Extraction of wisdom teeth can be less painful

New knowledge about more effective pain relief can make extraction of wisdom teeth a less painful process. This is what a new PhD study from the department of dentistry at Aarhus University shows.

[Translate to English:] Tandlæge, ph.d.-studerende Jennifer Christensen.
[Translate to English:] Tandlæge, ph.d.-studerende Jennifer Christensen har forsket i smertelindring ved udtrækning af visdomstænder.

Having your wisdom teeth removed can be a lengthy and painful experience. For some people, the very prospect of the torment in the dentists chair can be enough to make them opt out of the procedure. Even though the wisdom teeth can cause problems if they remain in place.

But now there is good news for these patients from the research into pain management for tooth extraction.

A PhD study at the department of dentistry shows that a specific type of anaesthetic combined with a so-called steroid drug can reduce pain and swelling after extraction. Popularly speaking, steroids dampen the body’s reaction after e.g. an operation or tooth extraction. The vast majority of people who have wisdom teeth removed will experience pain and swelling for several days afterwards.

The PhD study shows that patients who were treated with steroids and an anaesthetic that was effective for an extended period of time, experienced less pain and reduced swelling up to three days after the operation. By comparison, patients who had only received an ordinary anaesthetic and no steroid were in pain for a longer period of time and experienced a greater degree of swelling. 

Good for those with a nervous disposition

The results of the PhD project, which is one of the largest of its kind with a total 126 patients, should not however lead to steroids being introduced as routine treatment in dental clinics. This is according to dentist and PhD student Jennifer Christensen, who is behind the project.

The disadvantages of treatment using steroids is that the body’s own immune system can be impeded and the healing of wounds may take longer. That is why you should be wary of treatment using steroids over a longer period of time, according to Jennifer Christensen.

“With the study we have shown that steroids can have a beneficial effect and that this can be particularly important for the patients who are very nervous about pain following an extraction, or patients who will, for one reason or another, be very bothered by any swelling. Here it may be helpful to offer steroids together with an anaesthetic that works for an extended period of time,” says Jennifer Christensen.

“The greatest advantage is to give dentists greater scope for pain management and thus give patients greater peace of mind when they have to have a wisdom tooth removed,” says Jennifer Christensen.

Facts about the project

All 126 patients in the study had two wisdom teeth removed. The patients were divided into four groups, which were treated with various combinations of anaesthetics and steroids. After the removal of the teeth, patients were required to register the degree of pain and swelling.

Part of the study was also to test the use of thermography, which can be described as a localised heat dispersion. Assessing the degree of heat dispersion after extraction of the wisdom teeth also says something about the body’s reaction.

The PhD project ‘Reduction of the consequences following surgical removal of the mandibular third molars evaluated with the use of thermography and patient-reporting methods’ is supported by the Calcin Foundation, Aarhus University Research Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive A/S.


Further information

Dentist, PhD student Jennifer Christensen

Aarhus University, Department of Dentistry

Mobile: +45 6128 3116 

E-mail: jennifer.heather.christensen@odontologi.au.dk