Get smart about the signs you need to bite the bullet and get your wisdom teeth removed
Are your gums sore or bleeding in the back? Does that area of your jaw hurt? Is there pressure, a dull ache or a throbbing pain? Do you have a bad taste in your mouth even when you’re not eating, or bad breath? Are you struggling to clean your very back toothy pegs?
It sounds like your wisdom teeth are trying to make their debut. But that aloof wisdom tooth may not be here to play nicely.
And you may be wondering, What’s the best age to get my wisdom teeth removed?
Tooth extractions can be a little scary when you don’t know what to expect. You’ve probably heard stories from workmates or family members about wisdom teeth the size of small countries and roots wrapped around rib bones. Then again, they always did have a bit of a reputation for exaggerating.
What you’re experiencing may be a sign your wisdom tooth needs to come out. Here’s what to look out for, along with a sensible guide of what to expect during a wisdom tooth extraction.
Why do wisdom teeth need pulling?
Scientists believe wisdom teeth eruption is related to when we chewed on mammoth bones. We needed a third set of molars due to our prehistoric diet wearing away our first molars. But over millions of years our jaws and teeth have changed, and these days we’re now less Neanderthal and more TikTokable.
When it comes to molars, our smaller jaws and modern diets can mean two’s company but three’s a crowd. There simply isn’t enough room for the third set of molars to come through, at least for some people.
Potential wisdom tooth problems
- Impaction – the tooth is stuck behind another tooth and can’t emerge.
- Part-eruption – your gum partly covers the tooth.
- Misalignment – the crowding makes your tooth erupt at an odd angle.
- Infection – crowded wisdom teeth are more prone to infections of the gum, and even the jawbone. A fluid-filled sac may also form at the base of the tooth. And the combination of this sac and the infection can lead to issues with the surrounding teeth or bone structure.
- Decay – that odd angle or “peek-a-boo” partially erupted tooth makes dental hygiene difficult. It’s hard to brush and floss effectively, and may result in more decay.
Wisdom teeth removal – what’s the best age to have it done?
Well, how long is a piece of string (attached to your wisdom tooth and the doorknob)? No seriously, don’t do that.
The first thing to know is that not all wisdom teeth need to come out. Many people have plenty of space, and so they and their wisdom teeth become lifelong friends.
But what if your back chompers give you grief, or when x-rayed look like they’ll be part of the naughty chew crew? Well, we prefer to remove them when you’re younger. Most patients for wisdom tooth removal have them appearing between the ages of 18 and 25. At this age, your ability to heal is much better. And because your wisdom teeth may not have finished growing their roots, it can be easier for the dental team to remove them.
That’s not to say we can’t extract your wisdom teeth later. However, the longer they’re around, the more time that naughty back row has to cause wisdom teeth grief. And chances are you’ll also need more time to recover.
Signs your wisdom teeth need to come out
Here are a few indicators your third set of molars might be better under the pillow for the tooth fairy.
- Jaw ache, throbbing or pressure.
- Gum pain, swelling or redness.
- Gum infection.
- Decay to wisdom tooth or adjoining molar.
- Cheek abrasion, or difficulty chewing food.
- Bad breath, or a foul taste in the mouth. (And we’re not talking tempura chicken here.)
Sometimes you need someone with superpowers to identify wisdom tooth problems. We have x-ray vision… okay, we take x-rays and then use our vision to see what’s happening. But all jokes aside, an x-ray may be the first sign your wisdom teeth will be naughty.
How are wisdom teeth removed?
It’s WTE day – wisdom tooth extraction day. And hey, we get that you’re nervous. So, here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how we say bye-bye to a wisdom tooth.
First, rest assured we’ve had a good look at the x-rays and planned the extraction. Assuming we didn’t need to refer you to an oral surgeon due to a complex extraction, we’re now ready to remove that wisdom tooth (or teeth).
Wisdom tooth extraction
Step 1: We numb your gum and tooth with a local anaesthetic. Yes it’s a needle, but we use numbing gel first to make the area comfortable.
Step 2: Chat about the Yeppoon weather or surf conditions while we wait for everything to numb completely.
Step 3: Now we can’t give you a safe word because you’ll have a few tools in your mouth. So we discuss the hand signal you can use to get us to stop immediately.
Step 4: We test whether the anaesthetic has numbed the area. You’ll feel a fair amount of pressure, but no pain.
Step 5: We loosen the tooth in its socket using a lever called an elevator. You’ll feel downward or upward pressure.
Step 6: We grasp the tooth with extraction forceps and move it from side to side.
Step 7: You may hear some odd noises—a pop, a slight snapping or a crunchy sound. These are all normal, but they sound worse because your ears are so close to the action. You may also hear the dental drill to help remove the tooth.
Step 8: We use forceps to grab the tooth and pull it out.
Step 9: We’ll place a gauze wad over the socket, and ask you to bite on it.
Step 10: You’ll taste some blood in your mouth. But the bleeding will reduce quickly as the gauze helps form a blood clot in the socket.
Surgical extractions (for complicated wisdom teeth scenarios) are more involved. Surgical extraction can happen in the dental chair, or may involve a general anaesthetic in a hospital. If you need one we’ll discuss the procedure in depth with you. (Unless you’re a little queasy and would prefer not to know anything about it, in which case that’s fine too.)
Recovering from wisdom tooth extraction
Like all tooth extractions, recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction is generally straightforward.
Here are a few pointers to help with your recovery.
- Most patients recover in a week, although the socket and gum will still feel slightly different for a few more weeks.
- It’s common to have some pain. Your dentist will discuss pain relief options with you before you leave the practice so you can keep on top of the discomfort.
- Expect some swelling, and possibly some bruising. Use an ice pack wrapped in cloth for the first 24 hours.
- There will be a hole in your gum, and you’ll taste some blood. Avoid sticking your tongue or finger in the extraction site.
Here are more post-extraction tips about food, drink and hygiene: A quick guide to surviving your tooth extraction.
How much does it cost to get wisdom teeth removed in Queensland?
Without seeing your x-rays, it’s hard to give you a price. There are many variables and options, including:
- simple versus surgical extraction
- in-chair versus in-hospital
- Farnborough versus Kemp surf breaks. (Sorry. That option’s probably just for me.)
At Keppel Dental, wisdom teeth extractions generally range from $310-$550. There are extra costs for in-hospital treatment, which can include paying for the hospital room and the anaesthetist, and having the extraction completed under general anaesthetic.
While we can’t give you the price of a hospital-based extraction, we are happy to give you a written quote if we can remove your wisdom tooth in our practice. We’ll tell you at your consultation so there are no nasty surprises on WTE day.
Get smart about removing your wisdom teeth
So, having read this, do you think you need to get your wisdom teeth removed? The first step is to see your dentist. If you’re in the Yeppoon or Rockhampton area, you can visit us. Make an appointment.
"*" indicates required fields