Q&A With Dr Emma
"My dentist recently told me I need to have my wisdom teeth out, but because they're still buried quite deep the procedure will also require part of my jaw bone to be shaved, which is freaking me out. I'll be having the work done under anaesthetic, but will I be in a great deal of pain afterwards? And how long will the shaved bone area take to heal? I'm 32 and a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain, so any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated." Heather from Melbourne (VIC).
There's a big variation in how well people cope and recover from having their wisdom teeth extracted. Some of it depends on how difficult the extractions are, and some on genetics and your general health. Most people are feeling relatively normal after a few days. Try not to worry too much about the bone being shaved away, it's a common thing that needs to be done when wisdom teeth are impacted. Your dentist will remove as little bone as possible, probably just the bit which is covering the tooth up.
The main part of healing process you'll be aware of is the gum rather than the bone. You'll probably have stitches, which come out 7-10 days after surgery once the gum has healed back together. The gum and bone will then continue to remodel, fill in, and smooth out over the following months. Your body will eventually lay down new bone to completely fill the space where the tooth use to be.
You may be one of the lucky ones who experience minimal discomfort, or you may have some impressive bruising and swelling for a few days. Even though you'll be asleep, local anaesthetic is still used, so you'll be numb when you initially wake up. That means no pain! As the local anaesthetic wears off after a few hours, you may be quite sore. Your dentist will recommend appropriate painkillers for you to take, and I suggest you take them! There's no special medal for people who endure pain recovering from surgery, make yourself as comfortable as possible. Depending on the hospital, you may wake up with ice packs on your face. This can be a good way to reduce swelling and discomfort.
I hope the procedure goes smoothly for you. I'll leave you with one piece of good news: you'll only have to do this once. When your wisdom teeth have been extracted they won't grow back!