impaction can put too much pressure on the nearby teeth, which can cause severe pain.

These types of wisdom tooth impaction can result in a wide range of serious problems, like tooth decay in the adjacent teeth that may adversely impact your dental health. Your dentist may more likely suggest wisdom tooth extraction if you have cavities, gum disease, or if the pain is persistent. On the other hand, your dentist may tell you to keep an eye on your gums and teeth for signs of impaction that could mean you need to get them pulled.

The Procedure Of Wisdom Tooth Removal

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A dental practitioner will assess the condition of your wisdom teeth. He will also take dental x-rays to have a visual of their position underneath the gums. Different types of anaesthesia methods will also be discussed. Three common alternatives are local anaesthesia, general anaesthesia, and IV sedation. The type you will need may depend on your comfort level and the process of removal.

Moreover, it’s essential that you inform your dentist about any current medications and your health conditions, as this will be a major factor in deciding on what anaesthetic solution must be used.

The step-by-step process of the wisdom tooth removal procedure may involve but is not limited to the following:

  • The dentist will cut and make an incision along the gum line to expose the tooth and bones.
  • Then, they will remove some parts of the bone that block the tooth from gaining access.
  • Depending on the impaction, your dentist may need to divide the tooth into parts to make the pulling easier.
  • Once there’s access to the tooth, the dentist will pull it, including the roots.
  • After that, they will clean the area. It’s important that there be no debris, bone, or tooth fragments left inside the extraction site.
  • The extraction site will be closed by suturing the gums.
  • Finally, the dentist will ask you to bite down on a piece of clean gauze pad to control the bleeding of an open socket. Blood clots are essential for your recovery period.

What To Expect Before Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Your initial appointment for wisdom teeth removal is essential. Your dentist will assess your teeth, gums, and impacted teeth during your visit. They may take a dental x-ray to get a visual of your jaws, bones, and wisdom teeth. These steps are essential to help your dentist determine how they will remove the tooth and prepare a treatment plan.

Different types of anaesthesia may be discussed:

  • Local Anaesthesia. It is often used to numb only the immediate affected area.
  • General Anaesthesia. It is used to make the patient lose consciousness during the procedure.
  • IV Sedation. It is used to reduce the level of consciousness.

During this visit, the dentist will get familiar with any health problems the patient may have and the list of medications they take. You may prepare yourself to ask relevant questions, so you’ll know what to expect too.

Possible Risk During Wisdom Teeth Removal

Lip Numbness

Lip numbness is a rare complication when the inferior alveolar nerve, which connects to various parts of the face and body, including the jaws and muscles around it, has been damaged during the procedure. The numbness is typically temporary, but it can become permanent if severe damage is done.

Excessive Bleeding

Bleeding is a normal part of a surgical procedure. In rare cases, dental tools may reach sensitive structures that may lead to excessive bleeding. Not to worry. Your dentist will do everything they can to make sure the procedure is done safely.

Damage To The Surrounding Oral Structures

Surgery may traumatize the jaw bone, gum tissues, sinuses, nerves, or the adjacent teeth. Although this problem rarely happens, the concern is that it may result in severe pain or paralysis of the affected area.

Healing and Recovery Period After Wisdom Teeth Removal

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Most patients experience swelling and pain at the site of the extraction once the effects of the numbing agent have gone. You may expect these symptoms to gradually subside within the first four days to one week. Soreness and stiffness are also expected, which may decrease after 7–10 days.

The recovery time differs from person to person. While some patients can recover only after a few days, others may take longer than usual before they can go back to their normal activities. What is important is to follow the dentist’s aftercare instructions to avoid complications like dry socket and infection.

It would help if you took pain relievers after the surgery. The dentist may advise medications to help you manage discomfort. Typically, the recommended medicines are best taken before the anaesthesia wears off. This usually occurs at around 2-3 hours.

Applying ice or a cold compress to the swollen part of your face or mouth for a few minutes may help to reduce pain. It is also advised to eat soft food and drink cold water to soothe the pain. However, refrain from using a straw and from spitting frequently.

Can I Drive Myself Home After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

This question is pretty common, and the answer can be both yes and no.

You could drive yourself home if you were only given local anaesthesia to numb certain areas in your mouth. However, if the dental surgery was done under deeper sedation, then it is not safe for you to drive. Even if you are awake and you feel recovered from the anaesthesia, there might still be some lingering effects or drowsiness that may interfere with your driving ability.

For your own safety, it’s best to have someone drive you home following wisdom tooth removal.

When To Call Your Dentist Following Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

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If you’re experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms, it may be an indication that there’s been some kind of infection:

  • Persistent heavy bleeding
  • High fever
  • Severe pain that seems to be unrelieved by prescribed pain medication
  • Mouth or jaw swelling that worsens days after surgery
  • Warm salt water or mouthwash does not seem to help if you have a persistent unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • Bad breath
  • Oozing pus coming from the tooth socket.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Numbness or loss of feeling

Final Thoughts

An impacted wisdom tooth can cause excruciating pain, making it difficult to eat, drink and sometimes, even speak. Hence, when this happens, wisdom tooth removal is considered a necessity and common dental procedure to help patients ease the pain and avoid risks of other dental problems. It can be an invasive process since it involves oral surgery. Yet, it can provide many benefits that help you have optimum dental health.

Common problems that may occur if wisdom teeth are left unremoved are periodontal disease, tooth decay, damaging adjacent teeth, deceased tooth roots, infection because of food particles getting trapped behind the teeth, and complications with orthodontic treatment.

At Peel Dental Studio, we make sure that you have a pleasant experience with your wisdom teeth. It’s important for us to make you feel relaxed during your appointment. If you have any questions, you may contact our dental clinic at (08) 9535-4900. We’d be happy to assist you.

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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.