One of the most common dental procedures is wisdom teeth removal. Americans have as many as 10 million wisdom teeth removed each year, but the procedure itself remains a mystery for most of us. Today this article will cover all that you need to know about wisdom teeth removal, including what are wisdom teeth, how much it costs to have them extracted, and what recovery looks like. We will include some common questions around getting your wisdom teeth removed.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?Let’s begin by describing what wisdom teeth are and what role they play in the human jaw. These teeth are also known as the third molars, and typically are the last teeth to erupt, often between the ages of 17 and 21. Typically, a dentist will have evaluated the potential for the teeth to erupt when the child is 16. They are most commonly removed because the jaw is too small to fit four extra teeth. The question remains why do we have the teeth in the first place if there is no room in the jaw for them? Well, scientists believe that our ancestors would have needed them to process raw meat, leaves, roots, and nuts. But with the advent of cooking and cutlery, we are not relying on our teeth to process the food before digesting it. And so, we have begun to evolve to not needing wisdom teeth anymore. Some people are not even born with them.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?Wisdom teeth are often removed because they may cause problems down the road if left in the jaw. Sometimes they can cause great pain as they erupt, putting pressure on the other teeth in the mouth. However, they don’t always cause pain. They can get stuck or become impacted, and can’t break through the gums and into your mouth. As you age, your bones get harder so the teeth become harder to extract. Waiting to get them removed can cause complications with the surgery.
What Age Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?The standing recommendation by the American Dental Association is that people between the ages of 16 to 19 should have their wisdom teeth evaluated by a dentist to determine if they should be removed. There is no set age for removal, as it depends on many factors from the size of wisdom teeth to the angle they are coming in. Other important factors to consider include:
- Are they impacted? Impacted teeth can grow at odd angles, leading to greater problems.
- Is there crowding? When the teeth are too close together, they push against the other teeth. This can cause pain and lead to an infection caused by bacteria growing between crowded teeth.
- Are they causing pain? Pain or discomfort is a sure sign they will need to be removed.
Do Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Removed?Wisdom teeth need to be removed when the teeth can cause problems. X-rays can reveal potential future problems as the teeth advance. Some other reasons why wisdom teeth are removed include:
- Damage to other teeth: your teeth may become damaged from the extra pressure the wisdom teeth places on them.
- Jaw damage: cysts can form around the new teeth, potentially damaging the jaw.
- Sinus issues: pressure from the wisdom teeth can cause sinus pain, pressure, and congestion.
- Inflamed gums: Gum tissue around the are of the wisdom tooth can become inflamed and be hard to clean.
- Cavities: Swollen gums can create pockets for bacteria to grow in, creating cavities.
- Alignment: wisdom teeth can push other teeth out of alignment, crowding the teeth in the jaw.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Extracted?Most often wisdom teeth are extracted because the teeth will grow in and become impacted. This is where the tooth forms but does not erupt. Sometimes the teeth do not fully emerge and care called partially impacted. Many issues can arise from the impacted tooth, and most likely, the dentist will recommend wisdom tooth removal. Removing the impacted tooth can prevent:
- Tooth pain at the site
- Trapped food which can lead to tooth decay
- Damage to nearby teeth and gum tissue
- Jawbone damage
- Gum irritation
- Cysts or tumors near the tooth
- Shifting teeth
- Jaw and gum disease
Is Wisdom Teeth Extraction Painful? What is the procedure like?This is a common question and a source of hesitation for many people who have been told they need their wisdom teeth removed. The extraction is most often performed under local anesthesia. Alternative methods can be arranged with the oral surgeon before the procedure. This means that the procedure is not painful, as the area is anesthetized, or they will be under general anesthesia. However, after the surgery, most people do experience some pain. The amount of discomfort depends on the pain medication proscribed and the individual’s pain tolerance. Generally, most experience discomfort for three days after the procedure.
How Does the Tooth Extraction Work?The extraction is a kind of oral surgery in which the gums are cut to allow access to the wisdom teeth. The connective tissue that connects the wisdom tooth and the jaw is removed and then the wisdom tooth is removed and finally, the gums are sewn closed again. Sometimes the wisdom tooth may need to be cut into sections to be removed.
What Does Recovery Look Like?Recovery generally takes five to seven days for most patients. During that time you may experience:
- It is typical to see bleeding in the first 24 hours. You can control this by biting down on some gauze for 45 minutes.
- You can also expect some facial swelling, which can be relieved by applying a cold pack or some ice to the area for ten minutes and then remove for 20 minutes.
- Stitches may need to be removed if they were used in the procedure. Talk with your dentist about whether or not you need to return for removal. In many cases, dentists will use self-dissolving stitches that do not require removal.
- Consider using over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. The dentist may proscribe a stronger pain reliever.
- Do not rinse your mouth for 24 hours after the surgery. Then gently rinse with salt water after meals and at bedtime. Continue the saltwater rinses for five days after wisdom teeth removal.
- Eat a liquid diet for a few days after the extraction. Pudding, applesauce, and mashed potatoes are great options.
- Brush and floss normally, avoiding the extraction site.