Dentistry
Cosmetic
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Updated on December 14, 2022
5 min read

Emergency Wisdom Tooth Removal

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Wisdom teeth are located in the far back of your mouth. They are the last teeth to erupt, usually in your late teens or early 20s. Sometimes they are referred to as back or third molars.

When is Wisdom Tooth Removal an Emergency?

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.

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 of your teeth.

In these cases, 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:

Wisdom teeth are not visible until they begin to erupt. Annual X-rays are essential, especially during your teenage years. 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 gum tissue covers a portion of the tooth, trapping food and plaque debris.

It leads to inflammation and 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Emergency Wisdom Tooth Removal

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 a wisdom tooth pushes against another tooth, it could cause a cracked tooth. This risk increases if you have a root canal or large filling on the tooth that is being pushed.

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 commonly result from 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.

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. 

What to Expect at an Emergency Tooth Extraction

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth, you may require emergency dental care.

The oral surgeon won’t be able to perform a simple extraction on impacted wisdom teeth. They will need to perform a surgical extraction. 

Methods and procedures will vary slightly depending on the practitioner.

Generally, here’s what you should expect for an emergency wisdom tooth extraction:

  • The doctor will apply a local anesthetic to the area around your tooth. The entire area surrounding the tooth will be completely numb in a few minutes.
  • 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 dental elevator by applying pressure to the tooth from multiple angles.
  • They will then grasp the tooth with forceps and rock it back and forth. They may also rotate the tooth to separate it from the periodontal ligaments.
  • The doctor may apply one or two stitches (sutures) 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.

Wisdom Tooth Removal Aftercare

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

It is normal to feel pain, swelling, and bleeding from your wounds in the following days. 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 3 to 4 days, sometimes up to a week.

If they last longer than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.

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

While recovering, refrain from spitting, drinking from a straw, and smoking. Any activity that requires you to suck could cause a dry socket.

Dry sockets are when 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
  • Pudding
  • Eggs

Avoid very hot or cold foods and liquids as well.

Last updated on December 14, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 14, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Down, Jim, and V Mitchell. “Wisdom Tooth Extraction under General Anaesthesia.” Hospital Medicine, 2000. 
  2. Sakkas, Nikolaos, et al. “Orbital Abscess after Extraction of a Maxillary Wisdom Tooth.” British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 2007. 
  3. Singh, Nishi, et al. “Wisdom Tooth—Complications in Extraction.” The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, 2014. 
  4. Song, et al. The Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Prophylactic Removal of Wisdom Teeth.” Health Technology Assessment, 2000.  
  5. Suleiman, A.M. “Influence of surgical gauze on the incidence of dry socket after wisdom tooth extraction.” 2006. 
  6. Strietzel FP, Reichart PA. “Wound healing after surgical wisdom tooth extraction. Evidence-based analysis.” Mund-, Kiefer- und Gesichtschirurgie, 2002. 
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