Did you know that up to 5 million Americans undergo wisdom teeth extraction each year? If your dentist has recommended that you have your wisdom teeth removed, you may have additional questions regarding the procedure. Keep reading for more information about wisdom teeth, wisdom tooth extraction, and caring for your mouth before, during, and after the procedure.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are third molars that erupt many years after an individual’s adult teeth have come in, typically between the ages of 17 and 25. They are also the last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth.
Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
Most people have four wisdom teeth at the back of their mouth: two on top and two on the bottom. However, not everyone has this set of third molars and wisdom teeth do not always erupt even when they are present. In rare cases, a patient can have more than four wisdom teeth, which can cause teeth to become impacted beneath the gum tissue.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth are often a problem because most people’s jaws are not large enough to accommodate these additional molars. This means that the molars may come in sideways, or, if there isn’t enough room for them to erupt at all, they may become impacted. If left in the mouth, wisdom teeth may crowd other molars, damage neighboring teeth, cause bite problems, and make oral hygiene more difficult, leading to cavities and gum disease.
How to Know if Wisdom Teeth Are Coming In
While the experience of wisdom teeth coming in is a minor irritation for most people, symptoms can worsen and may require professional attention. Common symptoms of wisdom tooth eruption include:
- Irritation in Gums: you may notice slight irritation in the gums behind your second molars.
- Jaw Aches and Pains: wisdom teeth often cause a dull ache near the back of the jaw, or put pressure on nerves around the eyes and ears.
- Redness or Swelling: you may notice that your gums turn red or dark pink as your wisdom teeth begin to emerge.
Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth do not have enough room to emerge normally, which may result in pain, damage to neighboring teeth, gum disease, and other dental problems. Impacted wisdom teeth may partially emerge so that the crown of the tooth is visible, or they may never break through the gums. If you do experience any pain, bleeding, or swelling, it’s important to contact your dentist right away. Symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Jaw pain or swelling
- Bad breath
- Difficulty opening your mouth
Do I Have to Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Not everybody needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. However, dentists generally recommend removing these molars as early as possible, as it is easier to do so when the root system is less established. If you are receiving regular dental checkups, your dentist can let you know whether extraction is in your best interests.
How Do I Prepare for Wisdom Teeth Extraction?
When scheduling your appointment, be sure to pay attention to any pre-extraction instructions given to you by the dental office staff. For example, you may be asked to not eat or drink anything for a period of time before the procedure if you will be undergoing sedation or general anesthesia.
You’ll need time to recover from the procedure, at least a day or two, so you’ll want to schedule time off from work and arrange for childcare. Stock up on soft foods that you can consume during the healing period. In addition, you may want to prepare an area of your home where you can go to rest immediately after the procedure.
Talk to your dentist about your wisdom teeth pain relief options. At a minimum, local anesthesia in the form of injections at the site of your tooth will be used. In addition, you may be offered sedation or a general anesthetic if you are nervous about the procedure or you are having several molars removed at once. If you receive sedation or general anesthesia, you will need to arrange to have somebody accompany you to your appointment, as it is not safe for you to drive.
Finally, if you have any medical conditions, talk to your dentist. This is particularly true if you take other medications or have a heart condition. Your dentist may want to coordinate with your physician to ensure that sedation or anesthesia does not conflict with any drugs that you are currently taking. In addition, you may need to take an antibiotic before the extraction.
What Should I Expect at my Extraction Appointment?
In most cases, extraction is performed on an outpatient basis. This means that the procedure will take place at your dentist office and you will go home soon after the removal of your tooth or teeth. If you have health problems or your teeth are severely impacted, you may have to be admitted to the hospital for the extraction.
On the day of your procedure, you may need to take provided sedation medication before you go to your dentist office. After your arrival, you may also be able to listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts during the procedure.
Afterward, the dental office staff will monitor your condition and let you know when it is safe to go home. You will be provided with aftercare instructions along with a list of symptoms that may indicate complications. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your dentist right away.
For more information on what to expect before, during, and after your wisdom teeth extraction, click here.
What is the Average Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery Time?
For many people, the first 24 hours after wisdom teeth removal are the most difficult. You may feel groggy from the sedation, and you may experience some pain and swelling. Swelling often peaks at around 24 hours post-extraction.
Be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions regarding consuming foods and beverages. In addition, it is important to protect the socket where your wisdom tooth was. Do not brush your teeth or spit during this time, as this could dislodge the blood clot that is forming in the socket. If this happens, you can develop a painful condition called dry socket that requires professional attention.
Many people can return to work after a day or so, but it is important to take it easy and not do anything that could dislodge the blood clot. Discomfort may last up to two weeks, though it should taper off significantly after the first few days of recovery.
What is a Dry Socket?
After a tooth extraction, a blood clot forms at the site to protect the wound. This clot can dislodge, dissolve, or fail to form, which results in a dry socket that leaves bone, tissue, and nerve endings exposed. Dry socket is an uncomfortable dental condition that can delay healing. It can also cause searing or cold-like nerve pain that gets significantly worse over time.
Will a Dry Socket Heal on Its Own?
Always be sure to follow up with your dentist to ensure your dry socket heals properly. He or she will clean the site, apply medicated gauze, and prescribe pain medications, depending on your pain levels. While a dry socket is painful, it will typically heal within seven days, unless food particles or debris enter the extraction site and delay the healing process.
Many people have concerns and anxiety about wisdom teeth removal. The dentists at Gentle Dental are experienced in modern techniques that relieve pain and keep recovery time to a minimum. If you are concerned about your wisdom teeth, or those of your teenage or college-age child, contact our office today. You can find your nearest Gentle Dental location here. We offer convenient evening and weekend appointments and accept most insurance, credit cards, dental plans, and offer financing options.