Wisdom teeth are the third molars, and the last teeth to erupt. Most patients get their wisdom teeth in their late teens or early twenties and more often than not, they are misaligned, causing pain and and requiring removal.

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Wisdom teeth also can be impacted, meaning that they are enclosed within the gum and/or the jawbone. Sometimes they only partially break through or erupt through the gum creating an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection.

Wisdom tooth infection, commonly known as pericoronitis, results in pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, a bad taste and general unwell feeling.

Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay and gum disease because their hard-to-reach location and awkward positioning makes brushing and flossing difficult.

How do I know if I have wisdom teeth?

A 6 monthly check up gives your dentist the opportunity to check all areas of your mouth and taking a full mouth, OPG X-ray can evaluate any wisdom teeth that have not erupted yet.

Dr Richard will sometimes recommend that you have your wisdom teeth extracted before problems develop. This is done to avoid a more painful or more complicated extraction that might have to be done a few years later. Removal is easier in young people, when the wisdom teeth roots are not yet fully developed and the bone is less dense. In older people, recovery and healing time tend to be longer.

How long does it take to recover after wisdom teeth removal?

After having your wisdom teeth removed, the speed of your recovery depends on the degree of difficulty of the extraction (a simple extraction of a fully erupted tooth versus a tooth impacted into the jawbone). In general, here's what to expect.

During the first 24 hours

  • Bleeding may occur for several hours after tooth extraction. To control it, position a piece of clean moist gauze over the empty tooth socket and bite down firmly. Apply constant pressure for about 45 minutes. Repeat this process if a small degree of bleeding continues. Avoid rinsing or spitting for 24 hours after tooth extraction, avoid "sucking" actions (for example, don't drink beverages through straws or smoke) and avoid hot liquids (such as coffee or soup). These activities can dislodge the clot, causing a dry socket to develop.
  • Facial swelling in the area where the tooth was extracted sometimes occurs. To minimise swelling, place a piece of ice, wrapped in a cloth, on that area of your face on a schedule of 10 minutes on, followed by 20 minutes off. Repeat as necessary during this first 24-hour period.
  • Pain medications, such as ibuprofen can be taken for minor pain. Your dentist might prescribe more potent pain relievers, if necessary.
  • Antibiotics that may have been prescribed prior to tooth extraction (to treat any active infection around the wisdom tooth to be extracted) should continue to be taken until the full prescription is gone.
  • Foods should be restricted to a liquid diet until all the numbness from anaesthesia has worn off (usually a few hours). Eat soft foods for a few days. Also avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Continue to brush your teeth, but avoid the teeth directly neighbouring the extracted tooth during the first 24 hours. On day two, resume the gentle brushing of your teeth. Do not use commercial mouth rinses as these can irritate the extraction site.

After 24 hours

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) after meals and before bed. Do not use commercial mouth rinses.
  • Stitches, if used will self-dissolve.
  • Watch for signs of dry socket, a common complication that occurs when the blood cloth that formed in the socket has dislodged. Without a blood clot, healing will be delayed and is accompanied with pain and usually a foul mouth odour. This condition requires treatment by your dentist.
  • Complete healing doesn't occur for a few weeks to a few months following the extraction. However, usually within the first week or two, enough healing has taken place for use of your mouth to be reasonably comfortable in the area of the extraction. Your dentist will explain what to expect in your specific case.