Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the final teeth to erupt in the back of the mouth. They typically appear between the ages of 17 and 21. If wisdom teeth come in correctly, they can help with functions like chewing. However, more often than not, wisdom teeth are misaligned or impacted. In many cases, there is simply not enough space for wisdom teeth to erupt in the jaw. To prevent damage to adjacent teeth, many doctors recommend removing wisdom teeth before they become a problem. Read through these wisdom tooth FAQs to find out whether you should consider extraction.
To prevent damage to adjacent teeth, many doctors recommend removing wisdom teeth before they become a problem.
Wisdom teeth do not always need to be removed. In some patients, they fully erupt and become a healthy, functioning part of the smile. In others, wisdom teeth are partially or fully impacted. To be classified as impacted, a tooth must be trapped within soft or hard tissue. Impacted teeth can cause a number of short- and long-term issues. When a tooth is partially impacted, bacteria can accumulate and cause infection. Impacted wisdom teeth may also damage nearby teeth. If your doctors determines that your wisdom teeth are problematic or may become so in the future, you may be a candidate for extraction.
General dentists can sometimes perform simple wisdom tooth extractions. However, patients with impacted teeth may need to visit an oral surgeon. A specialist is fully equipped to perform complex surgery with minimal risks. Specialists are also more likely to offer more forms of sedation. The most common and reliable options are nitrous oxide, oral sedation, or intravenous (IV) medication.
In most cases, younger patients are able to tolerate surgery better and heal faster. By removing wisdom teeth early on, you can prevent potential complications in the future. It is also easier to remove teeth before the roots have fully developed, as it decreases the likelihood of nerve damage.
The treatment process will depend on whether the tooth is impacted or not. To remove an impacted tooth, an oral surgeon must create an incision in the gums to access the jaw. Soft or hard tissue above the tooth will be removed, and the tooth will be carefully lifted from its socket. In some cases, the tooth may be removed in sections to avoid impacting the surrounding area. The incision is then closed with sutures.
A simple tooth removal does not involve incisions. Your dentist can gently rock the tooth back and forth until it becomes loose enough to remove entirely.
Recovery from wisdom tooth extraction usually takes about seven to 10 days. The length of recovery often depends on the complexity of your procedure, as well as the number of wisdom teeth removed. Most surgeons prefer to extract all wisdom teeth in one visit, though sometimes, removal is performed in phases.
It is common to experience swelling, soreness, bruising, and bleeding after surgery. You may also find it difficult to open and close your mouth. Your doctor will usually prescribe pain medication to take for the first few days, and you may also be asked to take an antibiotic to prevent infection. You can take anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling, and apply ice to the face for 20-minute increments. For the first 24 to 48 hours, you should avoid using a straw or blowing your nose, as this can dislodge the blood clot.
After wisdom tooth extraction, a blood clot will form at the site of surgery. This clot serves to protect the surgical site while it heals. If the blood clot becomes dislodged, the underlying bone and nerve are exposed. This is known as a dry socket. A dry socket will appear white instead of red, and it is often extremely painful. You should contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms.
Although nerve damage is rare after wisdom tooth extraction, it is a possible complication of surgery. The likelihood of nerve damage increases with age, which is why many doctors recommend undergoing treatment early on. If you experience any numbness in the area surrounding the surgical site, you should report it to your surgeon or dentist.