At some point, typically during your late teens or early twenties, your dentist or oral surgeon will likely have a conversation with you about getting your wisdom teeth removed. Our four outermost molars (the third molars) are the last to come in, and quite often there isn’t room in the jawline to accommodate them. As a result, they can cause a variety of complications, impacted teeth, pericoronitis, severe infections, tooth pain, and overcrowding/misalignment of other teeth. Some patients have their wisdom teeth removed because they are already experiencing symptoms; for others, the dentist may recommend extraction as a preventative measure, or because it will provide more benefit to the other teeth.
While wisdom tooth extraction is quite common, it is still a surgical procedure, and as such it’s best to be as informed as possible before deciding if extraction is right for you. The following patient’s guide should help.
Do You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed, and Why?
Contrary to many people’s presumptions, not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. For some people, their wisdom teeth emerge in their proper place and without complications; for others, their teeth don’t emerge but also don’t cause any complications. A small percentage of people don’t get their wisdom teeth. So the first question is whether you need your wisdom teeth removed at all — and if so, why?
As a general rule, if you’re experiencing no complications and your X-rays don’t show any signs of possible issues, your dentist might take a wait-and-see approach. That said, there are a few telltale signals that suggest wisdom tooth extraction is a good idea:
- You’re already experiencing complications — for example, infections, gum disease, cysts, etc.
- Your other teeth start shifting due to pressure from the wisdom teeth.
- Your wisdom teeth are unable to emerge or to emerge fully.
- You have a history of oral complications in your family.
Performing the Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Once you and your oral surgeon have determined you’re a good candidate for wisdom tooth extraction, what happens next?
Depending on the circumstances, your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend removing wisdom teeth in two sessions, one for each side of the mouth. If the situation is more acute, it may be recommended to remove all four at once. In either case, you’ll want to prepare for surgery beforehand by avoiding foods for about 12 hours prior and scheduling a ride home, as you may not be in a condition to drive afterward. In some cases, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia — at other times, the surgeon will use a combination of local anesthesia and sedation. The procedure itself is usually straightforward, and barring any complications should take an hour or two, depending on how many teeth are being removed. Read here for more information on the procedure itself.
What to Expect During Wisdom Teeth Extraction Recovery
As with any surgery, you’ll have a bit of post-operative recovery time afterward. You can expect a bit of pain and swelling at the extraction site. You need to keep the wound areas clean and watch for infection. You may have to avoid solid foods for a time.
Recovery times vary according to every situation, but most patients begin resuming normal routines within a few days. Click here for some tips on how to accelerate your recovery time.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Complications to Watch For
Infection and dry socket are the two most common complications that may occur after wisdom tooth extraction. If you experience severe pain, inflammation and/or fever, during recovery, talk to your surgeon, as these may be signs of infection. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot protecting the extraction site either fails to form or gets dislodged, exposing the nerves and causing severe pain usually lasting about a week. If you experience the symptoms of dry socket, see your dentist for treatment to help with healing and avoid further complications. Click here for some tips on preventing dry sockets.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction for Older Adults
On occasion, wisdom teeth may wait until later in life to emerge, or they may not cause complications for years after emerging. Wisdom tooth extraction is generally as safe for older adults as it is for young people, but recovery times may take a bit longer, and your dentist may monitor the patient more closely for signs of complications. If you’re an older adult facing wisdom tooth extraction, here’s a bit more about what you need to know.
Wisdom tooth extraction is for most people a minor life interruption, but most enjoy better oral health after the procedure is performed. To learn more about whether wisdom tooth extraction is right for you, call Riverside Oral Facial Surgery at (706) 235-5570.