Wisdom teeth are types of molars found in the very back of your mouth. They usually appear in the late teens or early twenties, but may become impacted (fail to erupt) due to lack of room in the jaw or angle of entry. When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may need to be removed. If it is not removed, you may develop gum tenderness, swelling, or even severe pain. Impacted wisdom teeth that are partially or fully erupted tend to be quite difficult to clean and are susceptible to tooth decay, recurring infections, and even gum disease.
Wisdom teeth are typically removed in the late teens or early twenties because there is a greater chance that the teeth’s roots have not fully formed and the bone surrounding the teeth is less dense. These two factors can make extraction easier as well as shorten the recovery time.
In order to remove a wisdom tooth, your dentist first needs to numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Since the impacted tooth may still be under the gums and embedded in your jaw bone, your dentist will need to remove a portion of the covering bone to extract the tooth. In order to minimize the amount of bone that is removed with the tooth, your dentist will often “section” your wisdom tooth so that each piece can be removed through a small opening in the bone. Once your wisdom teeth have been extracted, the healing process begins. Depending on the degree of difficulty related to the extraction, healing time varies. Your dentist will share with you what to expect and provide instructions for a comfortable, efficient healing process.
Did you know…
that wisdom teeth may need to be removed even if they have not yet caused any problems? Even wisdom teeth that erupt normally may still be vulnerable to decay over time. Because of the location of wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth, many patients find it difficult to clean and floss all surfaces of the teeth each day. Although complications may not appear immediately, wisdom teeth may begin causing problems in middle to late adulthood.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need my wisdom teeth removed?
You may need your wisdom teeth removed if you have one or more impacted wisdom teeth or if you are having difficulty adequately cleaning those that have emerged. It is recommended that all young adults be evaluated by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. A consultation and x-ray can reveal impaction, damage to neighboring teeth, signs of decay, gum disease, or perceived complications with future wisdom tooth eruption.
What should I expect during a wisdom teeth removal?
Your wisdom teeth removal will likely be performed in your oral surgeon’s office. Most removals take only minutes to perform, but you’ll be under anesthesia or sedation to prevent discomfort. Once the teeth are removed, the gums are sutured shut. Keep in mind that you will need a responsible driver to take you home following the extraction, as it will not be safe for you to drive after being heavily sedated.
Will I need to follow any special instructions following my wisdom teeth removal procedure?
Yes. You’ll need to keep the extraction site clean and free of debris for the first couple of weeks after the wisdom teeth removal. You’ll also need to take all medications exactly as prescribed by your surgeon. Avoid sucking through a straw for the first several days after surgery, and notify your surgeon if you experience fever or discomfort that worsens after a few days.