Dentistry has come a long way from its crude, early beginnings. In the early days, extraction of teeth was done by ‘tooth pullers’ with basic tools such as forceps, chisels, and even fingers. Pain relief during these procedures was limited, making the process an excruciating experience for patients.
The development of modern dentistry in the 19th century brought significant advancements in dental care and pain management. With the use of anesthesia and invention of dental equipments, wisdom tooth removal surgeries have become more tolerable and less traumatic.
While wisdom tooth extraction have become a routine procedure for oral surgeons, it is not unusual for patients like you and me to still feel a sense of fear or even terror at the thought of undergoing it. After all, the surgery involves the extraction of teeth, a procedure that is often associated with pain. The fear of significant injury or even dying is a common anxiety that many feel, and it is actually ok.
In this article, we aim to shed light on the process of getting your wisdom teeth removed, and provide clarity on why it is ok for you to experience fear of undergoing the procedure. By understanding the process and the measures in place to safeguard your well-being, we hope to assuage your fears and help you approach the procedure with a more informed and relaxed mindset
How Wisdom Teeth is Extracted
The extraction of the wisdom teeth, which are the third molars, is a common procedure performed due to the problems they are causing. These teeth are the last to emerge in the mouth and typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Due to their late eruption and limited space in the jaw, wisdom teeth can cause various dental issues, such as impaction, crowding, and pain.
Extraction of the wisdom teeth involves the following steps:
- Dental Examination: Before recommending extraction, a thorough examination is first conducted by your dentist or oral surgeon. This will a physical examination of your teeth as well as X-rays to assess the position of your wisdom teeth and determine if extraction is necessary.
- Anesthesia: On the day of the procedure, you will be given anesthesia to ensure you don’t feel any pain during the extraction. Depending on the complexity of the extraction and your preference, you may receive a local or general anesthesia. The former numbs the specific area where the wisdom tooth is being removed while the latter renders you unconscious during the entire procedure.
- Incision: In some cases, an incision may be made in the gum tissue to access the tooth beneath the surface. This is only done when the tooth is partially or fully impacted, and are not visible in its entirety.
- Tooth Removal: Using specialized instruments, such as forceps or elevators, the dentist or oral surgeon will carefully and gently loosen the tooth from its socket. For more complex cases, the tooth may be divided into smaller pieces for easier removal. This happens when the tooth is impacted or the roots are curved.
- Cleaning and Stitches: Once the tooth is removed, the extraction site is cleaned to remove any debris or infection. In some cases, dissolvable stitches may be used to close the wound. These stitches do not need to be removed since they will naturally dissolve over time.
- Gauze Placement: A gauze pad is placed over the extraction site to control bleeding and facilitate the formation of a blood clot.
- Post-operative Care: Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for the extraction site properly. This may include recommendations on eating soft foods, avoiding certain activities, taking prescribed medications, and maintaining oral hygiene.
- Follow-up Appointment: A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor your healing progress and remove any stitches if necessary.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a routine and safe procedure, especially when performed by experienced dental professionals. However, some may still experience complications from the surgery.
Complications from Wisdom Teeth Removal Surgery
Like all surgeries, there are potential complications that can occur. It is also crucial to know that serious complications are relatively rare, and the vast majority of patients experience smooth recoveries. Some potential complications from wisdom teeth removal surgery include:
- Bleeding: Some bleeding is expected after the surgery, but excessive bleeding can occur in rare cases. Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with instructions on how to control bleeding, such as applying gentle pressure with gauze over the extraction sites.
- Dry Socket: This is a painful condition that occurs when the blood clot that forms in the extraction site becomes dislodged or dissolves prematurely, leaving the underlying bone and nerves exposed. This can lead to intense pain and delay the healing process. To prevent dry socket, it is essential to follow the post-operative care instructions carefully, which usually include avoiding smoking, drinking through straws, and aggressive rinsing.
- Infection: Although uncommon, infections can occur after wisdom teeth removal. Signs of infection may include increased pain, swelling, fever, or a foul taste in your mouth. Your dentist may have prescribed antibiotics medication to prevent an infection. If you suspect an infection, contact your dentist or oral surgeon promptly.
- Nerve Injury: In some cases, the nerves in the jaw can be close to the roots of the wisdom teeth. Nerve injury is rare, but it can result in temporary or, very rarely, permanent numbness or altered sensation in the lips, tongue, or chin.
- Sinus Complications: Upper wisdom teeth located near the sinuses may lead to sinus complications, such as sinusitis. Your dentist or oral surgeon will evaluate the proximity of the tooth to the sinuses before the procedure and may take additional precautions to avoid such complications.
- Anesthesia Risks: Anesthesia, especially general anesthesia, carries inherent risks such as allergic reactions or adverse effects on the cardiovascular or respiratory systems. However, these risks are minimal and usually well-managed by trained anesthesia providers.
As seen, most of the complications are avoidable under the hands of a skilled oral surgeon and with proper post-surgery care. That said, it is important to discuss your medical history, any preexisting conditions, and any concerns you have about the procedure with your dentist or oral surgeon before the surgery.
Fear of Death During Surgery
The American Association for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons estimates that the occurrence of a life-threatening complication from a wisdom teeth removal surgery is at 1 in 365,534 cases, or 0.000274%.
In spite of the low chances of getting a critical medical problem, having a fear of death during the surgery is a perfectly normal human response.
The fear of death, known as thanatophobia, is a fundamental part of human nature. It is a manifestation of our survival instinct, linked to our deep-rooted fear of the unknown. This fear can be exacerbated by a host of factors including, pre-existing dental phobia, horror stories from friends or family members, sensationalized portrayals of dental procedures in media, or even misinformation obtained from unreliable internet sources.
You may be interested in: Does It Actually Hurt To Get a Tooth Pulled?
The fear of dying in a wisdom teeth removal surgery is particularly potent because the procedure is often done during early adulthood, a time when most individuals have not yet fully grappled with their own mortality. In addition, the fear is exacerbated by the idea of undergoing anesthesia. Anesthesia does carry a risk, but it’s important to note that anesthesiologists and surgeons are highly trained professionals.
Communicate Your Fears and Questions
The thought of going under anesthesia and being in a vulnerable state during the surgery can evoke strong feelings of fear and uncertainty.
It is important for you to acknowledge these fears and emotions, and communicate it with your oral surgeon or dentist. They can provide you with detailed information about the procedure, potential risks, and the steps taken to mitigate them, which can help alleviate your anxiety. Remember, acknowledging your fear is the first step towards addressing it.
In some cases where your dentist have deemed your fears and anxiety to be an issue during the surgery, general anesthesia or sedation (laughing gas) will be recommended, allowing you to forget what happened during the tooth removal procedure.
If you still have concerns about the recommended surgery, you have the right to seek a second opinion from another qualified medical professional to gain further reassurance and confidence in your treatment plan.
You may be interested in: Do I Need My Wisdom Teeth Removed? Take a Quiz!
To conclude, acknowledging the fear of dying during wisdom teeth removal or any medical procedure. The fear of the unknown, coupled with the vulnerability of undergoing surgery, can be overwhelming for many individuals.
As such, it is essential to remember that these fears are entirely normal and shared by countless others. This fear should not be dismissed or belittled but rather addressed with empathy and understanding.
Open communication with your dentist or oral surgeon about your fears can lead to a more compassionate and supportive experience throughout the process. When in doubt, ask questions and seek clarification about the procedure, potential risks, and the measures taken to ensure your safety.
Remember, you are taking a proactive step towards maintaining your oral health, and with the right guidance and understanding, you can overcome the fear and embrace the benefits of this routine dental procedure. Let’s get started!