Wisdom tooth removal 

Introduction 

Wisdom teeth

A consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon explains why people have problems with their wisdom teeth, the treatments available and the important things to ask before treatment.

Media last reviewed: 10/11/2011

Next review due: 09/09/2013

Dental costs

Dentists charge depending on the treatment required, unless you're under 18 years old or otherwise exempt from NHS charges.

If hospital treatment is required, it will be provided through the NHS free of charge.

Find out more about dental costs and find your local dental surgery.

The removal of wisdom teeth, or third molars, is one of the most common procedures carried out in the UK.

The wisdom teeth grow at the back of your gums and are the last teeth to come through. Most people have four wisdom teeth, one in each corner.

Wisdom teeth usually grow through the gums during the late teens or early twenties. By this time, the other 28 adult teeth are usually in place so there isn't always enough room in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to grow properly.

Because of the lack of space, the wisdom teeth can sometimes emerge at an angle or get stuck and only emerge partially. Wisdom teeth that grow through in this way are known as impacted.

Why are wisdom teeth removed?

Wisdom teeth that have become impacted or haven't fully broken through the surface of the gum can cause dental problems.

Food and bacteria can get trapped around the edge of the wisdom teeth, causing a build-up of plaque, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease or other problems.

Your wisdom teeth don't usually need to be removed if they are impacted but they are not causing any problems. This is because there is no proven benefit of doing this and it carries the risk of complications.

Read more about why a wisdom tooth might need to be removed.

When to see a dentist

You should make an appointment to see your dentist if you're experiencing severe pain or discomfort from your wisdom teeth. Your dentist will check your teeth and advise you about whether they need to be removed.

As with any teeth problems, it's important to see your dentist as soon as possible rather than waiting for your regular dental check-up.

How wisdom teeth are removed

Your dentist may remove your wisdom teeth or they may refer you to a specialist surgeon for treatment in hospital.

Before the procedure, you will usually be given a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area around the tooth. You'll feel some pressure just before the tooth is removed, as your dentist or oral surgeon needs to widen the tooth socket by rocking the tooth back and forth.

In some cases a cut (incision) may be needed in your gum and the tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces before it is removed.

The time it takes to remove the tooth will vary. Some procedures only take a few minutes, whereas others can take 20 minutes or longer. 

After your wisdom teeth have been removed, you may experience swelling and discomfort, both on the inside and outside of your mouth. This is usually worse for the first three days, but it can last for up to two weeks.

Read more about how a wisdom tooth is removed and recovering from wisdom tooth removal.

Possible complications

As with all surgery, there are risks associated with removing a wisdom tooth. These include problems such as infection or delayed healing, both of which are more likely to occur if you smoke during your recovery.

Another possible complication is "dry socket", which is a dull, aching sensation in your gum or jaw, and sometimes a bad smell or taste coming from the empty tooth socket. Dry socket is more likely to occur if you don't follow the after-care instructions given by your dentist.

There is also a small risk of nerve damage, which can cause problems such as pain or a tingling sensation and numbness in the tongue, lower lip, chin, teeth and gums. This is usually temporary, but it can be permanent in some cases.

Read more about the possible complications of wisdom tooth removal.

Page last reviewed: 04/06/2013

Next review due: 04/06/2015

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Comments

The 17 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Jadeyxxx said on 21 March 2014

I would like to give an account of everything that happened to me step by step. I first had pain about a year ago in bottom left lower wisdom, the right one had also come through but caused no problems, the left had been infected 6 times in a year. I visited my dentist on 21st December, determined to get some antibiotics to reduce the infection, so after spending Xmas on antibiotics I was referred to Canterbury hospital to see a wisdom tooth specialist (maxi fillo or something lol) I received my appointment in the post for 21st feb. Went to the appointment had X-rays And he said he wanted to take both bottom ones out :0 I had no top ones so they were safe! He offered me local or general anaesthetic, I chose general as I'm a whimp with dentists! So after working myself up about the fact I had never had a general the day finally came 20th march, I had cried and stressed and bugged everyone around me about how scared I was. I was admitted into day surgery at 8:00am, little did I know I would be waiting until half 11 before I went in. I was in a bed but allowed to walk to the surgery room: I was so scared but everyone was lovely, they had trouble finding my veins as I was cold but after the 4th attempt got a IV in, the nurse injected me with something she called 'fun' I remember saying everything was blurry and another nurse talking to me about her dog, then that's it they're calling my name and I was awake! Wheeled straight round to my family, had a drink, a yoghurt and a wee and was allowed home. The procedure took 30 mins for them to remove both teeth, I have stitches in both, today is day 2 and I can honestly say the anxiety leading up to it was the worst part so far! I am in pain but nothing ibuprofen and paracetamol won't sort out. Eating is difficult but mash and soup are going down a treat, the stitches feel weird! One piece of advice I can give is try not to worry, it was so easy and quick, the bit leading up to it was way worse xxx

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hepden said on 12 March 2014

I recently got my bottom right wisdom tooth removed, after it got infected and caused issues with my ears which lead to me feeling sick, light headed and off balance.

Prior to the minor surgery I was very nervous, especially on the morning of the surgery, in reality the procedure was quick and painless and I’m kicking myself why I did not get it done sooner rather than later.

My tooth was in a really difficult position; surgery consisted of a few injections to numb the area, opening up the gum to expose the tooth, drilling some bone around the back of the tooth to allow it to be extracted.

I was in pain for about a week after, managed the pain with pain killers and kept infection away with antibiotics supplied by surgeon.

The second week the pain eased and I was left with a light dull pain. The third week the pain went away and now the gum area is a little tender.

Had my post check up today and was told the socket is healing well and it can take some months for the jaw bone and gum to completely head over.

I had the procedure done privately, simply due to the 6 months NHS waiting list in my local area and the effect it had on my general health which meant I could not wait.

My lesson learnt is to seek detail care soon as possible, don't wait for the problem to get worst and cause all sorts of issues with your health.

There is really nothing to worry about with the great modern dentistry and professional surgeons we have in the UK.

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Kelseyismz said on 13 February 2014

After two days of severe pain, that had me in tears with no sleep and not being able to eat, I made an appointment yesterday morning and had my lower left wisdom tooth removed.

My dentist had previously told me it had to come out as it was broken, but being terrified of the dentist I stupidly left it until I was in crippling pain!

After two injections at the side of the mouth, I waited for 10 minutes before being called in. He said it could take awhile because of how it was placed and damaged, but it took him a matter of 5 minutes to have the tooth gone!

I went home after to have a nap since it was numb and I couldn't feel any pain whatsoever although I woke an hour later to pain worse than my toothache! It gradually went away to a minimal pain and now it's just slightly sore.

I've been eating soup & ice cream as I don't want to eat too much and it may cause more pain, and since it's now my day after, I am going to give my mouth a rinse and hopefully everything goes okay and I have a speedy recovery!

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TC93 said on 31 January 2014

Got my bottom wisdom tooth removed 10 days ago. Was very nervous as I read loads of horror stories online. I had no bother at all, I was conscious through the removal off it but didn't feel a thing just pressure. I had to get one stitch as my tooth wasn't up through the gum yet so he had to cut the gum. I took pain killers to help the pain but I'm glad to say after 10 days I have no pain at all and it was well with getting it out. So don't panic :) they heal really quick, you'll feel nothing while getting it done only pressure and the recovery period is really quick. I ate relatively normal after it as I enjoy my food! I simply cut it up before I ate it and chewed on the other side. I had my top 2 wisdom teeth removed 2 years ago and they were no bother at all!! So no need to worry :)

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Abz91 said on 06 January 2014

Do I have to have op take it out or not? As I have 2 wisdom on bottom back teeth cover by gum

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Nannab said on 18 December 2013

I had my right top wisdom tooth removed several years ago in hospital as I didn't trust the dentist. I didn't feel the injection, the removal or had any pain afterwards and it took about six minutes.

I had top left wisdom tooth removed on Monday at the dentist as I changed them a couple of years ago and have never needed treatment. I now wish I had asked to go to hospital again as it took over half an hour of pulling and when it came out, it came with a lump of bone. I got scared when he dentist asked the nurse for scissors. He made a large cut and I have three or four stitches. It's been very painful since and I now have to go,and get some antibiotics because of infection. My face is very swollen and my husband says I look like a hamster with one filled cheek. Not looking forward to Christmas now in case I am still in pain. Cannot get an appointment at either the GP or dentist till Friday.

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melcj91 said on 14 September 2013

Poor service NHS are.

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melcj91 said on 14 September 2013

I been waiting since July for my wisdom tooth to be taken out, dentist say only the hospital can remove and I have to wait til October! That's ridicules!! The pain is dire I've been taking every pain killer. My throat is now swollen I can't consume anything unless its water or extreme liquid soups. I've considered removing my own tooth but of only the hospital can do then it's obviously serious and the hospital said my so called October appointment is only a consultation so they might not even remove my tooth what kind of rubbish is that it's tearing through my gum it's killing me!

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Elleg said on 09 September 2013

I am currently waiting to have my wisdom teeth extracted on the NHS as all four of my teeth are impacted. The pain is agonising,my dentist said it was the worst case he had seen. I have had 1 infection which caused my face to swell up, my throat to start closing and my jaw to lock so I was unable to eat after having antibiotics they suggested I have surgery to remove them. During my wait as soon as soon as the swelling went down I lost my hearing in one ear, it is now starting to go in the other ear, my doctor has told me that I now have an outer ear infection caused by wisdom teeth. I am constantly in agony as I am waiting for an ultra sound to find out what's wrong with my stomach aswel. My doctors can't advise me how long I have to wait. Does anyone know who you can contact to discuss when you are having these procedures done? Thank you

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Mcflybabe said on 05 August 2013

I going to have my bottom widsom tooth removed soon does it hurt to have it out do you braces after widsom teeth are out help someone xx

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ozone03 said on 23 July 2013

I have two lower wisdom teeth. I finished orthodontic treatment a year ago and didn't removed wisdom teeth due to schedules of coming to England. The teeth does not cause any pain but since it can keep pushing other teeth that has been organized, I want to get those wisdom teeth removed. I went to dentist, but the doctor said that the dentists in the UK have no permission to remove wisdom teeth unless there is proof that it is causing severe pain.
Is there any other way for me to get remove my wisdom teeth?

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Jem100 said on 18 April 2013

I had my lower left wisdom tooth removed under GA yesterday. Other than a mild complication meaning I needed an adrenalin shot whilst under, the procedure wasn't too bad. Unfortunately I am unable to take anti inflammatory medication so ended up being in a lot of pain in recovery requiring tramadol and morphine to even make a dent on the pain level. Today my jaw bone is extremely painful but in the long run I know this is much better than leaving the tooth in. It really depends on how well rooted and the position the tooth is in to be honest. My lower right was removed under local several years ago with only minor complications and was much less painful than this experience. It's definitely worth getting it done in the long run though!

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Emily111 said on 13 February 2013

I have just come back from having an upper wisdom tooth removed. I wanted to write in case people are worried about going. It was a quick, painless procedure, basically. Less trouble that having your teeth cleaned at a dentist. The injections were less than a pin prick. Then you feel no pain at all, just a slight pressure, as they say. Mine was not impacted and could come out in one piece - even though I've had it for a good ten years. The dentist just loosens it a bit and out it comes.

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Ladywriterwriter said on 31 July 2012

I finally had mine removed, I had what is called a coronectomy, where they just remove the crown at my tooth was very close to the nerve, so to save nerve damage they did this instead. Had done at hospital under a GA, was painless op as I was completely out. The day after the op, bit sore, swollen face, bruised inside, but went out today so can function normally. 2 dissolving sitches. Been put on pain killers and antibiotics. Not to bad at all really. I thought it was going to be much worse actually.

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Ladywriterwriter said on 03 July 2012

I was due to have a lower wisdom removed which is impacted under gum but I got sick the day before the operation and was due to have a GA so I had to cancel and wait again now. I got chest infection day before the operation, how unlucky can one be for that to happen, it was a cancellation as well. I have been getting over chesty for over 2 weeks now. I was quite angry but what could I do, they wont put you under if you are sick anyway,

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nattie_1990 said on 11 April 2012

@Jigdolly I have to have my 2 lower wisdom teeth removed and the dentist told me that he would have to remove the top two as well as teeth like to bite down on other teeth and he said if they weren't removed they would just fall out. But he never mentioned anything about them damaging my lower gums.

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Jigdolly said on 18 March 2012

My dentist told me recently that I have 2 upper wisdom teeth and they continue to grow (they are free from decay) and eventually he says they will damage my lower gums as I have no lower wisdom teeth for them to meet and stop them growing. He advised removal of the teeth, but according to NICE guidance this is not recommended. My teeth are currently not causing me a problem, in fact I didn't even know they were there.
Is there anything I can do to protect my lower gum from the growing wisdom teeth?

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