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.
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?
- swelling and bruising
- 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.
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.
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Last reviewed: September 2018