Everything You Need to Know About Your Wisdom Teeth

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Your dentist has suggested having your wisdom teeth removed, but they aren’t causing you any issues. Do they really need to be removed?

 

Have you heard conflicting stories about needing to have your wisdom teeth removed?

On one hand, you’ve got friends telling you they still have their wisdom teeth and it’s never caused them any issues. On the other hand, your dentist is advising you to have them removed to prevent future complications.

Well, your friends may not be experiencing any noticeable issues, but your dentist is not wrong.

Wisdom teeth are often removed when they do not completely erupt from the gums or don’t erupt at all. Ignoring partially erupted wisdom teeth can lead to discomfort and pain, but also bacterial infections.

Attempting to brush or floss areas of your mouth where wisdom teeth have erupted on an angle is near impossible, causing plaque and tartar to build up in between teeth. Tooth decay that is left unchecked for too long can result in periodontitis (gum disease), which puts your oral and overall health at risk.

So, before you decide to skip your next dentist appointment, here’s everything you need to know about your wisdom teeth.

 

Why do wisdom teeth exist?

If wisdom teeth are meant to be removed, why do they even exist?

Wisdom teeth are classed as the third set of molars and are located at the back of the mouth. Unlike the front-most teeth, which are sharper and used for tearing food into smaller pieces, molars are designed to grind food down.

 

How long do wisdom teeth take to grow?

Wisdom teeth usually erupt between the ages 18 to 25, but can take years to fully emerge through the gums. However this isn’t always the case, as some never erupt at all.

 

How do you know if your wisdom teeth are coming in and when should you remove them?

Apart from the fact that the third molars are now visible, wisdom teeth that do not erupt properly can become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth may not always cause any issues immediately, however over time, it may get infected, damage neighbouring teeth or cause other oral problems.

Signs of impacted wisdom teeth include:

–       Tender or bleeding gums

–       Red or swollen gums

–       Jaw pain and discomfort

–       Persistent bad breath

–       Unpleasant taste in the mouth

–       Difficulty eating, opening your mouth

–       Constant headaches

At this point you’re probably wondering when do wisdom teeth come out? If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, we recommend seeking medical attention immediately.

Do wisdom teeth always hurt when they come in?

 

What happens if you never get your wisdom teeth pulled out?

There are a number of reasons why your dentist will recommend having your wisdom teeth removed, including overcrowding, erupting sideways and the dangers of a bacterial infection.

X-rays will reveal whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed, which usually don’t start coming through until the age of 18. One of the main reasons why wisdom teeth need to be removed is because of overcrowding.

  • Overcrowding: In most cases, there’s simply not enough room for 32 teeth in the mouth. Early x-rays will show your dentist whether or not there is enough room for wisdom teeth to erupt. If your mouth does not have adequate space your wisdom teeth will need to be removed to prevent overcrowding issues leading to crooked teeth and impaction. Impacted teeth are teeth which have not erupted completely and are stuck below the gumline and increases the risk of infection.
  • Erupting sideways. Unfortunately, wisdom teeth don’t necessarily erupt vertically like other teeth and may end up coming through horizontally through the gums. This can have a serious impact on neighbouring teeth, as well as affecting your bite and causing larger, painful and more expensive problems down the track.
  • Bacterial infection. There are a select few who have perfectly erupted wisdom teeth and have adequate space to house them. However, because of where wisdom teeth are placed, it can be difficult to reach the back of the mouth to floss and brush properly. Poor oral care and hygiene increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

 

What happens to an infected wisdom tooth?

In most circumstances, eating too much sugar can cause your teeth to rot (tooth decay) but what about your wisdom teeth? What happens to a rotten wisdom tooth?

Wisdom teeth are more prone to becoming infected primarily because of where they are positioned in your mouth. Wisdom teeth sit right at the back in all four corners of your mouth and can be very hard to brush and floss properly.

This results in plaque and food debris to accumulate on and in between neighbouring teeth, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

For wisdom teeth that have erupted sideways or are impacted, bacteria can also get caught in the gum tissue, making you more susceptible to an infection.

 

How are wisdom teeth removed?

How wisdom teeth are removed will generally vary from person to person. Your dentist will advise whether your wisdom teeth are fine or are likely to cause future dental problems. If it’s the latter, a surgical extraction may be recommended.

Depending on how the wisdom teeth are situated, your dentist may use local or general anaesthesia, or sedation to put you to sleep for the surgery. If your wisdom tooth is deep in the gumline still, an incision will then be made in the gum to expose the tooth and bone. If extraction of the tooth is difficult, it may be divided into several pieces before being removed. In best cases, if a wisdom tooth has fully erupted and is showing it is far easier to remove.

Once extraction is complete, the site is cleaned and any remaining debris is removed, before it is then stitched up (if required). Your dentist will apply gauze over the site to help stop the bleeding and assist in the formation of a blood clot.

 

Will I need anaesthesia?

Most people wonder if they need to be put to sleep, or rather can they be put to sleep for the surgery. As daunting as getting your wisdom teeth removed sounds, you’ll be glad to know most wisdom teeth extractions can be done in-chair with the aid of local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding area.

Although you may be awake during the procedure and feel your dentist working away, you should not feel any pain at all. Nitrous oxide gas is also available to relax during the extraction process. Alternatively, you can be sedated and put to sleep through an intravenous line.

 

Will my health insurance cover wisdom teeth removal?

Contacting your insurance provider will be the easiest way to find out if you’re covered for wisdom teeth extractions. To have wisdom teeth removal covered by your insurance provider, you will need to have a high level of extras cover. Most extras policies will cover general dental treatments such as small fillings but do not include major dental procedures. In some cases, health insurances may cover wisdom teeth extraction, for example if it’s necessary due to an impacted tooth.

 

What impacts the cost of wisdom teeth extractions?

The cost of wisdom teeth extractions is impacted by how difficult or time consuming the treatment is. Having them removed in-chair by your dentist with local anaesthetic will be less expensive compared to having the treatment while you’re asleep under general anaesthesia in a hospital. The average starting price for 4 wisdom teeth removal is $600. 

 

Are there any risks with wisdom teeth removal?

While uncommon, there are some risks associated with having your wisdom teeth removed. If you begin to experience any difficulty in breathing or swallowing, excessive bleeding, fever or pus from the wound, these symptoms may point to signs of an infection, nerve damage or other complications. We recommend seeking medical attention immediately. However unlikely, there are some short-term complications such as dry socket, which is treatable.

 

Is it painful to remove wisdom teeth?

You should not feel any pain during the procedure. The only sensation you might feel is your dentist applying pressure. You will most likely feel pain and discomfort after having them removed once the anaesthetic wears off. Bleeding and swelling is also common as your mouth heals. It is important to make sure not to dislodge the blood clot or disrupt your gums in the affected area. If food gets lodged in the wound or stitches tear, you will need to go back to your dentist. To help alleviate the pain your dentist will recommend or prescribe pain relievers as well as ways to reduce swelling, like applying a cold compress (bag of frozen veggies does wonders).

 

How can I prepare before removing my wisdom teeth?

In most cases, wisdom teeth extraction is performed in-chair by your dentist, which means you’ll be home the same day as your procedure. Make sure to prepare the following before your appointment:

 

1. Arrange transport home

You will not be able to drive post-op if put to sleep, so it’s best to arrange a lift to and from the clinic with either a friend or family member.

2. Avoid eating or drinking before surgery

With most surgeries, you are required to fast for a certain amount of time. Make sure to ask your dentist if they advise you to avoid eating or drinking before the op.

3. Arrive early

This is the best time to ask your dentist about any questions or concerns you may have about the whole procedure.

4. Discuss your anaesthesia options 

Speak to your dentist about the 3 types of anaesthesia before your procedure. Based on the complexity of the operation and your comfort level, you may be considered for sedation or general anaesthesia.

5. Post-operative care

After having your wisdom teeth removed, the next few days might be a little uncomfortable. You may experience pain and headaches. Your dentist should prescribe you a pain reliever, but if they haven’t you can use over-the-counter pain medication and cold packs to alleviate pain and swelling.

6. Take time off to recover

The most important part after having your wisdom teeth removed is the recovery process. Making sure you do not break the blood clot or disturb the wound and allowing it to heal. Don’t go to work or send the kids to school if they have just had their wisdom teeth removed. Arrange time off, arrange a babysitter or pet carer if necessary.

 

How do you clean wisdom teeth holes?

The easiest way to clean wisdom teeth holes is to use a saltwater rinse. To make a saltwater rinse for wisdom teeth, simply combine ¼ teaspoon of salt with a cup of warm water and give it a good stir.

If this is the first day after having your wisdom teeth removed:

  • Take a gulp and gently move your head from side to side to move the solution around your mouth. Avoid swishing it around your mouth or spitting it out.
  • After giving it a good rinse, lean over the basin and open your mouth to let the rinse out.

What to avoid after having your wisdom teeth removed:

  • Avoid smoking and tobacco. This can prevent the wound from healing and cause dry socket, which can be quite painful and delay healing.
  • Avoid using straws. The suction movement can reopen the wound and delay the healing process.
  • Avoid all hard foods. Hard foods can get stuck in the socket and can be hard to remove. Stick to soft foods like yoghurt, mashed potatoes, and rice porridge.

 

Find out 8 delicious foods you can eat after having your wisdom teeth removed.

 

Can you use mouthwash after having wisdom teeth removed?

Most mouthwashes are antibacterial, which makes them excellent for killing bacteria. However, most health professionals will recommend avoiding using a mouthwash within the first 24 hours of having your wisdom teeth removed.

It’s best to speak to your dentist about the best oral practices after having your wisdom teeth removed.

 

How long does it take to remove wisdom teeth?

The time it takes to have your wisdom teeth extracted is dependent on how many needs to be removed. Wisdom teeth extractions can take up to an hour and a half to remove all four wisdom teeth.

 

When should you go to the dentist for wisdom teeth?

In most cases, your dentist will usually discuss the state of your wisdom teeth when x-rays are conducted at your regular check-up. In any case, if you start to experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, we suggest seeking medical attention immediately.

Find everything you need to know on our wisdom teeth extraction service, including how much wisdom teeth removal costs.

About The Author

Dr Saurabh Rai took ownership of our Gosnells clinic in 2016. He completed his Bachelor of Dental Science in 2004 in Bangalore, India, followed by his Master of Science in Forensic Science from the University of Western Australia. During this time, he also completed his Australian Dental Council licensing exams from the University of South Australia in Adelaide.

More about Dr Saurabh Rai

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