Words for Wisdoms
July 20, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I am having my top two wisdom teeth out on wednesday without general or "twilight" anesthesia. What should I expect?

I am having my dentist extract my two top wisdom teeth that are nearly fully erupted. They are causing trouble with my gums and get infected occasionally so I opted to have them yanked.

The dentist said he could refer me to an oral surgeon, but he could do it himself, if I preferred. I like the guy and can stand a bit of discomfort, so I went with him.

Some folks I have talked to say that the top teeth are no big deal. I am likely to only have novocaine for the procedure. Does anyone have a similar story?
posted by arveale to Health & Fitness (26 answers total)
Got my unimpacted but causing some trouble top 2 wisdom teeth out recently. They tried to talk me into anesthesia but I refused. Took about 3 minutes once they actually started, I was a little bit swollen that evening but pain free by the next morning, and up and lucid the whole time because I didn't use anesthesia. Completely not a big deal.
posted by brainmouse at 8:54 AM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had my bottom, severely impacted wisdom teeth removed with only novocaine. It wasn't fun per se, but I didn't think it was any worse than your typical in office procedure (think cavity drilling). Therefore I think that you should be completely fine.

The one tip I have to offer is to wear earbuds (small, so they don't get in the way like over ear headphones) and listen to soothing music. I find the sounds of dental work really disturbing (almost as much as the actual feelings) so this helped me a lot.
posted by telegraph at 8:56 AM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I had the exact same thing done 10-15 years ago. Two top wisdom teeth, nearly fully erupted. Mine were coming out at almost a 45% degree angle outwards--I don't know if this is a salient fact.

Just got local anesthetic--novocaine or whatever.

There was some yanking and tugging, and each tooth was out in a couple of minutes. It was all kind of gross, but I'm squeamish. It did not hurt at all.

I got stitches and some cotton stuffed in the holes and was told that I could eat whatever I wanted, but should make sure nothing got stuck in the holes.

I walked home alone (about a mile) and ate at McDonald's on the way, not more than 20 minutes after the extraction.

This is either a relatively easy procedure you should not be too worried about, or I am as tough as balls.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:56 AM on July 20, 2011

I've had top teeth [not wisdom] teeth removed with only novocaine and it was fine. Annoying and a little painful but not at all excruciating. The thing that I remember is that there were sometimes novocaine shots that were more painful than the actual extraction. That said, they were over in a jiffy. If the teeth are erupted and not impacted, it will feel weird since they are big and there's often some jockeying to get them entirely out, but shouldn't be too painful. Take good care of your gums afterwards and heed all the instructions and you should be fine. My tooth extraction tip: chew on wet teabags. Helps keep the blood taste out of your mouth [peppermint is best] and can keep you from idly messing with the holes with your tongue.
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on July 20, 2011

I had an unimpacted, erupted wisdom tooth out at the dentist's with a local -- the day before, my face started hurting like hell out of nowhere. He shot me up, yanked the sucker out and I was out of there in fifteen minutes with advice to not use straws or smoke and a Codeine prescription. Easy as pie.
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2011

I've had both my top wisdom teeth out using only local anaesthetic. One was about 15 years ago, the other a few months back.

The one years ago took a bit of yanking and was rather unpleasant in that way (though not at all painful - the local stings slightly when the needle goes in but it's nothing, really).

The one a few months back was over before I even realised it and within a few days it was pretty much healed.

I would definitely do it again with just local if I had to make the choice. It's not a lot of fun but it's not painful and you will feel right as rain by the next day if not before.
posted by rubbish bin night at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2011

I've had lower, impacted and upper, erupted wisdom teeth out with only local anesthesia, and I'm a wimp about such things.

My God, the lower ones were excruciating, and I'd never make anyone go through that without at least laughing gas. Laid up in bed afterwards for a couple of days, massive swelling, all that.

The top, though, the ones you're asking about? I was actually a bit confused when it was over, since I never felt any real pulling or tugging or pain or anything. Totally routine. Went right back to work that afternoon. Really, it'll be fine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2011

Yup, while I did not have more then one taken out at once, all three of my wisdom tooth removals have been done wide awake and with Novocaine (two of which were bottom and impacted.)

It starts exactly like filling a cavity. You don't feel a thing (and if you do, for heaven sakes tell him so he can inject more novocaine in you). There is definitely a sense of pressure and pulling.

With the novocaine you won't even be able to tell the tooth is out unless he shows or tells you.

Prepared for them to bleed a lot and to taste blood for a few days.

Honestly the oddest sensation is the feeling of the stitches. You will constantly play with them because something is stuck in your mouth.
posted by royalsong at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2011

I think the most disturbing part of wisdom tooth extraction for me was the smell of burning flesh and bone. I'm not actually squeamish about dental procedures, so I was surprised by exactly how much this bothered me. It was just... gross. I would swab menthol under my nose if I had to do it again, just in case.
posted by jph at 9:02 AM on July 20, 2011

I had my tops and impacted bottoms done by the dentist with just novocaine and it went extremely well. You won't feel pain during the process, though you will feel the pressure and pulling as others noted. The thing you will be most surprised about is how quickly it all happens. Don't be like me who spent far more time being worked up about it than it actually took.

When it's done, have some instant ice packs on the ready and keep them on your face for a good while. This will limit the bruising or swelling you can sometimes have after wisdom tooth removal. I used ice packs almost all day after and had no bruising or swelling at all.

If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the exact same way. The only true horror stories I hear are people who did it the oral surgeon/anesthesia route.

Best of luck!
posted by dayintoday at 9:06 AM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had a hammer and chisel into my top jaw ridge in the front (to place implant sockets) with only local anesthesia. I didn't realize I had the option of either, and the first thing out of the surgeon's mouth afterward was "I've never seen anyone do that without a general!" It's hard to groan without your front teeth.

Definitely wouldn't recommend it, but it was possible, and I'd think the wisdom teeth would be much smoother.
posted by kcm at 9:12 AM on July 20, 2011

I had all four of my (impacted) wisdom teeth removed with local anesthetic and nitrous oxide. I think the nitrous really made it bearable - it just chills you right out. There was one moment where I opened my eyes and realized that the dentist had an enormous pair of pliers in my mouth and was yanking back and forth for all he was worth. I remember thinking something like "This would be unbelievably horrible if I wasn't so f*ed up," and then I closed my eyes again and stopped paying attention and it was fine.
posted by number9dream at 9:18 AM on July 20, 2011

Also had upper wisdom teeth removed by my dentist, although he did them one at a time They were not impacted - they just had plaques and there's no good reason to fill them instead of pulling them. The first was fully erupted and it took longer to wait for the novocaine to kick in than it did to pull the tooth. Aside from not chewing on that side of my mouth a week, no problems at all. The second was still covered by some gum so it took longer and required stitches. The stitches were kind of a pain, but in a hard to keep my tongue away from way.

My experience was that you will know the tooth is being pulled. The novocaine prevents pain, but you'll probably still feel (and hear) and grinding. As noted, the searing flesh thing as the cauterize your gums is weird, but it didn't make me sick or anything. I do recommend the one at a time thing - it minimizes the amount time you can't eat solids. Might want to bring a Tylenol with you to take as soon as you're able, so it's starts working before the local wears off.
posted by maryr at 9:20 AM on July 20, 2011

I had all 4 impacted wisdom teeth & two regular teeth taken out in one appointment with novocaine only (oh, and a valium beforehand) and there was no pain during the procedure other than the initial novocaine injection. (And, I need to get nitrous oxide to get through regular dental cleaning appointments, so, it's not that I'm super-tough or anything.) I did have an odd reaction to all of the novocaine - I started to tremble uncontrollably and then burst into tears when the surgeon asked me if I was ready for him to start. Something to do with adrenalin, I think, I forget exactly how the surgeon explained it, but we just waited a couple of minutes and it passed.

So, the procedure itself was fine. Once the novocaine wore off, not so fine, took me 3 days to recover. I agree with those above - have your pain medication & ice packs with you at the appointment, and have someone with you to get you from the dentist's office back to your bed/couch. You may be the kind of person who just has some swelling and soreness, or you may be the kind of person who ends up with major pain & dizziness for a few days.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:33 AM on July 20, 2011

I had all four (erupted) done at once with only novocaine.
Well, and valium. i was a little jumpy about the idea so when I got there the dentist gave me a prescription, moved my appointment back an hour or so and I ran across the street to fill it. Awesome.
And I remember no pain in the following days.
posted by atomicstone at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2011

I had three removed under a local. It was very unpleasant (the sound of crunching inside your head, the yanking, the jaw being pushed open farther than you like, etc), but it wasn't really painful. I was abnormally pale at the end of it, and the oral surgeon required that I hang out and rest for 20 minutes afterward to regain my composure.

After that, I drove home.
posted by adamrice at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2011

All four in one sitting, Novocaine only, and it was just downright weird. I remember thinking, "They're yanking teeth right out of my skull. I should be in agony, but I don't feel a thing. This isn't right!"

They'll probably give you a little squirty syringe thing that you can use to clean the sockets. Just fill it with water and blast away.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2011

I had five molars (not certain that they were all technically wisdom teeth) removed, from both the top and bottom, while I was in high school, some of which were described to me as being fused to my jaw bone. (I don't remember whether this was technically done by a dentist or an oral surgeon.) The most painful part of the whole thing was the shot of Novocain, which was the only thing they gave me during the procedure. It wasn't pleasant—my mouth had to be open wider and longer than was comfortable, and there's something extremely unsettling about the scent of ground bone (they had to break down some of the teeth rather than just pull them)—but it definitely wasn't the worst experience of my life. (For the record, I've never had any major surgeries, broken any bones, or anything else like that. So, really, this wasn't that bad at all.) I ended up with a few dissolving stitches and avoided using straws for a while... end of story.

Good luck!
posted by divisjm at 11:04 AM on July 20, 2011

No no no: Do NOT take Faint of Butt's advice re the syringe: "Just fill it with water and blast away." There are times and conditions when this is appropriate, but doing it too soon after an extraction can cause the dreaded "DRY SOCKET":

Dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a painful dental condition that can occur after extraction of a permanent adult tooth.

Dry socket occurs when the blood clot at the site of the tooth extraction has been dislodged or has dissolved before the wound has healed. Exposure of the underlying bone and nerves results in severe pain.

Dry socket is the most common complication following tooth extractions, such as the removal of impacted wisdom teeth. If dry socket occurs, the pain usually begins one to three days after the extraction.

Over-the-counter medications alone don't adequately treat dry socket pain. Therefore, your dentist or oral surgeon will initiate treatments to lessen pain and promote healing.

I had this happen once, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life--pain like you cannot imagine. If I had had a gun in the house, I definitely would have blown my head off to put an end to that pain. So no blasting water in there, please, til the dentist says it's sufficiently healed.

Jessamyn's teabag suggestion is spot on. The tannin in tea is a mild astringent, so this actually helps to reduce the swelling. Even better if you get the teabags really cold first.

Good luck!
posted by Corvid at 11:18 AM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Had one pulled last year, almost fully erupted; novocaine only. Felt odd but not painful. Took about 5 minutes. Some pain the next day or two. As Corvid said, be careful with that socket.
posted by jockc at 11:38 AM on July 20, 2011

I've done two now (the two more erupted ones, this spring). I read all the horror story posts on Metafilter and was freaking out a lot even though the procedure was quick, uncomplicated, and pretty painless. I did everything by the book to avoid dry socket, but then I caught some respiratory infection that was way, way worse than any amount of tooth pain, and managed to sneeze so hard that I dislodged one of the clots about 50 hours post-surgery in the middle of the night. That side was slightly more sensitive for a few days, but I had none of the awful things everyone talked about here. So I agree with Corvid that you shouldn't go squirting water up there, but if you do loosen a clot a few days in, it may not be as bad as you fear. Especially if the teeth are already erupted.

Oh, I also felt really really cold from the numbing agent (full body shivering, put on my wool coat, etc.), which I read happens in a fraction of people.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:00 PM on July 20, 2011

I had the whole 'conscious sedation' (i.e. twilight) deal when mine were removed, so I can't speak to the experience.

I did want to add that if you're getting at all nervous, you might call the office and ask if he can prescribe you a benzodiazepine (i.e. xanax, valium, etc) pill to take about an hour before the procedure. It should be very inexpensive and help you care about what's going on considerably less than you otherwise would during the procedure.

Also, I strongly recommend you follow whatever pain pill instructions he gives you religiously for at least the first 12 hours after the procedure. In my experience and the anecdotal experience of friends, it can be very difficult to re-establish adequate pain control once the local anesthetic wears off, compared to getting on top of the pain before that happens.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 12:21 PM on July 20, 2011

Seconding valium, and the earbuds. The noise is worse than the pain.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:23 PM on July 20, 2011

I just had my top wisdom teeth removed. i had general but mine were erupted.

Really not a lot of pain. Just make sure you do not use straws for about a week after. do not eat seeds or anything hard that can rupture the clot in the holes.

The pain for me was not bad .its the limited eating so you do not get dry rot which was the worst.

Also to be sure swish around salt water about every 2 hours and after every meal so yo ucan wash out the holes where the teeth where.

Since its a general pull you should really have limited pain only.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:25 PM on July 20, 2011

Ugh i mean dry socket lol
posted by majortom1981 at 1:26 PM on July 20, 2011

I had a dentist work on pulling a maxillary second molar for well over an hour, until he gave up and suggested I go to an oral surgeon to remove the rest of it along with my wisdom teeth. I staggered out, essentially beaten up, and went to the oral surgeon for an immediate consultation, but I guess in the sense that I could still walk and function it wasn't that bad. I went for general anesthesia with the oral surgeon, and that plus pain meds laid me up for a couple of days, though I'd still choose the general.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:35 PM on July 20, 2011

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