Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars that develop in a set of teeth, and while useful, often need to be removed due to common problems that arise with them.
Wisdom teeth extraction is a very common dental procedure across Australia and generally is performed in one of the following ways:
- Performed by a general dentist OR an oral surgery specialist as an out-patient service (this is referred to as "in the chair") or;
- By a general dentist OR an oral surgeon specialist in a hospital (public or private) as a surgical procedure usually involving sedation by a general anesthetic
How you have your wisdom teeth removed depends on the complexity of your situation; the less complicated your situation, the more likely you'll be able to have them removed "in the chair", and the cheaper it will be.
This article covers information regarding wisdom tooth extraction, costs and recovery tips. If you're looking for dental implants costs and information, visit this page.
Wisdom Teeth Removal: The Quick Facts About Tooth Extraction
- Having your wisdom teeth removed is classified as tooth extraction, and is therefore a form of major dental surgery
- General or local anesthesia may be used, depending on the individual case.
- The procedure can take 30 minutes to 3 hours, but dentists recommend at least 3 days off work after the procedure.
- Pain and discomfort, especially after the anesthesia has worn off, is a normal part of the process. Painkillers will help manage this.
- Recovery time after teeth extraction can take from a few days to a few weeks.
- Private health insurance will cover the costs of wisdom teeth removal in Australia.
So WHY Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth are removed in majority of people because they tend to cause expensive and long-lasting dental problems if left alone.
Among the most common problems are: Infection Misalignment & becoming impacted.
An impacted wisdom tooth is the most common reason for infection; as it only partially emerges from the gum which lets bacteria into your gums; this is when nasty stuff begins to happen (i.e. infections)
This presents a situation where the chance of infection is extremely high - so the tooth (or teeth if you're really unlucky) must be removed ASAP.
These impacted teeth are also likely to suffer from chronic tooth decay, as it is very difficult (painful) to properly brush and maintain them.
The number one question of dental patients is: why do I need my wisdom teeth removed?
Sometimes people wait until they are told they absolutely need to after an infection or another problem arises. Some people even believe that having your wisdom teeth removed is a scam!
Most often, the dentist will recommend removal before they emerge from the gums, usually after reviewing the X-Rays for the first time. This is important to avoid a more painful and complicated procedure.
Its very common for dentists to recommend having wisdom teeth removed while patients are younger, as it is an easier process since the roots of the tooth have not had the time to set properly, and removal can be achieved very easily.
Wisdom Teeth Symptoms
If you suspect your pain to be associated with your wisdom tooth, make an appointment with a dentist right away.
Ignoring the symptoms of wisdom teeth could cause additional problems down the track, like a more complicated surgery (with higher costs) or the formation of cysts which could lead to tumors and plenty of painful sessions at the dentis.
Here are some signs to look for when experiencing wisdom teeth pain:
- Tenderness and jaw pain
- Swelling of the gums around the tooth
- Bad Breath
- Bad taste in mouth when eating foods.
- Look for cysts, which are pockets of liquid, around the tooth.
Wisdom Teeth Pain
Wisdom teeth hurt when they are initially breaking through the gums, similar to the teething pain an infant feels when they are teething.
It's highly recommended that the tooth is removed before the pain becomes too intense, or before infection begins to set in.
The main cause of pain associated with wisdom teeth results when they become impacted. When this happens, you need to be careful as Impaction can lead to serious infections if left untreated.
Infections in the mouth can spread throughout the body and be harmful to your general health.
Infected Wisdom Teeth
When a tooth becomes impacted, the risk of an infection is extremely high. This is because bacteria can easily get into the gums around the partially erupted tooth. Its common in this situation for food particles to get stuck underneath the gums and also cause an infection.
If left untreated, you there is a chance of Pericoronitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tooth. This infection can spread not just to your jaw, but to your cheeks and neck.
Common symptoms of wisdom tooth infection include:
- Severe pain
- Swelling of the gums around the teeth
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck
- Difficulty moving your jaw to open and close your mouth
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek treatment immediately.
Quite likely, your dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon to get your tooth or teeth removed as soon as possible.
The Removal Process
The process to extract these teeth is a more invasive compared to having a regular tooth removed, however less complicated than procedures such as root canal therapy.
Most often, it requires a form of surgery for removal - however sometimes only minor surgery is required and this can be carried out by your dentist in his/her clinic.
The following is a common process when having your wisdom teeth removed:
- Step one is to put a local anesthetic around the tooth, or teeth, that are being removed. First this would be a substance placed on the gums, then followed by the injection of the anesthetic.
- Next they will apply a sedative or general anesthesia. Most of the time, you will be awake during this procedure though there are circumstances where people are put completely under. This is between you and your oral surgeon. If you get a sedative, this will either come in pill form as Valium or an IV drip in your arm. If you get “put under”, or general anesthesia, you will get a mask put over your face to breath in a gas to put you to sleep. While under, your breathing and other vitals are closely monitored.
- During this procedure, the surgeon will cut open your gums and remove any teeth and other debris. They will remove any bone that is blocking the teeth that they are trying to remove. They might also decide to cut the tooth up for easier removal – It all depends on you individual case
- Sometimes stitches are required, in which case the surgeon will seal up the incision. Otherwise, you will just get gauze to cover the wounds to promote clotting and control the bleeding.
- Depending on the type of sedative used, you may or may not be able to drive yourself home after spending time in recovery. You will be aware of this before your procedure.
After The Procedure
Remember to follow your surgeon’s directions to ensure that you maintain a reasonable recovery time:
- After resting, you should be able to return to normal activity the next day. However, you should be warned to avoid anything to strenuous so you do not harm the stitches or the clotting that should be occurring. This can lengthen your recovery time.
- While your mouth is numb, be care to not bite too hard to avoid injuring your tongue, cheeks or lip.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water after the surgery, but avoid using a straw for at least a week because this can dislodge any clotting. Avoid alcoholic, sugary or carbonated beverages until after 24 hours after the surgery. This includes any hot beverages.
- You will want to stick to only soft food for the first 24 hours, like lukewarm soup or pudding. You can gradually move up to harder foods, but take it slow. Avoid anything too hard, chewy, hot or spicy because these can be very painful and irritate the wound. They can also get stuck in the socket.
- Avoid smoking for the first 24 hours, but it’s advised to try and go a week without it. This also goes for if you chew tobacco. Using tobacco can reduce the recovery time and increase risk of complications.
- After the first day, expect some blood and oozing coming from the wound. Do not excessively spit, otherwise this can dislodge the clot. Replace gauze over the wound as you were instructed to by the surgeon.
- Do not brush your teeth, use mouth wash or anything else for the first 24 hours. After that, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water. After 24 hours, you can start brushing your teeth again but be careful of your stitches if you have any.
- If you do have stitches, you will need to be sure that you make an appointment to get them removed if they are not dissolvable.
- Keep your head propped up to prevent prolonged bleeding.
- Do not play with the wound with your tongue.
The Most Common Mistake Patients Make After Wisdom Teeh Removal Surgery: Consuming food or drink through a straw.
ANY type of sucking motion (e.g. straw, cigarette, etc) will only dislodge the blood clot and result in a VERY painful condition called 'Dry Socket' (see below)
Wisdom Teeth Recovery Time
While most of the unpleasant symptoms go away within the first few days until a week, full recovery can often take up to a few weeks after the surgery.
Most of the pain should subside well before then so you can get back to your normal routine.
If you feel as though it is taking longer than expected or you experience symptoms like the socket is dry or numbness that lasts longer than you feel like it should. These are both signs of complications of wisdom tooth removal.
When the socket is dry, that means that the proper healing did not take place for whatever reason (often because a clot was dislodged), and the surgeon will have to place a medication directly in the socket. This is a very common complication as a result of the surgery.
Dry socket. Image credit: Beatgoddess, wikimedia commons
If you experience numbness that does not seem to go away, you could be suffering from a complication called “Paresthesia” which is a rare complication. This is as a result of the tooth that was extracted being too close to the nerves. When this happens, it means that a nerve group might have been damaged during the surgery.
This can last either a temporary amount of time or be a permanent issue - however it's very, very rare.
Pain Relief and Care Tips After Procedure
Taking proper care of your wound after the surgery is important to your recovery. Here are some wisdom tooth pain relief tips for after the procedure:
- Use ice or an ice pack as instructed by your surgeon. This can help reduce the swelling and bruising after the surgery, and this can also be very helpful to use to combat the pain.
- Use a salt water rinse. You should continue this for a week, every 2 hours and after every meal. This will help keep the socket clean and free of food and debris that can cause irritation. To make this salt water mix, use about ½ a teaspoon of salt and mix it in with about 8 ounces of warm water.
- Your surgeon will often prescribe a pain medicine to help with pain management. You can also use an over-the-counter medicine like Ibuprofen or paracetamol to help out. This is usually enough to help keep the pain minimal. If not, you can use ice against your cheek to help with the pain as well.
The best form of wisdom teeth pain relief is Ibuprofen.
If none of these tips help you with your pain management, contact your dentist or surgeon immediately. This might be a sign of a complication from the surgery or a condition called dry socket (see below)
Dry Socket Treatment and Information
If post-removal pain persists for an unusually long period of time (3 days +) and becomes intense, you may have what is known as ‘dry socket’, a condition which affects 2-5% of people after having a tooth removed.
After a tooth is pulled, a hole or a ‘socket’ results in the place where the tooth was once lodged. During the healing process, a blood clot forms in this socket which aids in healing and protects the nerve and bone below. This is typical of a normal and healthy healing process.
Dry socket is the result of this blood clot becoming dissolved or dislodged in the days following the tooth extraction. When this happens, the bone and nerve of the jaw is exposed to air, food, fluid and everything else that enters the mouth.
Infection and pain becomes intense and can last for up to 7 days.
Symptoms Of Dry Socket
Intense pain is the biggest symptom of dry socket, and this mist not be confused with general pain that all patients will feel for a few days post surgery. Here are the other more common symptoms of dry socket:
- Severe and extended pain within a few days after a tooth extraction – normal pain should disappear within 2-5 days
- An empty-looking (dry) socket – If you see this within your mouth the blood clot may have been dislodged/dissolved
- Intense pain that radiates around your face on the same side as the extraction
- Bad breath/odour from your mouth, along with an unpleasant taste
- A slight fever
DRY SOCKET PREVENTION
The best way to avoid dry socket is by being aware of basic prevention strategies, and adhering to them.
Its a great idea to be aware of how to avoid this condition pre-surgery, as you may be drowsy and confused immediately after. To avoid this nasty condition, follows these post surgery steps:
- Avoid smoking until fully healed
- Do not drink fluid from straws until fully healed (this is a great way to dislodge the blood clot)
- Avoid extremely hot or cold fluids post surgery (as they can dissolve the blood clot)
- Maintain exceptional oral hygiene post surgery (being careful when brushing near the wound)
What can be done if I DO get dry socket?
Get in touch with your dentists immediately, as they will clean out the socket, removing any debris in the process, and fill the hole with a special gauze. This process may have to be done daily until normal healing resumes (usually 2-5 days later)
Wisdom Teeth Removal Costs
In Australia, the cost of dental care is extremely high. So high, in fact, that most Australians cannot afford basic dental care, to the point of avoiding the dentist altogether.
Without private health insurance, you can expect to be out of pocket for majority of the costs below, as medicare coverage is limited on dental work.
Costs will vary, depending on the complexity of each case; some cases will be straightforward and can be performed in general dentist clinic, while other cases will be more complex and will require an oral surgeon.
- For basic cases, the average cost of extraction is between $130-200 per tooth. This is for a basic extraction and can be performed by a general dentist at their clinic.
- A complex extraction is $295-$400 per tooth. This is if you need a local anaesthetic in the chair. These situations will require a specialised wisdom tooth dentist.
- If you require sedatives or general anesthesia, then you would need to go to an oral surgeon. This can cost between $1500 to $3000.
The following table summaries the typical wisdom tooth extraction costs in Australia:
$40 - $60
$40 - $80
Simple Wisdom Tooth Removal Cost
$225 - $250 (per tooth)
Surgical Wisdom Tooth Removal Cost
$250 - $400 (per tooth)
Anesthesia (for surgical removals)
$100 - $400 (AFTER an 85% Medicare rebate)
Factors That Influence Costs
- The type of extraction needed
Impacted teeth generally cost more to remove because they require surgery to accomplish. Simple extractions that can be performed at a regular dentist cost less.
- Your individual dentist
This can be a big factor in regards to the cost. Since there are no regulations on pricing for dental work, the dentist is really free to charge whatever he/she wants. Its a great idea to shop around for this reason alone.
- Do you need an oral surgeon?
If you need an oral surgeon, a wisdom tooth extraction will be more expensive. This is because they require a larger staff, including nurses and anesthesiologist.
The need for oral surgery will depend on the individual case, after an initial x-ray is taken and viewed by your dentist. If the teeth/tooth to be removed is close to vital veins or a nerve, an oral surgeon will need to assess the case, rather than a dentist.
- Do you have dental health insurance?
Your insurance is the biggest factor in the out-of-pocket costs that you will be expected to pay. If your dentist is a provider under your insurance, they set the fees that the dentist is able to charge you.
This can make the cost of removal less expensive. This is not always the case with all insurances. Some allow the dentists to charge whatever they want for more complex procedures while controlling the costs of more simple needs.
- Where you are located
Hint: Call around and ask a few dentist for quotes when trying to determine wisdom teeth removal costs
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Costs in Thailand
The cost of dental care in Thailand is considerably less than in Australia, and the level of service (including safety) very high, making this an increasingly popular choice for many.
Here are some figures of what you can expect to pay for wisdom teeth surgery/removal in Thailand:
$5 - $30
Simple Wisdom Tooth Extraction
$50 - $125 (Per Tooth)
Surgical Wisdom Tooth Extraction
$100 - $250 (Per Tooth)
As great as this might sound, make sure that you do your research before traveling abroad for dental work. Here are some tips when doing your research:
- Word of mouth is critical. The best way to find out about great dental clinics abroad is by asking friends or family directly - who have actually had the work done where you're considering.
- A good place to start looking for recommendation is in reputable online forums. Try this forum as a starting point
- Do not rely on the adverting material of clinics you are researching directly. Advertising laws are different abroad and some information may be misleading - after all, they all want you to get the work done at their clinic, so be aware of the ulterior motives when viewing marketing material.
Once you have narrowed your search, don't forget to ask for proof of competence and evaluations from previous patients before booking your appointment. Remember you're paying the bill, so you have the right to know everything.