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Understanding Wisdom Teeth and the Need for Removal
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are located at the back corners of the mouth. They emerge later in life, typically between the ages of 17 to 25, when a person has reached full maturity and gained more wisdom (hence the name). While some people have properly aligned and functional wisdom teeth, many experience issues where these teeth become impacted or only partially emerge.
Impacted wisdom teeth occur when there isn’t enough space in the jaw or when they are positioned incorrectly. They can cause damage to neighboring teeth and create openings for bacteria to enter, potentially causing infections. This is why dentists often recommend removing problematic wisdom teeth.
Why Fasting is Required Before Surgery
Most wisdom tooth extractions are done under intravenous sedation or general anesthesia to ensure a painless procedure. To ensure your safety, dentists or oral surgeons will advise you to avoid eating or drinking for 6-8 hours before the surgery. Here’s why:
Preventing Vomiting and Aspiration
Under general anesthesia, the muscles in the throat and stomach relax, reducing the gag reflex that prevents vomit from flowing back up the esophagus. This poses a serious risk as stomach contents or vomit can accidentally be inhaled into the airway and lungs. By fasting before surgery, the stomach has enough time to empty, significantly reducing the risk of vomiting and potential aspiration.
Allowing for Proper Absorption of Anesthetic Gases
Some anesthetic gases are absorbed more efficiently on an empty stomach. Eating before surgery can delay the absorption and action of anesthesia gases, preventing them from taking full effect during the procedure. Fasting ensures anesthesia can be accurately calculated for optimal sensation loss.
Reducing Stomach Volume
When you consume food and liquids, the volume in your stomach increases. This requires higher doses of anesthesia medications. Fasting reduces the volume of stomach contents, allowing for more precise administration of anesthesia based on your weight and body size.
Preventing Delays or Cancellations
If a patient vomits during wisdom tooth surgery, the dentist may abort the procedure for their safety. Eating a full meal shortly before surgery increases the risk of aspiration if vomiting occurs once anesthesia is administered. By adhering to the fasting period, the chances of procedure delays or cancellations due to vomiting or aspiration are significantly reduced.
In summary, fasting before anesthesia minimizes risks, allows better drug absorption, improves anesthesia dosing calculations, and prevents delays or cancellations of wisdom tooth extraction procedures.
What Happens if You Eat or Drink Against Medical Advice?
Consuming any food, liquids, or medications shortly before surgery can jeopardize your safety. It can lead to risks and complications such as asphyxiation, aspiration pneumonia, delayed anesthesia, insufficient anesthesia, nausea and vomiting, prolonged recovery, throat spasms, tooth fragment aspiration, and increased bleeding. To avoid these dangers, it is crucial to strictly follow your dentist’s advice and consume nothing by mouth before your surgery.
Preparing for Surgery the Night Before
To prepare for your wisdom tooth extraction, make sure to finish eating and drinking at least 8 hours before your required arrival time at the oral surgery office. Avoid all alcohol for 24 hours prior to surgery as it can interact with anesthetic agents. Follow your normal facial care routine, take any prescribed medications, get enough sleep, and arrange for transportation to and from the surgery.
Pre-Operative Guidelines on the Morning of Surgery
On the morning of your surgery, refrain from eating any breakfast or consuming anything by mouth. Take only dentist-approved medications with a small sip of water. Brush and floss your teeth as usual, but be cautious not to swallow toothpaste or water. Dress comfortably, avoiding lotions, cosmetics, or fragrances that could interfere with the surgical site’s sterilization. Arrive early for necessary paperwork and notify the staff if you accidentally consume anything that morning. Expect an intravenous line for medication and fluids.
By following these guidelines and fasting overnight, you will arrive for your oral surgery with an empty stomach, ready to undergo anesthesia safely.
Recovery After Wisdom Tooth Removal
After your wisdom tooth extraction, here’s what you can expect during the initial recovery period:
- You will remain under observation in the dental office for 1-2 hours until the effects of anesthesia wear off.
- Your mouth and tongue may feel numb due to anesthetic agents, so be cautious not to unintentionally harm yourself.
- Bleeding from the surgical sites is normal and may persist for the first 24 hours.
- Facial swelling around the extraction sites is common and typically peaks on days 2-3 before gradually improving.
- Pain and discomfort in the mouth are normal during the healing process. Take prescribed pain relief medication as directed.
- Stick to a soft, lukewarm diet for the first 24-48 hours.
- Rinse your mouth with saltwater starting 24 hours after surgery, but avoid forceful spitting or swishing.
- Limit physical activity for at least 24 hours after anesthesia and avoid drinking with straws or rinsing forcefully.
- Schedule a follow-up visit if you experience excessive bleeding, worsening pain, or excessive swelling.
With proper post-operative care, your mouth and wisdom tooth extraction sites should heal within 7-10 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t I drink water before oral surgery?
Even water must be avoided for 8 hours before oral surgery to minimize the risk of aspiration if vomiting occurs during anesthesia. This precaution ensures that stomach contents are minimized.
Can I take my routine medications before surgery?
You may take prescribed medications such as heart or blood pressure pills at least two hours before surgery, with a small sip of water. However, check with your dentist to ensure the safety of your medications before your wisdom tooth extraction.
What if I accidentally eat or drink something the morning of surgery?
If you accidentally consume anything except approved medications, inform your oral surgeon’s office immediately. Your procedure may need to be postponed to ensure your safety.
Is it okay to brush my teeth before the extraction?
Yes, you may brush your teeth as usual to freshen your breath. However, try to avoid swallowing any toothpaste or water to lower oral bacteria levels before the surgical procedure.
Will I be completely unconscious during the surgery?
Depending on the type of anesthesia used, you may feel drowsy but remain responsive. With intravenous sedation, you are numb but not fully unconscious as with general anesthesia. Discuss your options with your dentist.