Saturday, October 5, 2013

Health Guide: Wisdom Tooth Extraction

According to Wikipedia, wisdom teeth usually appear between age 17 to 25. While most adults have only 4 of them during their life-time, it is possible to grow more or fewer, depending on the individual. These pesky teeth that grow unwisely might become impacted or infected, causing several degrees of discomfort and pain. Well, if you are reading this, my best guess is that you are either having a dilemma on whether to have the operation, or searching for post-operation care tips. Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, but the following tips garnered from several websites (credited at the end) have served me well during the period of my wisdom teeth extraction.

Seeing a series of wisdom teeth on a food blog might not be the most glamorous thing, but I just had to show off my art pieces derived from my mouth. Here's a heart, made up of 4 wisdom teeth, to start off.



Why Surgery is Done

A wisdom tooth is extracted to correct an actual problem or to prevent problems that may come up in the future. When wisdom teeth come in, a number of problems can occur:

1. Your jaw may not be large enough for them, and they may become impacted and unable to break through your gums.

2. Your wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. Food and germs can get trapped under the flap and cause your gums to become red, swollen, and painful. These are signs of infection.

3. More serious problems can develop from impacted teeth, such as infection, damage to other teeth and bone, or a cyst.

4. One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.

Types of Surgery

Local anesthesia is recommended when two or lesser teeth is extracted in a single operation. The anesthesia will be delivered directly in the affected gum, numbing the area where the tooth will be removed.

Unlike the former, general anesthesia prevents pain in the whole body and will cause you to sleep during the whole operation. The latter is recommended for individuals who are extracted three or more teeth in a single operation. Your dentist might advise you not to take any food or water after midnight on the night before the surgery.

Costs of Extraction in Singapore

Please refer to the following link regarding the fees of wisdom teeth removal:
http://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/costs_and_financing/Dental_Fee_Info/Impacted_Wisdom_Tooth_Surgery_Per_Tooth.html

*I did my extraction at National Dental Centre (NDC) when I was a national serviceman (hint to all the NSFs out there), so everything, except the bed rental is covered. Obviously, I did not experienced other dental clinics, but I dare say NDC provides good and professional dental healthcare (which I was thoroughly satisfied with their expertise).


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.

1. Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after your surgery.

2. While your mouth is numb, be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek or lip, or your tongue.

3. Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.

4. Try using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours. You can use moist heat-such as a washcloth soaked in warm water and wrung out-for the following 2 or 3 days.

5. Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.

6. Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.

7. Do not use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.

8. After the first day, gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. You can make your own salt water by mixing 1 tsp (5 g) of salt in a medium-sized glass [8 fl oz (240 mL)] of warm water.

9. Do not smoke for at least 24 hours after your surgery. The sucking motion can loosen the clot and delay healing. Also, smoking decreases the blood supply and can bring germs and contaminants to the surgery area.

10. Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.

11. Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.

12. A syringe might be given by your dentist after a few follow-ups to assist with the cleaning.

Risks

After a wisdom tooth is removed, you may experience:

1. Pain and swelling in your gums and tooth socket where the tooth was removed.

2. Bleeding that won't stop for about 24 hours.

3. Difficulty with or pain from opening your jaw.

4. Slow-healing gums.

5. Damage to existing dental work, such as crowns or bridges, or to roots of a nearby tooth.

6. A painful inflammation called dry socket, which happens if the protective blood clot is lost too soon.

7. Numbness in your mouth and lips after the local anesthetic wears off, due to injury or inflammation of nerves in the jaw.

Rare side effects, including:

8. Numbness in the mouth or lips that does not go away.

9. A fractured jaw if the tooth was firmly attached to the jaw bone.

10. An opening into the sinus cavity when a wisdom tooth is removed from the upper jaw.

Notes

If discomfort and pain persists for prolonged periods, inform your dental healthcare professional immediately. After all, no advices fit everybody; your dentist will be the best alternative in providing the best and the most personalised advices to you.

Sources

For more information on wisdom teeth extraction, surgery and operation care, check out these great sites: