There are a couple of terms that we, as dentists, know will send our patients running for the proverbial hills. Terms like “filling”, “implant” and “root canal” conjure up images in patients’ minds worthy of being in any horror movie.
But perhaps the most frightening and unnerving term that we dentists have to throw around also happens to be one of the most common: wisdom tooth extraction.
Having the words “tooth” and “extraction” in the same sentence might sound particularly macabre but there are many reasons for having one’s wisdom teeth removed. More often than not, your dentist or dental surgeon will opt to remove your wisdom teeth if there isn’t enough room for them to erupt safely. Other times, a damaged or otherwise infected wisdom tooth will warrant this routine dental procedure.
Whatever the reason and despite your trepidation, you can rest assured—hopefully under the influence of a general anesthetic—that the procedure is safe. According to the American Dental Association, dentists successfully extract nearly 10million wisdom teeth every year.
If we’ve learned anything from Alfred Hitchcock and other famous horror movie directors, it’s that the best way to overcome your fears is to face them. So, if the term “wisdom tooth extraction” still sends shivers down your spine, then read through this shortlist of the most common complications that can arise as a result of your upcoming procedure.
Pain and Swelling
If you’re going to have your wisdom teeth extracted, there are some symptoms that you simply won’t be able to avoid. According to the American Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 100% of patients who underwent a wisdom tooth extraction reported feeling some degree of pain and swelling after their procedure.
Even though it’s uncomfortable, the pain and swelling are an indication that your body is hard at work on repairing itself. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through it. You can always use an ice pack—or a bag of frozen peas—to get through the worst of the pain.
If the pain is severe, however, your dentist can recommend an over-the-counter pain killer such as ibuprofen or prescribe another one. And, of course, there’s no pain killer quite like ice cream so… go to town!
If the pain and swelling persist or worsen over time, however, you’ll want to contact your dentist as it may be an indication of an infection.
We know what you’re thinking; dry socket sounds like a billiards term. We promise it isn’t. Alveolar osteitis is the fancy medical term for dry socket that you’ll find in dentistry textbooks.
After having a wisdom tooth extracted, your body will heal the extraction site just as it would heal any other wound. i.e., with blood clots. Those blood clots will cover the sensitive nerves that have recently been exposed and protect your gums. Dry socket can occur when those blood clots either do not form properly or if they become dislodged. Without the blood clots, food debris and bacteria can infect your gums resulting in dry socket.
Even though dry socket is among the most common complications resulting from tooth extraction, it is still quite rare, affecting approximately 3% of patients. Patients who smoked cigarettes or consumed other tobacco products were significantly more likely to develop dry socket.
Symptoms of dry socket can include:
- Throbbing pain at the site of the extraction
- Severe pain at the site of the extraction that lasts more than 24 hours
- Visible bone within the socket
- A noticeably “empty” socket at the site of the extraction
- Bad breath or a foul odour emitting from your mouth
If you believe that you have dry socket, contact your dentist immediately. Your dentist will be able to provide you with early and effective treatment.
It’s not very surprising that having a tooth removed from your mouth would result in just a little bit of blood. In fact, it’s very normal for patients to experience bleeding in their mouth 8 to 12 hours after undergoing a wisdom tooth extraction as the blood clots take time to form.
If the bleeding persists for longer than that, however, you may need to seek your dentist’s assistance. Sometimes, our blood needs a little help clotting so that the healing process can begin. Your dentist may use haemostatic dressing or some other form of medicated dressing to stop the bleeding.
They’ll likely also recommend rinsing your mouth with a saltwater solution to help the blood clot and keep the extraction site clean of any harmful bacteria. Saltwater rinses can also help you prevent dry socket as they will wash away infection-causing bacteria.
Other Possible Complications and Treatments
There are a few other exceedingly rare complications that can arise during or after a wisdom tooth extraction. For example, studies estimate the number of deaths associated with general anesthesia to be approximately 1 in 1 million. That’s 0.0001%. Nevertheless, if that is too great a risk for you—first of all, you should never play in Vegas—your dentist can always use a local anesthetic.
In fact, increasingly, for routine tooth extractions, dentists and oral surgeons are opting to use local anesthetics over general anesthesia.
Talk to Your Dentist
Normally, when people say things like, “What’s the worst that could happen?” they’re practically inviting disaster. But, when it comes to wisdom teeth extractions, the worst that could happen is nothing that your dentist can’t handle.
At Grundy Family Dental, we’re happy to address any concerns you might have about getting your wisdom teeth removed. Contact us today for additional information on how we provide safe wisdom teeth extractions to improve your smile.