Your wisdom teeth are the third row of molars that grow in when you’re a late teen or young adult.
Often, there’s not enough room in your mouth for wisdom teeth to grow in properly. They may be impacted and cause irritation. Impacted wisdom teeth require removal by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
Removing wisdom teeth is typically done as an outpatient procedure. It can require a range of anesthesia techniques to reduce pain.
You may need a type of anesthesia where you lose consciousness. You can experience confusion as you “wake up” after the procedure with this type of anesthesia.
It may be difficult to control your behavior, but this loss of control should not last long. It’s likely your dental team will make sure your behavior is generally under control before you go home.
Sometimes people can experience delirium, which can take days or longer to recover from. This most often happens in older adults. You’re most likely to get your wisdom teeth removed as a teen or younger adult, so this side effect is less frequent.
Anesthesia that impacts your conscious state affects your central nervous system.
Your medical team will determine the type of anesthesia you need on an individual basis. Factors that influence your procedure include the position of your wisdom teeth, your age, and your health history.
Wisdom teeth removal could include one or more types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia numbs the area where the procedure will occur. You will stay awake and alert. You will receive an injection in your mouth where the oral surgeon will remove your wisdom teeth. The area will lose feeling while the surgeon operates. You may feel itching, pressure, or soreness.
- Conscious sedation is a type of anesthesia that involves sedatives. It’s also called monitored anesthesia care or twilight. Sedatives help you relax and can make you drowsy. The medical team may give you pain relievers or local anesthesia, too. You may be mildly conscious and able to talk a bit. Some people, however, don’t know what’s happening around them. You will receive this anesthesia through an IV, mask, injection, or oral pill.
- General anesthesia involves going into a coma-like state. It’s like being asleep. You will not be aware of what’s happening around you or feel pain. You will receive this type through an IV or mask. The surgeon will monitor you throughout the procedure and adjust medications as needed so you don’t wake up. It’s likely you’ll have no memory of the procedure.
The drugs used to put you into an unconscious state can take some time to wear off, even as you become more awake after the procedure. You may experience:
- uncoordinated movements
- lack of control of what you say
- blurry vision
- memory problems
These side effects should be temporary.
Side effects not related to your behavior may include:
- difficulty urinating
- nausea or vomiting
Wisdom teeth removal is a surgical procedure, but it does not take a long time. This means you’ll be exposed to less anesthesia than someone having a much longer and more invasive surgery. The entire process from start to finish lasts just a few hours.
It may take 1 to 2 days to fully regain all your thinking abilities. In some cases, you can experience postoperative delirium. This can cause you to feel “out of it” for a longer period of time and may require a hospital stay.
You are more at risk of postoperative delirium if you’re an older adult and have health conditions related to your heart, motor functions, or memory. You may also experience it if you’ve had a stroke.
Your doctor may also give you a local anesthetic for the procedure. This will cause your mouth to feel numb for up to several hours after the procedure. This medication does not affect your behavior.
Conscious sedation and general anesthesia can affect your short-term memory. You may not remember anything you say or do during the procedure or immediately after it.
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This means the anesthesia affects reference memory less than working memory. Researchers also found that older adults were more likely to struggle with memory a day after anesthesia than younger adults.
You may have little control over your behavior immediately after wisdom teeth surgery. The medical team will not disclose what you say as you recover.
Here are some things you can do to handle the effects of anesthesia after getting your wisdom teeth removed:
- Ask a trusted person to drive you home from the procedure who understands that your behavior is out of your control while you recover.
- Give yourself plenty of time to recover on the day of the procedure. Rest and stay in a quiet and calm environment.
- Avoid alcohol for 1 to 2 days after the procedure.
- Avoid driving for 1 to 2 days after the procedure.
- Wait a few days to sign any legally binding contracts.
- Put on glasses or hearing aids as soon as possible after your procedure, if you use them.
- Keep familiar things around you, such as photographs or favorite objects.
Your doctor or dentist may also give you more specific postoperative directions depending on the type of anesthesia they give to you.
You may not be able to control your behavior immediately after getting your wisdom teeth removed. This is because of the anesthesia used during the procedure.
However, this will last just a short time as you recover. If you experience extended confusion, contact your doctor.