Why have your wisdom teeth removed?
Wisdom teeth are your third molars, the last teeth to come in, usually appearing between age 17 and 25. Most people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which means your tooth is unable to fully enter your mouth. When wisdom teeth are impacted, they can cause problems.
The problem most people have with impacted wisdom teeth is that there isn't room for them to come into a healthy maintainable position. Often times, they can develop infections, periodontal disease and also cysts or tumors in the jaw bone. Sometimes they will exert pressure on the teeth in front of them, which can cause damage to those teeth and contribute to crowding.
Your surgeon will want to remove your wisdom teeth if it looks like they will create damage or if there are already problems associated with them. Not everyone has all of their wisdom teeth removed.
What happens when your wisdom teeth are removed?
You'll have an initial consultation, most likely with a specialist who treats impacted wisdom teeth. It's important to ask any questions you might have during this consultation.
You'll discuss the procedure and the type of anesthesia that will be used during your surgery. The main three options for wisdom teeth removal are local anesthesia in the form of an injection near the surgical site; sedation anesthesia, which is given to you through an IV in your arm; and general anesthesia, where you inhale medicine through your nose. If you're having all four teeth removed, you will most likely be put to sleep during the surgery. However, you likely won't be taken under deep enough to require breathing assistance.
The night before the procedure, you won't be allowed to eat anything after midnight. To begin the extraction, the medical team will give you anesthesia to make you fall asleep, if that's being used for your procedure. The surgeon will apply local anesthesia to numb the surgical areas of your mouth.
To remove the tooth, your surgeon will cut your gum and remove your tooth. Each surgeon has his or her own techniques, but generally, your tooth will be cut into sections and removed.
At the end of the procedure, your surgeon will sew up the area with some sutures, if necessary. Some surgeons use sutures that dissolve or fall out on their own. You'll have some gauze placed in your mouth to help stop the bleeding. If you're having four wisdom teeth removed, the procedure will take about 30 minutes.
Does it hurt?
During the procedure, you will most likely be asleep and should not feel any pain. Generally, you're sent home with a prescription for pain medication. Many patients switch to over-the-counter pain medicine after about two days. After about six days, you will most likely be off all pain medications.
What are the risk factors?
As with any surgery, there's a risk of bleeding and infection. After the procedure, you will take home an irrigation syringe to help you keep food out of the wound area. You will have to use the syringe to clean the area for one week to two weeks following the surgery.
Dry sockets can also occur when the blood clot that forms in the socket where the tooth was extracted either breaks down or doesn't form properly. Your doctor's office usually has medicine that can ease the aching pain dry sockets cause.
There's a slight risk that your surgeon can damage nerves beneath your teeth and cause a numb sensation in your lower lip, tongue or chin. This occurs in less than 1 percent of patients.
What's the recovery time?
You'll need to take it easy for about two days, and your doctor will likely recommend you not exercise or participate in strenuous activity for at least four days. Also, you'll be on a soft food diet for four or five days after the procedure.
What's the follow-up?
About a week after your surgery, your surgeon might want to see you briefly to ensure your extraction sites are healing well. This is a good time to ask any additional questions you might have.
Sources: Dr. Scott Searcey, Oral and Maxillofacial Associates; American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; Medline Plus; The Mayo Clinic