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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

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

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

Dental treatment - Better Health Channel

Modern techniques mean that dental and oral health treatment is almost always painless.

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

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

Oral care for chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients

Chemotherapy treatment can affect your mouth in different ways. You may experience mouth ulcers, mouth infections, loss of taste or a dry mouth.

Read more on SA Health website

Sugar

Sugar in food and drink can start the tooth decay process. Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth combine with the sugars and starches in food to produce acid.

Read more on SA Health website

Fissure sealants - A guide for parents and clients

Fissure sealants are protective plastic coatings that seal the fissures of your teeth making them easier to clean.

Read more on SA Health website

Dental care for adults

Use a small, soft toothbrush to clean your teeth and gums morning and night.

Read more on SA Health website

Dental health looking after your teeth and gums Dietitians Association of Australia

Dental health looking after your teeth and gums Good oral hygiene and eating habits can reduce the risk of tooth decay

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia website

Why do we need calcium? Dietitians Association of Australia

Why do we need calcium? Calcium is super important for strong bones and healthy teeth

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia 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