So you’ve found out (or suspect) that you need to have your wisdom teeth removed. You’ve also heard a few stories from friends, family, or coworkers about how it may not be a very pleasant experience and are therefore looking at the best possible options. While there is no magical alternative to the act of extracting wisdom teeth, there are indeed things to consider before taking the step. Today, we address those considerations so that you can make a more informed choice about your up and coming wisdom tooth/teeth removal.
Options Available to Patients in Need of Wisdom Teeth Extraction
This is no normal tooth extraction. Your wisdom teeth are likely impacted (they don’t have enough room to come in properly) which is why you’re experiencing either pain, discomfort, swelling, or a combination of the above. There are three types of wisdom tooth impaction, including soft tissue impaction, partial bony impaction, and complete bony impaction. We won’t go into explicit details of each (but you can find them here), as all you really need to know is that the procedure to remove them is more complicated than it is for other teeth. The procedure more than likely requires the removal of some bone and gum tissue, and since it is preferred that all four wisdom teeth be removed in one visit, anesthesia and sedation is recommended during the procedure. This is where your options come in.
There are four general options, and their necessity (or lack thereof) will depend upon the predicted complexity of the procedure and your own level of comfort. These options include:
- Local Anesthesia – Your specialist or oral surgeon will apply a numbing substance to your gums, and as soon as it takes effect, will inject a local anesthesia near each site of extraction, which will serve to block the pain sensation during your procedure. This is the most common option, and is administered with great care (for your comfort) at our clinic.
- Conscious Sedation – Conscious sedation suppresses your consciousness during the wisdom tooth removal, allowing you to be pain free with little to no memory of the appointment, which is compounded by that fact that you may fall asleep during some of the procedure. Conscious sedation can be delivered either via oral medication, or through an IV. This option is worth considering if you are feeling very fearful of the procedure, and/or have a strong gag reflex that could complicate and/or significantly extend the procedure. Cost for sedation will vary by patient, but given that it is typically covered by dental insurance, the price may be a moot point. It is important to note that in going this route, you will need someone with you to take you home after the appointment.
- General Anesthesia – This option tasks a combination of oral and IV medications to sedate you into near or complete unconsciousness. You will feel no pain and you will awake with no memory of the procedure.
- Laughing Gas – Yes, it sure sounds fun, but it’s also a highly effective means to delivering a pain and stress free wisdom teeth extraction. Laughing gas, technically known as nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia, is a controlled combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen that is administered via a mask placed over your nose. Laughing gas gets its name from the relaxed and at-times silly state that it puts the patient in, which results not only in a pain free experience but one without the nerves to boot. Laughing gas’ effects wear off quite quickly, which means that you can head home safely on your own after the procedure, unless you have taken it in combination with an oral medication, at which point you should have a companion with you.
So how are you to know which option suits you best? This can only come from a consultation with a dental specialist, someone who will take the time to learn your dental and medical history, while gauging your personality and stress levels to make an official recommendation. View more on the role of a specialist below.
Dentist or Dental Specialist / Oral Surgeon Options
Your next consideration, is whether to go to a general dentist or a dental specialist / oral surgeon.
While a family dentist has the basic training and tools to remove your wisdom teeth, there is a distinguishing difference between a general dentist and an oral surgeon in this capacity. For one, an oral surgeon is trained to remove the wisdom teeth using IV sedation, has a much deeper understanding of sedation, and knows how to administer it safely. Think of it this way, if receiving general anesthesia, wouldn’t you gain peace of mind in knowing that a knowledgeable surgeon (and support team) is at your side to closely monitor your medication, breathing, temperature, fluids and blood pressure? Absolutely!
Simply put, a general dentist’s “bread and butter” is found with cleaning, cavity filling, and crown placement, whereas an oral surgeon’s is found in the removal of wisdom teeth and other complex dental procedures. Having a specialist perform your wisdom tooth removal not only translates into a smoother procedure, it equates quicker recovery for you, the patient.
Now that you’re armed with knowledge about the options available to you, we encourage you to take the next step and find a dental specialist with oral surgery capabilities near you. If you reside in the Lower Mainland, contact Vancouver Dental Specialty Clinic for a friendly noncommittal consultation. Call us directly at 604.336.0958 or complete the form found here.