Getting your wisdom teeth removed can be worrying – but it doesn’t have to be. The wisdom teeth removal is a pretty common, so it’s very much a routine procedure for a dental professional. It is also a mostly painless procedure; recovery is only slightly painful and usually quick. Knowing what the procedure is for, and what to expect, will help you get through it quickly and comfortably.
When Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?
Contrary to popular belief, everyone has wisdom teeth come in, though not everyone needs to have them removed.
What is a wisdom tooth exactly? It is the third molar in line (and furthest in the back of your mouth) in each of your four quadrants of teeth – upper left and upper right, lower left and lower right. Wisdom teeth are late to the game compared with the rest of your teeth, appearing typically between the ages of 17 and 25. While there are warning signs that a wisdom tooth may be causing trouble (which we’ll discuss shortly), you’ll most likely become aware of a wisdom tooth that needs removal through regular trips to your dentist.
The Purpose of Wisdom Teeth Removal
Even though everyone has wisdom teeth, only some people will need to have them removed. This might be needed when:
- They’ve come in at a wrong angle and press against your other teeth.
- Your mouth isn’t big enough for a third set of molars.
- You’ve developed cavities or gum disease because you haven’t been able to reach your wisdom teeth with brushing and flossing.
- They’re impacted due to their location so far back in your mouth.
Impacted wisdom teeth deserve some special mention. Specifically, “impacted” means that your wisdom teeth have become trapped in your jawbone or gums. This situation can produce pain, bad breath, bad taste, pain when moving your jawbone, and/or swelling of the gums. These are the warning signs that can appear in between trips to the dentist.
DO NOT IGNORE ANY OF THESE WARNINGS. Don’t think, “Oh, it’ll be fine; I’m seeing my dentist in three months anyway.” An impacted tooth can quickly lead to cavities, infection or worse. If you sense any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Are Bad Wisdom Teeth Handled By My Regular Dentist?
Your dentist will probably want to confirm potential wisdom tooth problems with an X-ray. If that doesn’t reveal a problem, he or she may recommend that you see a specialist for further X-rays.
Whether the first or second set of X-rays detect an issue, a specialist – usually an orthodontist – will take over at this point. When you meet with the specialist to discuss the process of wisdom teeth removal, it’s important, to be honest:
- Share any health problems you have.
- List any drugs you take on a regular basis.
- Ask questions about the surgery.
- Ask about anesthesia types; you can either be numb or asleep during your surgery.
Depending on how bad the problem is, the specialist may suggest having your wisdom teeth removed. During the removal of your wisdom teeth, your orthodontist or oral surgeon may have to cut your gums or bone to get the teeth out. This will likely require stitches, which will dissolve in a few days. Your doctor might also use extra gauze pads in your mouth to soak up blood; if so, don’t be alarmed – this, too, is common.
Recovery After Your Tooth Removal
Will I be able to get myself home after surgery? If you had a local anesthetic and feel alert, you should be able to drive home yourself. However, if you had general anesthesia or still feel drowsy, you’ll need someone to drive you home. Best to bring a friend.
How much pain will I have after the surgery? You’ll have just a little pain if any at all, though you may have slight swelling and mild discomfort for two or three days. Depending on the invasiveness of the procedure, your mouth may need up to a few weeks to completely heal. And at least for the first few days of recovery, some of your favorite foods that require a strong bite may have to be put on hold!
Key Takeaways to Remember
- Use an ice pack on your face to curb swelling or skin color changes.
- Use moist heat for a sore jaw.
- Gently open and close your mouth to exercise your jaw.
- Eat soft foods like pasta, rice, or soup.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Brush your teeth starting the second day, and don’t brush against any blood clots.
- Take the drugs your doctor prescribes to ease pain or swelling.
- Call your doctor if you have a fever, or if your pain or swelling doesn’t improve.
- Don’t drink through a straw; sucking may loosen blood clots that help your mouth heal.
- Don’t rinse your mouth too harshly; rinse gently with salt water.
- Don’t eat hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may scratch your wounds.
- Don’t smoke; it will slow your healing.
Remember: The better you follow doctor’s instructions, the sooner you’ll recover. Always feel free to contact a Happy Tooth professional with any questions about your wisdom teeth before or after a procedure – we’re here to take the worry out of eliminating your wisdom tooth pain.