Are you experiencing discomfort in your back molars or your gums at the back of your mouth? Do you have trouble opening and closing your jaws, bad breath or a low-grade fever? You may need a wisdom tooth extraction to remove an impacted third molar and prevent further discomfort and infection. Before you have your tooth removed, there are some critical facts you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction and the alternatives.
Alternatives to Wisdom Tooth Removal
Extraction is often recommended for wisdom teeth as a preventative measure to minimize misalignment, eliminate overcrowding, or when the tooth is infected. However, in some cases, you may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed.
A coronectomy is an alternative to wisdom tooth extraction and is recommended for patients when the wisdom tooth is impacted and presses on the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve. These nerves control the sensation in your tongue, lips, and chin and can affect speech and chewing.
A coronectomy removes the crown of the tooth, leaving the roots in place. If the wisdom tooth root is not infected, a coronectomy may be an ideal alternative to wisdom tooth removal.
An operculectomy removes the gum tissue that can develop over a partially erupted wisdom tooth. Debris and bacteria can get caught in this tissue, causing painful infections and inflammation. Removal of the operculum reduces the risk of bacteria build-up and may prevent the need for a wisdom tooth extraction.
Bring a Chaperone to Your Appointment
Whether you have a wisdom tooth removal, operculectomy or coronectomy, your dentist will still administer anesthesia to make you more comfortable during the procedure. In most cases, the site will be numbed using a local anesthetic. However, for complex wisdom tooth extractions or if you suffer from dental anxiety, you may need to be sedated.
The side effects of sedation can take some time to wear off, so it is essential to bring someone along with you to drive you home after the procedure.
Rest with Your Head Raised
Your body’s natural reaction to tooth extraction is inflammation and swelling. However, uncontrolled swelling can lead to infection. To keep the swelling under control, rest with your head slightly elevated to drain fluid away from the area. You can also apply cold compresses to the side of your face and take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.
Skip the Toothbrush
Avoiding brushing isn’t advice that you’ll usually hear from your dentist; however, you need to avoid using your toothbrush near the extraction site for the first 24 hours after surgery.
Also avoid spitting and rinsing, as well as drinking through a straw. The reason for this is that the blood vessels inside the empty tooth socket form a clot that seals the socket and prevents infection.
If the clot becomes dislodged, you are at risk of developing a condition called dry socket where the nerves of the tooth are exposed.
Stock Up on Soft Foods
Hard and chewy foods can aggravate the wound site, causing discomfort. Some nutritious foods for post-surgery recovery include yogurt, oatmeal, fruit and vegetable purees, eggs, and smoothies. Cold and tepid foods can also help to alleviate post-surgery swelling.
Bleeding Is Normal After Surgery
Although you may have stitches in the tooth socket, it is normal to experience some bleeding after surgery. Your dentist packs the empty socket with gauze which you should hold firmly in place for 30 minutes. Repeat until the bleeding abates. If the bleeding is excessive, call your dentist immediately.
Symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore include fever, numbness, increased swelling, pus from the wound or nose, and trouble swallowing or breathing. Any of these symptoms could indicate infection or nerve damage and need to be assessed by your dentist immediately.
Keep Your Wound Clean
There are several ways you can keep your mouth clean and hygienic. Rinsing with a saltwater solution helps to eliminate bacteria, clear debris from around the extraction site, and reduce discomfort after surgery.
Combine one cup of warm water with ½ a teaspoon of salt and gently swish the solution around your mouth for 20-30 seconds. Instead of spitting out the rinse, tip your head over the sink and open your mouth to expel the water gently.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a standard procedure to prevent impacted wisdom teeth from affecting your remaining teeth and jawbone. However, it isn’t always necessary to have your tooth extracted.
If you have your wisdom teeth extracted, follow your dentist's post-surgical care instructions carefully to ensure a speedy and comfortable recovery.
About the author
Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Dentist North York.