Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are usually the last teeth to come through the gums. While some people don’t have any wisdom teeth, most of us have four. Often there is insufficient space at the back of our jaw for a wisdom tooth to come through, and that’s when the tooth may become wedged, or impacted.
If wisdom teeth cause problems such as crowding, infection and/or pain, they need to be removed. Removal of a wisdom tooth is a very common procedure. Depending on its shape and position in relation to the jaw, the tooth can be removed under either local or general anaesthesia, by a dentist or an oral & maxillofacial surgeon.
After wisdom tooth removal, post-operative management is very important.
Swelling after this kind of oral surgery is common but unpredictable. It is most likely following more complicated procedures. The swelling, which can be painful, usually takes four to five days to subside. To reduce swelling, you should apply an ice pack to your cheeks and/ or jaw as early as possible. Refresh the ice pack frequently until your swelling has reduced.
You will also need to control any bleeding and attend to pain relief as needed.
Control of bleeding
It is common for the gum to ooze a little blood for 24 to 48 hours after surgery. To help a blood clot to form and remain in place, we recommend that you apply pressure by biting gently but firmly on a cotton gauze pack. It’s important not to disturb the gum, or bleeding may start again. If your bleeding is excessive and doesn’t stop, please contact your dentist or surgeon.
Wisdom teeth pain varies significantly from one individual to another. Pain relief medication is best started as soon as possible after the surgery, before the anaesthetic wears off. The most effective medications are ibuprofen (Nurofen, Nurofen Plus brands), or paracetamol (Panadol, Panadeine, Panadeine Forte brands).
After your surgery, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene so as to avoid infection. It helps healing and hygiene to use a warm salt water mouth rinse (a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water) three to four times a day 24 hours after wisdom tooth removal. Make sure you resume normal brushing as soon as possible. While your gums are healing (for a few days to about a week), avoid directly brushing the gum where surgery has taken place.
Dr Cynthia Chu