Wisdom teeth or third molars are the last permanent teeth to erupt. There are usually four of them. These teeth usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. As they emerge, there may not be enough space in the jaw for them to erupt fully. As a result, wisdom teeth are often impacted, meaning that there is a physical barrier that prevents it from fully erupting in a normal position. This manifests as irregularly positioned wisdom teeth, wisdom teeth that grow in a different direction, or are buried partially or fully under the gums and jawbone.
A wisdom tooth is extracted to remove an existing problem or to prevent problems that may arise in the future. When wisdom teeth erupt, a number of problems can occur:
Your dentist will take an X-ray to locate the wisdom tooth and check its alignment and condition. It will be helpful to let your dentist know of any underlying health conditions you may have or medication you are on. Feel free to also discuss your options on anaesthesia.
As your jaw will be numb for about 3 hours post surgery with the wound still fresh, it is advised to eat and drink sufficiently before the surgery as eating and drinking after may be difficult. Make sure to brush your teeth well as this reduces your chances of infection during surgery.
During the surgery, the dentist will make an incision and lift the gums to access the wisdom tooth and surrounding bone. The tooth is sectioned and removed. Thereafter, the dentist will stitch the gums back into their original position.
After wisdom teeth surgery, you should:
Doing the above may dislodge the blood clot and give rise to a painful condition known as a dry socket. A stable blood clot helps to speed up the healing process.
Wisdom teeth that are fully erupted, functional and accessible for cleaning do not need to be removed. However, if there already is a problem with your wisdom teeth or if they are positioned in a way that predisposes them to problems in the future, it is advisable to remove them. As with all procedures, your dentist will weigh the costs and benefits between removing and keeping your wisdom teeth to ensure the best for your dental health.
In Singapore, an average of 5 days of medical leave is provided to recover from wisdom teeth surgery. However, actual recovery time depends on factors like age, rest, hygiene and the extent of surgery. For the first 2-3 days, maximum rest is recommended. This includes following the medication prescription closely, keeping the surgery site clean and avoiding any strenuous activity.
The procedure will be done under local anesthesia, so the area will be completely numb and you will not feel any pain during the surgery at all. However, as with every surgery, you might experience some discomfort and swelling after. It is important to follow instructions given by your dentist to minimize post-operative discomfort.
Primary wound closure will happen in a few days, but the gaps once occupied by wisdom teeth can take a few months to close. During this period, it is recommended to flush these gaps with a syringe to keep them clean.