Also known as the third molars, wisdom teeth typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25. It’s true that you are probably a bit wiser when these teeth erupt, since they come much later than your other teeth.
However, wisdom teeth are often problematic. For this reason, your dentist may recommend they be removed, or extracted. This is a relatively common procedure here in the U.S., where over five million patients had over 10 million wisdom teeth extracted last year alone. It is a routine procedure here at the Case Dental Group.
But why remove wisdom teeth in the first place? And what should you expect from this procedure?
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?
Your dentist may recommend extracting wisdom teeth due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Impacted teeth. If wisdom teeth are impacted, they erupt horizontally instead of vertically. Impacted teeth may harm adjacent teeth and/or surrounding bone.
- Crowding. If the jaw is too small to accommodate the new teeth, complications will arise.
- Partial eruption. This situation increases the risk of bacterial infection.
- Oral cyst. When wisdom teeth erupt, they may cause a cyst to form, leading to infection or injury.
Your dentist will administer a thorough examination and series of diagnostic tests to determine the risk for the aforementioned conditions. He or she will then discuss the pros and cons of extraction in detain, helping you to determine if extraction is the best course of action.
The Extraction Procedure
If your wisdom teeth will be removed, your dentist or oral surgeon will perform the procedure. For single tooth extractions, a local anesthetic may be administered to prevent pain. In the case of a multiple extraction (which is the more common of the two), a patient may receive general anesthetic or undergo conscious sedation.
If impacted, your dentist may need to open the gum tissue to extract the tooth. After carefully and gently removing the tooth, he or she will suture the gum. After resting briefly in the office, you may go home; however, it is advisable that a friend or family member drive you home due to anesthesia.
Following the Procedure
You will need to stay home for a few days, to give your mouth the opportunity to recover. Make sure to get the proper rest. Your dentist may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to control swelling and reduce pain. You should expect continued minor bleeding at the extraction site for the first day or two; you will receive a supply of gauze pads to help soak up the fluids. Additionally, you may find that resting with the head in an elevated position helps control bleeding. Holding a cold pack against the outside of the cheek may further reduce swelling.
For the first few days following extraction, you may want to stick to soft foods. Take special care to keep the mouth as clean as possible; rinsing your mouth with warm salt water helps keep the wound clean.