Wisdom teeth are the four permanent adult teeth at the back corners of your mouth. The most common reason for removing them is because they have the potential to cause pain, infection, and other dental problems if they don’t have enough room to grow and coexist with your other teeth. This is why it’s sometimes recommended to have your wisdom teeth removed even if they’re not causing any current issues. The surgical procedure, or extraction, can be performed by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt in the mouth, and usually do so between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop them, while some erupt normally without causing any problems.
Many people, however, end up with impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don’t have enough room to grow and develop normally. They may erupt only partially, or not at all and remain under the gums.
Common Growth Patterns Include:
- Growing at an angle toward the next tooth
- Growing at an angle toward the back of the mouth
- Growing at a right angle to the other teeth, resulting in the tooth “lying down” within the jaw bone
- Growing straight, but remaining trapped within the jaw bone
Common Problems Include:
- Food & debris becoming trapped behind the tooth
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Damage to nearby teeth or surrounding bone
- Development of cysts around the tooth
- Complications with treatments aimed to straighten other teeth
Why remove wisdom teeth if they aren’t causing any problems?
The main reason that many specialists recommend removing your wisdom teeth, even if they’re not causing you any pain or dental problems right now, is because it’s hard to predict whether future problems will arise. Some other reasons:
- Symptom-free wisdom teeth could still be affected by disease
- Wisdom teeth can be hard to reach and clean properly
- Serious wisdom tooth-related complications are less frequent in young adults – and it’s best to prevent them while you’re healthy
- Older adults may experience difficulty with and complications after surgery
How does wisdom tooth extraction work?
First, your dentist or oral surgeon will sedate you using some form of anesthesia so you don’t feel any pain or discomfort. Then, during extraction, your dentist will:
- Make an incision in your gum, exposing the tooth and bone
- Remove bone that blocks access to the root of the tooth
- Divide the tooth into sections (if it’s easier to remove in pieces rather than all at once)
- Remove the tooth
- Clean the site of the removed tooth
- Stitch the wound closed
- Place gauze over the extraction site to control bleeding and facilitate the formation of a blood clot
What happens after my wisdom teeth are removed?
After the procedure, most patients are led to a recovery room where they wait for the anesthesia to wear off. Your dentist or surgeon will then provide you with instructions for how to heal from your surgery.
Some common healing practices include:
- Avoiding excessive spitting so you don’t dislodge any blood clots
- Managing pain with over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Using ice packs to manage swelling or bruising
- Avoiding strenuous activities for at least a week
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, soda, and hot drinks during the first 24 hours after surgery
- Eating soft, soothing foods like applesauce or yogurt
The Bottom Line: Getting your wisdom teeth removed only takes one day for your procedure, plus a couple of weeks’ recovery time — but it’s well worth preventing a lifetime of pain, discomfort, infection, and other complications that can result from keeping them.
Want to learn more or schedule an appointment? Contact us today.