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Wisdom Tooth Extraction


Table of Contents


Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Surgery Overview

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon or your dentist can remove (extract) a wisdom tooth. The procedure often can be done in the dentist's or surgeon's office. You may have the surgery in the hospital, especially if you are having all your wisdom teeth pulled at one time or if you are at high risk for complications.

If you have any infections, surgery will usually be delayed until the infection has cleared up. Your doctor or dentist may have you take antibiotics to help heal the infection.

Before removing a wisdom tooth, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. A general anesthetic may be used, especially if several or all of your wisdom teeth will be removed at the same time. A general anesthetic prevents pain in the whole body and will cause you to sleep through the procedure. Your dentist will probably recommend that you don't eat or drink after midnight on the night before surgery so that you are prepared for the anesthetic.

To remove the wisdom tooth, your dentist will open up the gum tissue over the tooth and take out any bone that is covering the tooth. He or she will separate the tissue connecting the tooth to the bone and then remove the tooth. Sometimes the dentist will cut the tooth into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.

After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches. Some stitches dissolve over time and some have to be removed after a few days. Your dentist will tell you whether your stitches need to be removed. A folded cotton gauze pad placed over the wound will help stop the bleeding.

What To Expect After Surgery

In most cases, the recovery period lasts only a few days. Take painkillers as prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon. The following tips will help speed your recovery.

Your dentist will remove the stitches after a few days, if needed.

Why It Is Done

A wisdom tooth is extracted to correct an actual problem or to prevent problems that may come up in the future. Some of the problems that can occur when wisdom teeth come in are:

How Well It Works

Wisdom tooth removal usually is effective in preventing:

Risks

After a wisdom tooth is removed, you may experience:

Dental surgery may cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have difficulty fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. Such people include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects.

Anesthetic (local and/or general) almost always is used during the extraction procedure. All surgeries, including oral surgery, that use general anesthetic have a small risk of death or other complications.

What To Think About

If your wisdom teeth are not causing problems, it may be difficult to decide whether to have these teeth removed to prevent possible dental problems later in life. Think about the following:

Women on birth control pills who decide to have their wisdom teeth removed should try to schedule the surgery for the end of their menstrual cycle (usually days 23 through 28). There seems to be less risk of dry socket during this time.2

After a wisdom tooth is removed, you may have or notice:

Dental surgery may cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have difficulty fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. Such people include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects.

Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems. Wisdom Teeth: Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Complete the surgery information form (PDF) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Dodson TB, Susarla SM (2010). Impacted wisdom teeth, search date August 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

  2. Academy of General Dentistry (2008). Check menstrual calendar for tooth extraction. Available online: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=c&iid=340&aid=1365.

Credits for Wisdom Tooth Extraction

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised August 19, 2013

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