Today, wisdom teeth extractions are one of the most common dental procedures. Typically emerging in the late teenage to early adult years, wisdom teeth are a third set of molars in the back of your mouth. While some patients experience no issues when their wisdom teeth erupt, others require wisdom teeth removal. If your dentist has recommended wisdom teeth removal, continue reading to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after treatment.
Why is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?
Why do we have wisdom teeth, if they often need to be removed? Once essential for eating an early human diet of raw foods, wisdom teeth are no longer necessary and can even cause problems later in life. Common signs you need to get your wisdom teeth removed include swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, bad breath, or sensitivity or pain in the back of your mouth. Wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if:
- They’re impacted. An impacted tooth is a tooth that has been unable to break through the gum, either completely or partially. Impacted wisdom teeth pose the risk of becoming infected or decayed and damaging neighboring teeth. If the impacted wisdom tooth is causing problems or likely to cause future problems, then a dentist will usually recommend having it removed. Impacted teeth are usually only discovered through a routine x-ray at the dentist’s office since they are not visible.
- They come in at the wrong angle. Wisdom teeth can grow in at various angles, including horizontally. When your wisdom tooth erupts in the wrong direction or at the wrong angle, they can affect nearby teeth and cause discomfort or pain, in addition to being almost impossible to keep clean.
- Your mouth isn’t big enough. If there isn’t enough space in your mouth, your wisdom teeth may become impacted or cause crowding in the neighboring teeth as they come through. In this case, you likely will need to have all of your wisdom teeth removed.
- You are susceptible to cavities or gum disease. Wisdom teeth are more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease because they are difficult to clean being at the very back of your mouth. Wisdom teeth can also cause cavities that cannot be restored. Your dentist may recommend wisdom teeth removal if there isn’t enough room to properly clean your teeth.
What to Expect Before Wisdom Teeth Surgery
Before your surgery, you will meet with the oral surgeon to discuss the wisdom teeth removal process. He or she will answer any questions you have pertaining to tooth extraction and wisdom teeth recovery, as well as ask you about your medical history and current medications. Based on this conversation, your dentist will determine whether or not you are a good candidate for the surgery and what type of anesthesia he or she recommends.
When To Schedule Your Wisdom Teeth Surgery
The American Association for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) recommends that wisdom teeth are extracted before the roots are fully formed, typically between the ages of 14 and 20. We recommend scheduling your wisdom teeth removal during the summer months to allow for plenty of time to heal and rest. With no school or extracurricular activities, summer is a great season for teens and young adults to get their wisdom teeth removed.
What Happens During Wisdom Teeth Surgery
The Oral Surgeon will administer one of the following anesthesia methods to ensure you feel no pain:
- Local: Local anesthesia is a numbing medication that is injected directly into your mouth. It is typically used during a minor surgery that can be done quickly. This type of anesthesia allows you to be fully awake during the procedure. You will only feel pressure instead of pain during the procedure. This is usually only recommended for removal of one or two wisdom teeth that have either fully or partially come through.
- IV Sedation: This type of anesthesia is delivered through an intravenous line in your arm. IV sedation briefly suppresses your consciousness during wisdom teeth extraction. You will not feel any pain and will have a limited memory of the procedure. You will also receive local anesthesia so that when you wake up your mouth will feel numb. You may feel drowsy after the procedure so the doctor may recommend you have a driver to take you home.
- General: General anesthesia is often recommended for removal of all four wisdom teeth as it is more comfortable for the patient. You will be completely unconscious during the procedure but will also receive local anesthesia so that your mouth will feel numb when you wake up. This type of anesthesia will leave you feeling drowsy for a while so you will require a friend or family member to drive you home afterward.
What to Expect After the Surgery
Your doctor will provide you with specific information for proper aftercare, which may include things such as icing the site(s), using a special antibacterial mouth rinse and what types of food/drink you can have. Depending on the type of anesthesia you receive, you may feel groggy afterward and require someone to drive you home.
Wisdom Teeth Recovery
After wisdom tooth extraction, a blood clot forms in the hole in the bone where the tooth was removed. To prevent the clot from dislodging or dissolving, make sure to follow your doctor’s specific post-procedure instructions. For the average patient, here are some tips to speed up your recovery:
- Replace gauze pads after arriving home. Your surgeon will provide you with plenty of gauze to stop the bleeding. Try not to swap out the gauze until you arrive home as the more you disturb the extraction site, the longer it will take to heal. If bleeding continues once you are home, place new gauze over the extraction site and bite down gently for 30 minutes. When the bleeding subsides, you can remove the gauze.
- Keep your head elevated. This will help to minimize post-operative swelling.
- Apply ice to your cheeks next to the extraction site(s) regularly during the first 36 hours. This will help minimize swelling and discomfort.
- Rest for one to two days. After your surgery, plan to rest for the remainder of the day. During the first 24 hours, blood clots will form over your surgery site. It is important to rest during this time period to allow your body to heal. Most people fully recover from wisdom tooth surgery in three to four days.
- Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated or hot beverages in the first 24 hours.
- Stick to soft foods. For the first 3-5 days, start with soft foods such as pudding, applesauce, and smoothies. Avoid hard foods that require chewing. Hard foods pose a greater risk of disrupting your stitches.
- Do not drink from a straw. Forceful sucking can dislodge the blood clots that are needed for healing the site. If these are dislodged it can cause a painful condition called “dry socket”. For the first 2 weeks, drink directly from a glass.
- Avoid brushing, flossing, or rinsing your teeth for the first 24 hours. No vigorous rinsing or cleaning should be performed until 24 hours after your surgery. Be particularly careful to avoid irritating the surgical wound.
- Use a saltwater rinse. After 24 hours, you should begin rinsing your mouth 5-6 times a day with a cup of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of salt. Instead of spitting, let the rinse trickle out of your mouth. Spitting can dislodge the clot in your wisdom tooth extraction site.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery Time
Most people fully recover from wisdom tooth surgery in three to four days. However, it can take up to 2 weeks to recover from wisdom teeth removal. During this time, you may experience swelling and mild discomfort, which will gradually improve after your surgery.
Wisdom teeth removal is a safe and common procedure. If you still have your wisdom teeth and are not sure whether or not they need to be removed, talk to your dentist. He or she will be able to determine the position and health of your wisdom teeth and answer any questions you may have about wisdom teeth removal.