What Occurs During Wisdom Tooth Removal?

While wisdom tooth removal is a common surgery, many patients do not know what to expect. From consultation to postoperative healing, learn what occurs during wisdom tooth removal surgery and be ready for an initial consultation with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS).

Oral Surgery Consultation

Whether a patient has felt discomfort or pain and is seeking an OMS or a patient has been referred by a dentist, wisdom tooth removal usually starts with an oral surgery consultation. This is when the OMS will evaluate a patient’s wisdom teeth firsthand, examine X-rays of the impacted teeth locations and discuss options for removal. It is important to bring:

  • A complete list of any medications (with dosage and frequency)
  • List of any allergies and preexisting conditions
  • Dental and medical insurance information

This also is the time to talk about different anesthesia options and ask questions about recovery (such as how soon before a patient can return to work or school).

Preparation for Wisdom Tooth Removal 

Every patient’s experience is different, but preparing for wisdom tooth removal typically involves:

  • Arranging for time off from work or school.
  • Securing transportation home after surgery.
  • Filling prescriptions ahead of time (if applicable).
  • Shopping for soft foods. 

Remember to always closely follow an OMS’s preoperative instructions. These are simply an example of possible guidelines.

During Wisdom Teeth Removal

The procedure begins with anesthesia – local anesthesia, sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia – depending on a patient’s comfort level and the difficulty of wisdom tooth extraction. Patients are often given local anesthesia alongside sedation and general anesthesia to help with postoperative comfort.

During wisdom tooth extraction, depending upon the position and size of the tooth, the OMS may:

  • Makes an incision in the gum tissue, exposing tooth and bone (if impacted).
  • Removes any bone blocking access to the root of the tooth.
  • Removes the tooth whole or in pieces.
  • Removes debris from the tooth or bone, cleaning the site.
  • Stitches the wound closed when necessary.
  • Places gauze over the wound to help a clot form and control bleeding.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction Healing

After the procedure, patients can expect bleeding, swelling or bruising as well as some pain after the anesthesia has worn off. It’s important to follow the OMS’s postoperative instructions and call the OMS office if anything is amiss. 

Barring emergencies, wisdom teeth extraction healing is centered around what to eat (or what not to eat) and pain management. An OMS will typically provide some recommendations for your diet to encourage proper healing, usually soft or non-chew foods. Acidic foods, carbonated drinks, hard foods (such as nuts) or foods that are difficult to chew (such as taffy) should be avoided. Rinsing with warm saltwater can help keep the wound locations clean and unobstructed. 

Follow the surgeon’s instructions regarding pain management. Most patients are able to resume normal activity the day after surgery, though it is generally advisable to avoid strenuous activity that might dislodge a blood clot from the tooth socket.

Find an OMS

Patients who have impacted wisdom teeth or may otherwise need to have their wisdom teeth removed can find an OMS or ask for a referral from their general practitioner or dental healthcare provider.

The information provided here is not intended as a substitute for professional medical and dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is provided to help you communicate effectively when you seek the advice of your oral and maxillofacial surgeon.