When you hear the phrase “I’m having my wisdom teeth removed,” you’re likely to listen to a few horror stories of how painful the experience was. However, wisdom teeth removal is very common. When you’re prepared, you can minimize your pre-surgery anxiety, as well as the potential for post-extraction complications and pain.
To clear things up, here’s everything you need to know about your wisdom tooth removal – before, during, and after your procedure.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are a set of four adult teeth located in the upper and lower corners of your mouth. Wisdom teeth usually grow between the ages of 17 and 24. Medically known as third molars, many adults do not have enough space in their mouth to accommodate these teeth.
But why do we have wisdom teeth? Most anthropologists theorize wisdom teeth were necessary for our caveman ancestors, who survived on a diet of raw roots, leaves, meat, and nuts. Through the course of our evolution, our modern jawlines are smaller and no longer accommodate these molars. In other words, modern humans no longer need their wisdom teeth.
Impacted vs. partially impacted wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth can develop in one of two ways: impacted or partially impacted. Impacted teeth are wisdom teeth that form in the mouth, but they do not break through the gums. Partially impacted wisdom teeth break through the gum. In both cases, these teeth typically grow at an angle (due to lack of proper space in the mouth). This can cause many problems, to include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Jaw joint problems such as clicking, jaw locking, headaches, etc.
- Trapped food, which can lead to decay
- Damage to the jawbone and nearby teeth
- Bacterial growth along the gum line of the partially impacted teeth may also be responsible for certain cardiac problems.
- Development of cyst around the wisdom tooth
How do I know when my wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Regular dental appointments, which include x-rays, will indicate whether or not your wisdom teeth are coming in. They will also help your dentist determine whether or not your jawline can accommodate your new wisdom teeth. When an impacted or partially impacted tooth causes pain or damage, the wisdom tooth (or teeth) will need to be removed. Be sure to make a dental appointment if you experience any of the following:
- Swollen or red gums
- Bleeding or tender gums
- Pain around the jaw or gums
- Swelling around the jaw
- Difficulty opening your mouth
Preparing for wisdom tooth surgery
Once it’s determined that you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist will schedule your oral surgery appointment. Depending on the complexity of the wisdom tooth extraction and your comfort level, your dentist will use one of three types of anesthesia:
- Local anesthesia: Your oral surgeon will inject local anesthesia near the extraction sites. Before you receive an injection, your dentist may apply a substance to your numb gums. With local anesthesia, you’ll be awake during the tooth extraction. Although you may feel some movement and pressure, you shouldn’t experience any pain. This is a common procedure that is applied in majority of the cases
- Sedation anesthesia: With sedation anesthesia, your oral surgeon will administer anesthesia through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. While sedation anesthesia suppresses your consciousness during the procedure, you will not be completely unconscious. However, you won’t feel any pain and will have a limited memory of the procedure. Your dentist may also administer local anesthesia to numb your gums.
- General anesthesia: For extreme cases, you may be offered general anesthesia. General anesthesia can be administered through your nose (as a gas) or through an IV in your arm. Under general anesthesia, you will lose consciousness. During this time, your surgical team will monitor your breathing and vitals. You will experience no pain and have no memory of the procedure.
Post wisdom tooth procedure
Your initial recovery time will be determined based on how many teeth you have removed and which type of anesthesia was used during your extraction. Once you go home, your recovery process will take between 5-15 days. During your recovery, you may experience pain, swollen gums, swollen cheeks, bruising along your jawline, and/or some minor bleeding. Your doctor may prescribe medication to manage your pain, and recommend ice packs to reduce the swelling. After surgery, you should stick to soft foods for the first few days while you continue to heal. You can eat solid foods once your pain subsides and you start to heal.
Although very rare, a dry socket can occur after your wisdom tooth removal. To help prevent a dry socket, avoid the following actions for at least two weeks after your surgery:
- Drinking from a straw
- Strenuous exercise
Dr. Tosun Dental Wisdom Tooth Extraction
At Dr. Tosun Dental, we strive to help our clients maintain their dental health by creating a safe and comfortable environment for their dental cleanings and procedures. Our experienced team of dental professionals leverages our experience with the latest dental practices to help create beautiful smiles.
Contact a member of our team to learn more.