Some people never develop wisdom teeth; those that do typically find they erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. No matter when they erupt, your dentist might flag your wisdom teeth for removal for a number of reasons, including impaction (meaning the teeth get trapped in the jawbone or gums), misalignment, tight spacing, and/or decay.
If your dentist has suggested that you or your teenager have your wisdom teeth removed, there’s no need to panic. While wisdom tooth removal does qualify as surgery, it’s safely performed every day in offices around the country. Here’s what you need to know about this routine dental procedure.
We hope you enjoy this blog, but please remember, it should NOT take the place of advice and consultation from a qualified dental professional (like the team at Rifkin Dental!). Please don't use content on the internet to self-diagnose — see your dental professional for regular check-ups and if you suspect you might have a chronic or acute dental issue.
Before surgery, you’ll meet with your oral surgeon and make post-op plans.
Before your wisdom teeth are removed, your dentist will most likely refer you to an oral surgeon. (In some cases, your dentist may be able to remove the wisdom teeth on their own.)
No matter whether the procedure will be performed by your regular dentist or an oral surgeon, you’ll start with a pre-surgery appointment. During this appointment, the surgeon will ask you about your medical history, discuss the process for your surgery, and answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
You’ll also schedule and make plans for your surgery appointment. Enlist a friend or family member to drive you home from the appointment, and plan to take at least the rest of the day off work. (Even better if you can take off work for a few days while you heal.) In almost all cases, wisdom tooth removals are performed as outpatient procedures—meaning you should get to go home the same day as your surgery.
During surgery, you’ll be numbed up and shouldn’t feel any pain.
Once you arrive at the office for your surgery, a staff member will take you to the exam room and help you get comfortable. They’ll walk you through the process once more and then get you situated with anesthesia. (During your pre-surgery appointment, you and your oral surgeon will discuss what type of anesthesia you’ll receive.)
Depending on your specific situation, you may receive any of the following types of anesthesia:
·General anesthesia, which will ensure that you’re completely under during the whole procedure
·Local anesthesia, which involves numbing the gums with a shot of Novocaine. Your oral surgeon may also provide you with nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) to help you relax. In this case, you’ll still be awake during the procedure
·Sedation anesthesia, which combines IV sedation with local anesthesia to help you relax. This combination may even put you to sleep during the procedure
Once you’re all numbed up, the oral surgeon will set to work removing your wisdom teeth. At this point, you may feel some pressing or tugging sensations (if you’re awake), but you shouldn’t feel any pain.
In some cases, your surgeon may need to cut into your gums or jawbone in order to remove your wisdom teeth. If this happens, they’ll most likely insert dissolvable stitches to help with healing. They may also pack the wounds with gauze.
All told, most wisdom teeth removals take less than an hour.
After surgery, it’s important to follow your surgeon's’ orders.
After the surgeon has removed your wisdom teeth, they’ll let you rest until you’ve woken up from anesthesia and/or until you feel ready to get up. Then your driver can take you home.
Most people experience some swelling or discomfort in the first few days after surgery, and it generally takes a few weeks for complete healing to occur. The speed at which your mouth heals is strongly influenced by how closely you follow your surgeons’ post-surgery guidelines, so do your best to follow these rules to a “T”. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind post-surgery:
·Plan to take it easy for the rest of the day after your surgery. Also, avoid strenuous physical activity for the first few days or so after your surgery, as high-impact activities may dislodge the blood clots from their sockets
·Plan to eat soft foods such as soup, yogurt, applesauce, rice, and so on for the first few days after your procedure. Introduce slightly firmer foods as you feel ready
·Remember to stay hydrated in the days and weeks following your surgery; this will support your body’s natural healing abilities. Try to avoid hot beverages (or foods) for at least the first day or so after your surgery
·Follow the brushing schedule your surgeon outlines (you may be told to not brush for a short period following the procedure).
·To avoid dreaded dry socket (a painful condition in which the blood clot(s) is dislodged, thereby exposing bone and nerves), don’t drink through a straw, spit, smoke, rinse your mouth aggressively, or eat hard or sticky foods while your mouth is still healing
·Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience excessive bleeding, a fever, severe pain, swelling that gets worse after a few days, persistent numbness around the sockets, and/or difficulty breathing or swallowing
While wisdom tooth removal may be less appealing than, say, seeing your favorite band in concert, the good news is that it’s a routine procedure, though every case is different and it’s incredibly important to listen to your medical professional’s specific advice. More good news? It gives you an excuse to sit around in your PJs and binge all your favorite shows on Netflix.