Maybe you’re reading this because you’re considering removing your wisdom teeth. If that’s the case, I’d like to ease some of your fears because it’s less scary than you think! Many people have gone through it before you and have turned out just fine. As someone who’s had all four wisdom teeth removed, let me take you through what you need to know, including the considerations, the procedures, the risks, the costs, and the aftercare process.
When to Consider it
The reason people remove their wisdom teeth is because those teeth have become impacted, meaning they don’t have space to grow normally.
The biggest and most common indicator that you’ll need to is when your jaw starts hurting frequently. In my case, however, my dentist recommended I remove my wisdom teeth even though they weren’t hurting me because food was getting stuck behind them. According to him, this could lead to decay and gum inflammation in the future.
Did you know wisdom teeth are actually the last of our teeth to emerge, and that they usually do so during our late teenage years? This is why you’ll hear many of your peers discussing wisdom teeth removal right about now. Lower risks and quicker recovery times also play a part thanks to our youth.
The Different Procedures
1. Local Anaesthesia
This is when your surgeon gives you a small shot near the tooth or applies ointment onto your gums to numb the area. If you’re very anxious, you may be given a sedative to help you relax.
You remain conscious and aware as the procedure happens. Basically, a small cut (incision) will be made to access your tooth if it hasn’t broken through the gum. A small piece of the bone covering the tooth may also need to be removed. The tooth will then be cut into smaller pieces for removal.
After the whole tooth has been removed, the surroundings will be cleaned and the hole will be stitched up. Gauze will be placed over it to handle the blood clot.
2. General Anaesthesia
Pre-surgery, you are to fast from food and drink for many hours to ensure that the anaesthesia works without any side-effects. You will either have an IV line in your arm, or breathe in the anaesthetic through a breathing mask. The surgery happens after you lose consciousness much like how it would be done with local anaesthesia, except that a medical team will be examining your vitals to ensure no complications arise. After the removal is done, there will be a period of recovery and someone in your family will have to take you home.
You might develop a dry socket after the procedure, a condition whereby the blood clot over the extraction site doesn’t form or dissolves before the wound has healed. This can happen a few days after removing your wisdom teeth. This is quite rare, thankfully, and you are advised to ring your oral surgeon up immediately for a follow-up upon discovering this condition.
Lip numbness is another condition that’s rare but also possible. Our wisdom teeth are near the inferior alveolar nerve in the jaw. Damage to this nerve can result in lip numbness. Though usually temporary, it can be permanent if the damage is severe. This was why my dentist advised me to go for dental surgery earlier than later; I was at risk for this condition, and it was far more likely that I would make a full recovery from it in my youth than when I was older.
So, if you know you will have to eventually get your wisdom teeth removed, don’t put it off!
Costs and Subsidies
The cost of your wisdom tooth surgery depends on whether you see a public or private institution and the complexity of the case (whether tooth division or bone removal is necessary). This can be influenced by a few factors such as age (younger people have softer bone, making extraction easier), proximity to nerves (deeply buried teeth makes extraction harder), and the root shape of the tooth (an irregular root shape makes extraction harder as well).
As such, cost is pretty hard to predict, especially because charges can vary pretty widely between institutions. But for starters, it should be more than $600/tooth. Some places might even charge up to $2000/tooth. If you go for general anaesthesia, the cost should be about $800 higher due to the sedation administered.
Thankfully, you should be able to claim Medisave for your surgery costs for both public and private institutions whether you choose local or general anaesthesia. The average patient can claim about $950/tooth, but the amount you can claim is highly dependent on how many teeth you remove and the complexity of the cases. When I arranged to have all four of mine removed via general anaesthesia, it came close to $2000 but Medisave covered almost all of it.
However, if you have a more urgent case, please be aware that the wait between referrals from the polyclinic to the hospital can be quite long. It was a one-month wait between my referral from the polyclinic and the appointment at the public hospital. The earliest slot for the surgery was within the week, but I had mine done a month later so that it wouldn’t coincide with my exams.
This is the part that people hate the most. To deal with the pain in your jaw after the surgery, the doctor will prescribe painkillers and let you know how best to manage your pain. You can expect at least two to three days of recovery. It may hurt to even open your jaw, so try to limit that.
To care for your mouth, you should rinse your mouth with salt water to keep the wound clean and also dab the wound with gauze to absorb excess blood. You should also avoid dislodging your blood clots as that would lead to dry sockets. So, try not to smoke, spit, or even drink from a straw!
Lastly, eat soft food like porridge and soup and know that you’ll be back to eating your favourite food in no time!
I hope that this guide has helped you become a bit more familiar with this whole process, especially this is uncharted territory. However, as this is just a crash course about the process of having your wisdom teeth removed, you should still seek the opinion of a professional oral surgeon before deciding to remove your wisdom teeth. All the best and don’t worry too much, the pain will be over before you know it!