The Potential Risks of Wisdom Teeth Removal: A Closer Look

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Though many people undergo wisdom teeth removal or extraction, dentists don’t recommend it for those who don’t have any oral issues caused by their wisdom teeth. And while this is a common dental procedure, that doesn’t mean it’s without risks. If you are planning to have your wisdom teeth removed, it’s important to be aware of the potential complications to help you make an informed decision based on important facts.

What Is Wisdom Teeth Removal?

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Simply put, wisdom teeth removal is a dental procedure to remove one or more of your wisdom teeth. Though it is a relatively popular treatment, it’s not necessary to have it if they are not causing any problems, like pain, abscesses, infection, gum disease, and other dental issues.

Wisdom teeth (also called “third molars”) are the last set of molars that erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. For some, these come in without any problems. In fact, others don’t even develop wisdom teeth at all. Those with wisdom teeth may only have one, two, or three, while others may have all four.

Wisdom teeth removal is necessary if they are impacted or growing at an angle. This means they don’t have enough room to come in or grow properly. This can cause them to become trapped beneath the gum line. Sometimes, they may only partially erupt through the gums, which can also lead to complications. Another reason for having wisdom teeth removed is if they are decayed or damaged. This can happen if they are not cleaned properly and bacteria builds up around them.

What Are the Risks Involved with Wisdom Teeth Removal?

As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with wisdom teeth removal. These risks include:

  1. Post-Operative Infection
    With any surgery, post-operative infection is always a risk. This is because when the skin is cut, there is a chance for bacteria to enter the wound and cause an infection. To help prevent this, your dentist will thoroughly clean the area after surgery and suture the gums closed afterwards.

    Symptoms of infection include:

    • Redness
    • Swelling
    • Pain
    • Pus or drainage from the wound
    • Fever

  2. Dry Socket
    This condition can occur when the blood clot fails to form, gets dislodged, or dissolves after surgery. This can cause pain and delay healing. In order to minimize the risk of dry sockets, it’s essential to follow your dentist’s instructions for post-operative care.

    Symptoms are:

    • Severe pain a few days after surgery
    • Unpleasant smell coming from the wound,causing bad breath
    • Radiating pain from the socket to your ear, eye, temple or neck
    • Unpleasant taste in your mouth
    • Difficulty opening your mouth wide
    • The visible bone at the extraction site
    • No visible blood clot or blood clot that has partially or completely dissolved

  3. Nerve Damage Leading to Dental Paresthesia
    During the surgical procedure, the nerves can sometimes be damaged because of their proximity to the wisdom teeth. This can result in numbness of the tongue, lips, or chin and can last for a few days, weeks, months, or even permanently in rare cases. This numbness is called dental paresthesia, which may need treatment if it doesn’t resolve on its own.

    Symptoms include:
    • Numbness or tingling in your lower lip and chin
    • Pain in your lower lip and chin
    • Bleeding

  4. Damage to Other Teeth
    In rare cases, wisdom teeth removal can damage the nearby teeth. This is more likely to occur if the wisdom teeth are impacted or growing at an angle.

    Symptoms can be:

    • Pain
    • Sensitivity
    • Cracked or chipped teeth

  5. Jaw Fracture
    In very rare cases, a wisdom tooth removal can result in a fracture to the lower jaw. This usually happens when the jawbone is too weak or brittle. However, this can be avoided by having a qualified and experienced dentist perform the procedure.

    Symptoms are the following:

    • Jaw pain
    • Difficulty opening your mouth
    • Tenderness or swelling near the extraction site

  6. Sinus Exposure
    In most cases, your upper wisdom teeth roots extend up to the maxillary sinus cavity. When an upper wisdom tooth is extracted, a hole can sometimes open where the roots go into the sinus. When food and bacteria from your mouth get into your sinus, this can lead to infection. If you develop a hole in the sinus cavity, your dentist may require another procedure to close the hole.

    Symptoms of sinus exposure are:

    • Facial pain
    • Nasal discharge
    • Nasal congestion
    • Difficulty breathing through your nose

What to Expect After Wisdom Teeth Removal

After your surgery, you can expect the following:

  • Pain:
    You will likely experience some pain and discomfort after your surgery, which should go away within a few days. To help relieve any discomfort, your dentist or oral surgeon will prescribe pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Bleeding:
    Bleeding may stop after 4 hours following your surgery. However, episodes of occasional bleeding within the first 24 to 48 hours may occur. But if you experience excessive bleeding, inform your dentist right away.

  • Bruising and swelling:
    You may also have some bruising, which should resolve within 4 to 5 days. Similarly, swelling around your jaw is usually at its worst 48 to 72 hours after the surgery. To help lessen the swelling, you may apply an ice pack to your face over the surgical areas for at least 20 minutes on and off for the first 24 hours.

  • Stitches:
    If you had stitches placed, they would dissolve on their own within a week or so. Sometimes your dentist may also use non-dissolvable stitches that must be removed a week after your surgery.

  • Post-op instruction:
    Your dentist will provide you with specific post-operative instructions that you need to follow to ensure proper healing. These include eating soft food, rinsing your mouth with warm salt water, avoiding using straws, smoking, drinking alcohol, extremely hot or cold food and drinks, practising good oral hygiene, etc.

How Many Days Will You Need to Recover After Surgery?

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Like any other surgery, the healing process of wisdom teeth removal surgery varies from person to person. For most people, the swelling and pain will peak 48-72 hours after surgery and then start to improve. The majority of people feel well enough to return to school or work or return to normal activities one to three days after their dental treatment. However, you should restrain yourself from strenuous physical activities at this point.

You can expect that the surgical site will take up to 2 weeks to heal completely, or sometimes longer for some people.

Who Can Remove Your Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth extraction is a dental procedure performed by a dentist, oral surgeon, or maxillofacial surgeon. It’s essential to have your wisdom teeth removed by a dental professional who has been highly trained and experienced in this type of treatment. One of the crucial factors in the success of your procedure is the skill of your dentist.

Alternatives to Removing a Wisdom Tooth

In some circumstances, when wisdom teeth removal is not recommended, other alternatives can be performed, such as:

  • Coronectomy
    This is a procedure in which only the crown (visible part) of the wisdom tooth is removed. The roots are left intact and buried under the gum tissue. Your dentist usually recommends this if they believe there is an increased risk of injury to the inferior dental nerve. Also, studies show that coronectomy is safer for 40-year-olds and older than extractions.

  • Operculectomy
    In this procedure, your dentist removes only the flap of gum tissue (operculum) that covers the wisdom tooth. This is recommended if you have pericoronitis—a condition wherein the wisdom tooth erupts partially through the gum. When this happens, the gum tissue traps food particles and bacteria, making them susceptible to infection.

What Happens if You Don't Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

If an impacted or infected wisdom tooth is not removed, you can experience the following:

  • Cavities:
    When an impacted wisdom tooth is not removed, it can lead to tooth decay in the wisdom tooth and spread to the nearby second molar because it is difficult to clean.

  • Gum disease (Pericoronitis):
    As mentioned, when impacted wisdom teeth do not erupt fully, it can cause bacteria to become trapped in the gum tissue around the tooth. This can lead to an infection, which is called pericoronitis.

  • Abscesses:
    When bacteria enter the gum tissue or tooth, it can cause an abscess (a pus-filled pocket) to form. This is an intensely painful condition that can lead to serious complications such as the spread of the infection.

  • Tooth crowding:
    When wisdom teeth don’t have enough space to erupt from the gum, they can push on other teeth and lead them to become crooked or crowded.

  • Alignment issues: Because wisdom teeth can push on nearby ones, they can cause problems with your bite or your upper and lower teeth’s way of fitting together when closing your mouth.

Is Wisdom Tooth Removal Worth the Risks?

This oral surgery has low risks if performed by a qualified dentist or oral surgeon who can ensure that the procedure is performed with the proper technique and in a clean environment. So, it is most likely beneficial compared to the risks of not undergoing or delaying treatment.

Additionally, leaving impacted wisdom teeth in place can cause more complications and threats to your dental health. When these happen, it can lead to costly repairs, which could have been prevented if they were extracted.

As a Summary

Wisdom teeth extraction is a common dental surgical procedure with some risks, like any other surgery. However, these risks may be lower if it’s performed by a qualified dentist or oral surgeon who is skilled and experienced in this field. For many, having the surgery is worth the risks to avoid bigger problems that an impacted or infected wisdom tooth can cause. On the other hand, your dentist can recommend other alternatives, depending on your situation.

If you believe you need your wisdom teeth removed, call us now at 08 9532 0247 to book a consultation with our dentist. The gentle and friendly dentists at our clinic have many years of experience performing wisdom teeth extraction, and they will work to make the experience as comfortable as possible for you. During your appointment, they will sit down with you to discuss the procedure, including its potential risks and answer questions you may have.

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