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Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also referred to as the “third molars”, are as important as other teeth, but more prone to problems during their eruption (breaking through the gum tissue). Since wisdom teeth are the last to erupt — usually between the ages of 17 and 21 — there often is little room left in the mouth.

As a result, wisdom teeth may erupt sideways, only partially, or become trapped (impacted), leading to pain, infection, and gum line and facial swelling. When any of these conditions arise, your dentist may determine that wisdom tooth extraction is necessary.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom teeth removal is a fairly common oral surgery. However, the removal of wisdom teeth prior to eruption involves a surgical procedure that is far from a simple tooth extraction. Some general dentists have the skill required to remove impacted or un-erupted wisdom teeth, though most people require the services of an oral surgeon. In fact, many patients prefer to be asleep or heavily sedated for the procedure. Thus, dentists performing wisdom teeth removal must have the equipment and skill necessary to sedate or provide general anesthesia to patients.

The risks involved with extracting a wisdom tooth include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Persistent sinus opening
  • Lower lip numbness

Dentists are keenly aware of the disadvantages of keeping wisdom teeth, some of which include the potential shifting of surrounding teeth, jaw pain and interruptions with normal sinus functionality. Yet, the decision to extract is your dentist’s.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction Recovery

Wisdom tooth extraction recovery takes approximately five to seven days, with the gum area being fully healed in approximately three to four weeks. If the jaw is damaged during tooth extraction, full recovery may take up to six months.

Once you have undergone the surgical extraction procedure, there are several steps to take to ensure proper healing and recovery from the procedure.

During the first 24 hours after wisdom teeth removal, you can expect some bleeding. To control bleeding, a moist, clean piece of gauze can be placed over the extraction site. Biting pressure applied for 45 minutes should stop the bleeding.

A teabag also is an effective alternative to gauze to prevent bleeding, with the added benefit of tannic acid, which assists in clot formation. If heavy bleeding occurs for an extended time, contact your oral surgeon or dentist.

Stitches may be used during your procedure if the wisdom tooth is impacted and must be removed from under the surface of the gum line. If the stitches are not self-dissolving, they will need to be removed postoperatively. Your dental surgeon will discuss with you whether or not you need to return to the dental office to have them removed.

Facial swelling also is expected after wisdom tooth extraction. To relieve swelling, wrap ice in a cloth and apply it to the swollen facial area. Ice should be applied for 10 minutes and removed for 20 minutes, then repeated. This cycle can be repeated as often as necessary during the first 24 hours following wisdom teeth removal.

For pain and discomfort caused by the extraction, over the counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used. Your dental surgeon may prescribe prescription pain relievers, if necessary. Antibiotics also may be prescribed prior to the procedure to clear any infections of the tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth. After extraction, it is important to continue taking the medication to prevent any further or additional infection.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction Aftercare

Post-extraction, it also is necessary to maintain proper oral hygiene, as well as follow these recommendations:

  • Do not rinse your mouth for the first 24 hours immediately following a tooth extraction.
  • Stick to a soft or liquid diet (milk, ice cream, mashed potatoes, pudding) the day of and the day after a tooth extraction, gradually progressing to eating other easy-to-chew foods. Chew with teeth that are far from the extraction site.
  • Brush and floss the other teeth as usual, but avoid the teeth and gum next to the extraction socket.
  • After the first 24 hours, gently rinse the socket with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water) after meals and before bed. Repeat this process for at least five days following extraction.