What You Need to Know about Wisdom Teeth Surgery
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 9 out of 10 people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth that needs extraction. Since the removal of wisdom teeth is considered oral surgery (a very common, safe, and routine outpatient procedure), it’s natural to have questions. Here is everything you need to know about getting your wisdom teeth removed.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that usually begin to erupt between the ages of 16 and 26. These molars are the flatter teeth in the back of the mouth used to grind down food and are often the last permanent teeth to erupt. Most people will get four (two on the top and two on the bottom) that come in behind the first and second sets of molars. Though uncommon, some people can have less or more than four, or never develop any at all.
Wisdom teeth are commonly considered an evolutionary carryover from when early humans needed more teeth. They are no longer necessary for normal, healthy oral function.
Can you have 5 wisdom teeth?
Yes, crazy as it seems there are a few that have more than four. Less than 5% of the population has 5 wisdom teeth and while not an immediate cause for concern, your dentist should monitor this situation to assess whether and when an extraction may be needed. Having more wisdom teeth not only makes cleaning more difficult but can increase your chances of tooth decay, jaw pain, overcrowding, and misalignment of your existing teeth.
Why are they called wisdom teeth?
We don’t know for sure. A common explanation is that the moniker refers to the fact that these teeth erupt when a child is older and, presumably, wiser.
When do most people get their wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth can typically be seen via X-ray when the patient is about 12 and the teeth are still below the gum line. It’s not until ages 17 and 25 years old that wisdom teeth erupt.
What are impacted wisdom teeth?
When a tooth is impacted, it is essentially trapped beneath the gum line and can’t erupt, or break through the gums. If they can’t erupt properly, then they can’t move into the correct position and may cause problems to the jaw and the adjacent teeth. Wisdom teeth are the most common type of teeth to become impacted. This is primarily because they erupt so late when the jaw and facial structure are almost fully developed. Since our mouths and jaws have evolved to function without the need for wisdom teeth, there simply isn’t any room for them. When your jaw can’t accommodate these extra teeth, they get stuck under the gums and can create pressure and pain.
Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 85% of wisdom teeth will need to be removed.
The American Dental Association recommends wisdom teeth removal if they:
- Cause crowding of other teeth
- Move other teeth and make them crooked
- Grow in sideways or in another undesirable position (often tilted forward)
- Only partially erupt
- Create jaw pain
- Experience frequent tooth decay or infections (food and bacteria can get trapped when wisdom teeth only partially erupt, and their location can make them difficult to care for)
- Don’t have room to erupt (the average human mouth can accommodate 28 to 32 teeth)
- Are impacted
On rare occasions, cysts (a fluid-filled sac) or tumors can form in the soft tissue around wisdom teeth that can cause damage to the jaw and surrounding teeth.
Does everyone need to get their wisdom teeth removed?
No. If wisdom teeth grow in completely and remain free from cavities and pain, they don’t need to be removed. They also don’t need to be removed if they remain unerupted without causing problems. However, they will still need to be monitored at regular exams, dental cleanings, and through X-rays to be sure there aren’t changes.
What if I don’t want to get my wisdom teeth removed?
As with any other extraction or oral procedure, your dentist is usually recommending it because it’s necessary for your oral health. Even healthy, fully erupted wisdom teeth can be difficult to care for and are more susceptible to cavities and decay. Partially erupted, impacted, or infected wisdom teeth can cause a host of problems for your oral and overall health. If you are adamant that you do not want your wisdom teeth removed, it’s important to discuss it with your dentist and make sure you understand the risks. It’s also important to ensure you maintain good oral health, including routine dental checkups, cleanings, and x-rays, so your dentist can monitor your wisdom teeth for any problems that may develop.
If most people get them removed, why do we have wisdom teeth anyway?
Third molars were likely more useful to our ancestors for eating, helping them withstand the excessive wear to teeth from a diet that consisted of leaves, roots, raw meats, and nuts. With the advent of modern eating utensils that help cut food and because we cook a lot of our food (which makes it softer), we don’t need the same chewing power that was once required. Additionally, the human jaw has gotten smaller over evolutionary history. Many believe we have outgrown our need for wisdom teeth (similar to our appendix) and our bodies have yet to adapt.
What You Need to Know About Wisdom Teeth Surgery
Is wisdom teeth removal considered surgery?
Wisdom teeth removal is often considered oral surgery, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an oral surgeon has to perform the procedure. Surgery is required for any wisdom teeth that cannot be removed via simple extraction because an incision needs to be made in the gumline to access the tooth. Surgical wisdom teeth extraction will also require local anesthetic and possibly general anesthesia, while simple extractions can be done with an anesthetic injection.
Is it normal to get only one wisdom tooth removed?
If you have a wisdom tooth that’s causing you problems, but your other wisdom teeth are healthy, it’s possible to have only one wisdom tooth removed. However, because of the nature of the procedure and the high probability of wisdom teeth causing future problems, most dentists will recommend getting them all out at once.
How do dentists know wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Your dental provider will need to perform an oral exam and review X-rays to determine if it’s time for some or all of your wisdom teeth to be removed. This happens throughout regular dental exams.
A dentist will usually decide wisdom teeth need to be removed if they are:
- Causing pain or other problems in the mouth
- Impacted or infected
- Damaged or broken below the gumline
- Only partially erupted
Who is qualified to remove wisdom teeth?
A professional dentist trained in wisdom teeth extraction or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is qualified to remove wisdom teeth.
How much will it cost to remove wisdom teeth?
The cost depends on each situation. For example, some people might only have one wisdom tooth extracted and may only need local anesthesia while another has five impacted teeth and needs to go under general anesthesia. Many dental insurance plans will cover some portion of this surgery and many dental offices offer payment plans.
When should people have wisdom teeth surgery?
Since people who have oral surgery after age 35 tend to have more complications, longer recovery times, and more challenging surgeries, it’s usually recommended that wisdom teeth come out when roots are about two-thirds formed. This typically occurs when people are 15 to 18 years old. Those in their late teens or early 20s often find wisdom teeth surgery easier than those who are older.
Am I too old to have wisdom teeth surgery?
If you still have your wisdom teeth and you are past your teens, your dental professional might still recommend extraction if they are causing you pain or other problems with your oral health.
What does wisdom teeth surgery entail?
Wisdom teeth surgery is an outpatient procedure that can be very important to ensure the long-term health of your teeth and mouth. Depending on your needs, your provider will numb the area with a local anesthetic. If you are having more than one wisdom tooth extracted or suffer from severe anxiety, you may be given an additional form of sedation. If you do have general anesthesia, your provider will request that you don’t eat or drink anything past midnight the night before your procedure. The actual surgery typically lasts around 45 minutes, but the entire process can take several hours to include your check-in and post-surgery assessments.
To remove your wisdom teeth, the dentist will open the gum tissue above the tooth and take out any bone that’s covering it, and remove it. The hole will be sutured with dissolvable stitches, then the dentist will place a cotton gauze pad over the socket to help stop the bleeding and allow a blood clot to form. You will have a piece of folded cotton gauze pad in your mouth that you will bite on to stop the bleeding.
What You Need to Know About Wisdom Teeth Surgery Recovery
When it comes to wisdom teeth removal, recovery is just as important as the procedure. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you recover well and as quickly as possible.
What should I expect after wisdom teeth surgery?
After your wisdom teeth are removed, you will likely have some pain and swelling, as well as possible bruising and some bleeding. It can take up to a week to feel completely back to normal, but everyone responds differently. Your dental professional will either give you a prescription for pain medicine or advise you on over-the-counter pain relief suggestions. Take it easy for the next 24 to 72 hours.
What are some tips to help recover from wisdom tooth surgery?
- Keep biting gently on your gauze pads until the bleeding stops. Replace a gauze pad when it becomes soaked with blood. Bleeding should stop within 24 hours. Call your dental professional if it doesn’t.
- Since your mouth will be numb at first, be careful that you do not bite your cheek, lip, or tongue.
- Prop your head with pillows; lying flat can prolong the bleeding.
- Ice packs can reduce swelling. For the first 24 hours, you can apply an ice pack to your cheeks or jaw for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
- Do not use a straw for two to three days! This can delay healing and cause a dry socket.
- You can rinse your mouth with warm salt water after 24 hours. Doing this several times a day can help reduce swelling and promote healing.
- Do not BRUSH your teeth for the first 24 hours. Yes, that’s probably the only time your dentist will give you a pass on brushing and flossing.
What should you eat after wisdom teeth surgery?
A soft diet is recommended after wisdom teeth surgery. Here are some suggestions:
- Mashed potatoes
- Broth-based soup (but nothing too hot)
- Instant oatmeal
- Soft-serve ice cream
Avoid these foods after wisdom teeth surgery:
- Crunchy, chewy, or spicy foods for at least a week
- Acidic foods
- Solid foods
- Alcohol and coffee for the first 24 hours
What are dry sockets?
A dry socket is a painful inflammation that can develop in the open tooth socket of the jawbone after a tooth has been extracted. Although it can happen when any tooth is removed, it’s most common with the removal of wisdom teeth.
What causes dry sockets?
When the blood clot is dislodged or disintegrates from the extraction site, bone and nerve endings can be exposed and can cause a dry socket. Typically, dry sockets cause intense pain that can extend up to the ear, they can smell bad and the pain can last several days.
Women suffer from dry sockets more than men. The culprit is believed to be the estrogen hormone. Women who take birth control pills are twice as likely to get dry sockets as those who don’t. To avoid developing a dry socket, women who take birth control pills should schedule surgery at the end of their menstrual cycle (days 23 to 28).
How do you treat dry sockets?
Contact your dental professional if you suspect a dry socket. If they determine you do have a dry socket, they will often place a medicated gauze pad or paste into the socket, prescribe an antibiotic to get rid of the infection and give you more pain medicine.
Safe, Affordable Wisdom Teeth Removal at Bright Now! Dental
From cleanings and root canals to braces and bridges, Bright Now! Dental provides quality, comprehensive dental care for everyone in your family, including wisdom teeth removal. With multiple locations, plenty of payment and financing options, and a staff of warm, welcoming professionals, Bright Now! Dental makes it easy, convenient, and affordable for you to achieve your best smile possible.
If you or your child are concerned about wisdom teeth, find the location nearest you and schedule a no-obligation consultation. We’ll help you take care of your teeth today for a healthier tomorrow!