Removing Your Wisdom Teeth

Since the modern jaw is slimmer and our diet is less abrasive on our teeth, there is typically not enough room for the third molars when they are ready to erupt. Generally, if the wisdom teeth are not extracted by a dentist, they can become impacted. If a tooth becomes impacted, it’s unable to properly erupt the gums so it could cause an infection known as pericoronitis. Signs of an infected, impacted tooth include inflamed gums above the wisdom tooth, pain in your nearby teeth or ear, trouble opening your jaw and eating, as well as persistent bad breath. Although most individuals will need to get their wisdom teeth taken out to prevent impaction, some people are able to keep their wisdom teeth. The decision to keep or remove your wisdom teeth should be made along with your dentist.

When possible, patients should get their wisdom teeth removed while they are teenagers. If you wait until your twenties or even later, the wisdom teeth roots are firmly in the jawbone and are more difficult to remove. Even though not everyone will need to get their wisdom teeth removed, if you do, it’s better to take action while you’re younger. The extraction surgery is more difficult and the recovery usually takes longer in older patients. Hopefully, you are visiting your dentist in Columbus, OH for annual oral health exams with digital x-rays so they can monitor the development of your third molars and schedule an extraction as soon as it is needed. If you are not visiting a dentist for regular cleanings and exams, schedule an appointment if your teeth are shifting out of place, you have pain and swelling in your back molars, or a feeling of pressure in your lower face. These are signs that your wisdom teeth are trying to erupt and only your dentist will be able to decide if they have to be removed to prevent an impaction.

The wisdom teeth will be removed with a surgical tooth extraction technique if the teeth have not fully erupted from the gumline. In your consultative appointment, your dentist will discuss your sedation options based on your procedure and comfort level. Most patients are given intravenous (IV) sedation so they are asleep during the process, but others may receive a combination of local anesthesia to numb the gums plus nitrous oxide gas or oral-conscious medication. Whatever sedation method is selected, your team will make sure you are comfortable and relaxed before the procedure begins. To reach the tooth, your dentist will make a small incision in the gums above the third molars. The tooth will be removed with special tools and then the area will be washed before the dentist will use stitches to close the incision in the gums. The process is repeated until all four wisdom teeth are taken out.

At your initial consultation, your dentist should go over what to expect both during and after your extraction. It’s very important to listen to and follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions to avoid issues like an infection or dry socket. Depending on the type of anesthesia selected, you will probably need to have a friend or family member drive you home from your surgical extraction. You should plan to rest for at least the rest of the day, but a few days is usually advised. Most patients want to follow a soft food or liquid diet after their wisdom tooth extraction. It’s important not to use a straw, smoke or chew tobacco, or spit to avoid disturbing the blood clot that forms at the incision site. You must rinse out|] your mouth with warm saltwater for a few days before you get back to gently brushing your teeth. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics or pain relievers to help you heal after surgery. After a few days, your gums and teeth should look and feel much better, so contact your dentist if you have inflammation, a fever, pain, pus in the wound, or other concerns.

After your wisdom teeth are removed, they will not come back. Nevertheless, in a very small proportion of the population, there is a fourth set of molars that could develop. Also known as supernumerary teeth, these extra teeth develop in about 1 – 2 percent of people. If you do have extra molars or teeth, your dentist should be able to identify these with digital x-rays at your annual oral health examination. Depending on where the extra teeth develop, your dentist may recommend a surgical or simple extraction.