Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Removing wisdom teeth

3-minute read

This page will give you information about removing wisdom teeth. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the teeth at the back of your mouth (the third molar teeth). They tend to come through (erupt) in the late teens or twenties.

Some wisdom teeth do not come through fully (partly erupt) and get stuck (or impacted). This often leaves a flap of gum over your tooth. Others grow too long (over erupt).

A wisdom tooth may need to be removed for several reasons such as tooth decay, repeated or severe infection, to make space to move other teeth or to prevent damage to the cheek or gum.

Illustration showing an impacted lower wisdom tooth.
An impacted lower wisdom tooth.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Simple painkillers such as paracetamol can help control mild pain.

Antibiotics and rinsing with hot, salty water or chlorhexidine mouthwash, can help when the area around the wisdom tooth is infected. These measures give only temporary relief from symptoms and do not treat the underlying cause.

Removing the gum lying over your tooth (operculectomy) may be possible in certain cases if a wisdom tooth has partly erupted.

What does the procedure involve?

Most upper wisdom teeth can be removed easily under a local anaesthetic. Lower wisdom teeth can be more difficult to remove. The procedure usually takes 10 minutes to an hour.

Removing a wisdom tooth can involve cutting the gum to uncover your tooth, removing bone around your tooth and dividing your tooth with a drill.

What complications can happen?

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • swelling and bruising
  • infection
  • dry socket
  • retained roots
  • damage to nearby teeth
  • sinus problems
  • broken jaw
  • not being able to open your mouth fully (trismus) and jaw stiffness
  • damage to nerves
  • osteonecrosis, a rare condition where tissue in your jawbone starts to die

How soon will I recover?

Depending on the difficulty of the procedure and the risk of infection, you may be given antibiotics.

You may need to take up to a week off work. You should be able to return to normal activities within a week.

Most people make a full recovery.

Summary

Wisdom teeth can sometimes cause serious problems. Removing a wisdom tooth is usually a safe and effective way to prevent your symptoms from coming back.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Wisdom teeth - Better Health Channel

Wisdom teeth that may cause problems are best taken out sooner rather than later.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Adult teeth (permanent teeth) anatomy information | myVMC

Adult teeth include incisors, canines, molars and wisdom teeth. They help digest food by breaking it up, and are important for speech and appearance.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dental X-rays (18-30yrs) - Your Dental Health | Australian Dental Association

X-rays give your dentist a comprehensive assessment of your mouth's health. Information for younger Adults 18 - 30 years.

Read more on ADA – Australian Dental Association website

Teeth development in children

The development of primary teeth begins while the baby is in the womb. At about five weeks' gestation, the first buds of primary teeth appear in the baby's jaws. At birth, the baby has a full set of 20 primary teeth (10 in the upper jaw, 10 in the lower jaw) hidden within the gums. Primary teeth are also known as baby teeth, milk teeth or deciduous teeth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Teeth - development and teething

How you look afteryour child'steeth from the time they are babies will make a difference to how they grow and how healthy they are.This means not only how you clean teeth but also how you protect them from things that can harm teeth.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Bottle feeding - making up formula

It is best to use tap water to make up your baby's formula. Most tap water has fluoride in it, which is important for your baby's teeth. Remember toboil the water until your baby is at least 6 months old

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Kids' Health - Topics - Teeth - problems with teeth

If you are eating a variety of healthy foods and brushing your teeth properly then you should have healthy, strong teeth.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Teeth - decay and erosion

Tooth decay is preventable. How you look afteryour child'steeth from the time they are babies will make a difference to how they grow and how healthy they are.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Kids' Health - Topics - Teeth - protecting your teeth

Teeth can be damaged when you are playing most sports like basketball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, football, netball, roller blading, or skate boarding.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Kids' Health - Topics - Bites from animals

Any animals that have claws or teeth will use them to defend themselves when they are frightened. Animals have rights too and need to be treated with respect and care by humans.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo