Emergency Wisdom Tooth Removal

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
Michael Bayba
Written by
Michael Bayba
icon of microscope
Evidence Based
medical book
6 sources cited
NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links.

Emergency Wisdom Tooth Removal

Wisdom teeth are located in the far back of your mouth. They are the last set of teeth to erupt and usually do so in your late teens or early twenties. Sometimes they are referred to as back or third molars.

Impacted wisdom teeth are horizontally aligned or angled. This causes them to come in misaligned. They can push on your other teeth or their roots, causing painful symptoms or even shifting in your teeth.

3d render of teeth with wisdom crowding. Concept of different types of wisdom teeth problems.

Standard wisdom tooth removal is not considered a dental emergency. However, if one or more of your wisdom teeth are impacted, they may be causing you severe pain or discomfort. In this case, you may need a dentist or oral surgeon to perform an emergency wisdom tooth removal.

Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several painful symptoms, including:

  • Swollen and painful gums
  • Toothaches
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Shifting teeth
  • Jaw pain 
  • Headaches
  • Infections

Wisdom teeth are not visible until they begin to erupt. That’s why annual x-rays are an essential aspect of your teen dental care check-ups. They allow your dentist to monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth eruption.

Wisdom teeth that partially erupt can cause a dental problem called pericoronitis. This condition is when there is gum tissue covering a portion of the tooth, trapping food and plaque debris. It leads to inflammation, severe pain, and can require antibiotics and an extraction to heal.

Some impacted wisdom teeth may partially erupt through your gums. Others may be very horizontally aligned and will never break through your gum tissue.

Do I Need To Remove My Wisdom Teeth?

Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. If your jawbone has enough room for them, and they are coming in straight, you may not need to have them extracted. However, in many cases, wisdom tooth eruption can be painful and cause damage to your adult teeth.

If this is the case, you will need oral surgery to remove your wisdom teeth. Your dentist should be able to tell you whether or not you will experience issues with your wisdom teeth based on a panoramic or 3D X-ray taken during your teenage years.

If you don’t remove impacted wisdom teeth, it can lead to long-term damage, including:

  • Misalignment — wisdom teeth can push against your teeth, causing them to shift. They may become crowded or crooked. This can ruin orthodontic treatment such as braces or clear aligners or cause you to need further treatment.
  • Tooth damage — if wisdom teeth push against another tooth, it could cause a cracked tooth. This risk is increased if you have had a root canal or large filling.
  • Tooth decay — wisdom teeth are difficult to clean, especially if they have partially erupted. They create tight spaces that are hard to get to with your floss or toothbrush. This may lead to tooth decay.
  • Infection — because they are difficult to clean, infections are a common result of impacted wisdom teeth. Bacteria and food particles may get left behind and cause infections in your teeth or gums (dental abscess).
  • Gum disease — gingivitis or periodontal disease may also result from impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Cysts — Untreated impacted wisdom teeth can develop cysts around the tooth's crown, leading to dental problems in the adjacent teeth and bone.

What to Expect at an Emergency Tooth Extraction

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth, you may be in need of emergency dental care. If your teeth are impacted, the oral surgeon will not be able to perform a simple extraction; they will need to perform a surgical extraction. 

While methods and procedures will vary slightly depending on the practitioner, here’s what you should expect when you arrive at the dental office for an emergency wisdom tooth extraction:

  • The doctor will apply a local anesthetic to the area around your tooth. In a few minutes, the entire area surrounding the tooth will be completely numb.
  • If you have anxiety or dentophobia (fear of the dentist), they may use sedation or “put you under.” This could be in the form of an IV, inhalant, or pill.
  • The dentist will then widen the tooth socket using a tool called an elevator, as well as forceps, by applying pressure to the tooth from multiple angles.
  • They will then grasp the tooth with forceps and begin to rock it back and forth. They may also rotate the tooth to separate it from the ligaments.
  • The doctor may apply one or two stitches to close up the wound.
  • Once you are finished with the procedure, you may be placed in the recovery room, prescribed pain medication, and get informed on proper aftercare, depending on your condition.

Emergency Wisdom Tooth Removal Aftercare

After the procedure, you will begin to regain feeling from the anesthetic slowly. This is the most painful part of the experience but can be managed easily with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication. You may also receive antibiotics to prevent infection.

In the following days, it is normal to feel pain, swelling, and bleeding from your wounds. Pain typically ranges from mild to moderate and is rarely severe. The blood clots at the extraction site may get agitated or break. These symptoms typically last three to four days and sometimes up to a week. If they last longer than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.

Warm salt water rinses, as well as ice packs on your jaw, are simple and effective ways to help manage pain during the days following wisdom tooth extractions.

While you are recovering, it is important to refrain from spitting, drinking from a straw, and smoking. Any activity that requires you to suck could cause a dry socket — a painful oral health condition where the blood clots disappear and expose the bone beneath your wound.

You should also stick to eating soft foods such as smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, cottage cheese, or pudding in the days following the extraction. Avoid very hot or cold foods and liquids as well.

Resources

Down, Jim, and V Mitchell. “Wisdom Tooth Extraction under General Anaesthesia.” Hospital Medicine, vol. 61, no. 12, 2000, pp. 876–876., doi:10.12968/hosp.2000.61.12.1494. 

Sakkas, Nikolaos, et al. “Orbital Abscess after Extraction of a Maxillary Wisdom Tooth.” British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, vol. 45, no. 3, 2007, pp. 245–246., doi:10.1016/j.bjoms.2005.09.010. 

Singh, Nishi, et al. “Wisdom Tooth—Complications in Extraction.” The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, vol. 15, no. 1, 2014, pp. 34–36., doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1484. 

Song, et al. “The Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Prophylactic Removal of Wisdom Teeth.” Health Technology Assessment, vol. 4, no. 15, 2000, doi:10.3310/hta4150. 

Suleiman, A.M. (‎2006)‎. Influence of surgical gauze on the incidence of dry socket after wisdom tooth extraction. EMHJ - Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 12 (‎3-4)‎, 440-445, 2006 https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/117105 

Strietzel FP, Reichart PA. [Wound healing after surgical wisdom tooth extraction. Evidence-based analysis]. Mund-, Kiefer- und Gesichtschirurgie : MKG. 2002 Mar;6(2):74-84. DOI: 10.1007/s10006-001-0354-3.

newmouth logo
menu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram