Wisdom tooth extraction — no one looks forward to it. Though a dental surgery can seem scary, it’s an experience most young people go through to prevent discomfort and protect their smile. Understanding what will happen and knowing what to expect can help you feel better about the procedure in general. Here’s everything you need to know about what wisdom tooth extraction is, why it’s important, and what you can expect to experience before, during, and after the procedure.
What are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are molars that grow in the back of your mouth on the top and bottom jaws. They don’t typically develop until you’re between 17-24 years old, hence the name “wisdom teeth,” because they take time to mature. By the time you’re a teenager or young adult, your mouth is already full of mature teeth, so there isn’t much space for new ones to grow in. Problems with wisdom teeth occur when they push their way into your mouth anyway.
If you start to have symptoms from your wisdom teeth coming in, dentists will likely recommend wisdom tooth extraction. They may suggest removal even before symptoms appear if they notice them in dental X rays and predict future discomfort.
Why Wisdom Tooth Extraction is Necessary
When wisdom teeth push their way in they can erupt fully or partially and crowd your other teeth, pushing them around in uncomfortable ways. If you’ve already had orthodontic work done, wisdom teeth can threaten expensive and time-consuming progress.
Sometimes, the tooth can get stuck without appearing above the gums at all, or come out partially at an angle. This is called an impacted or partially impacted wisdom tooth. Both can cause extreme discomfort and lead to other dental problems if food or bacteria gets trapped around the impacted tooth, causing decay. An erupting tooth can damage the jawbone or other teeth, or cysts can form which swell and make it painful to eat or open your mouth.
To avoid all of these potential issues, the best and easiest solution is often to have the wisdom tooth extracted before it becomes a problem.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Procedure
If you experience gum pain or swelling, or pain when you open your mouth, it could be because your wisdom teeth are coming in. Your dentist might recommend wisdom tooth extraction to alleviate your pain, or advise extraction before any symptoms are present if the teeth appear threatening.
What You’ll Experience
The wisdom tooth extraction procedure is simple and pain-free using local or general anaesthesia. The whole process only takes a few hours and then you’re onto recovery — a cinch compared to the potential pain if you were to let the wisdom teeth grow in. When you wake up, you might feel disoriented and groggy, so you’ll want to bring someone with you to help you home to rest.
When the wisdom tooth extraction is underway, the surgeon will make an incision into the gum tissue to expose the bone. If necessary, they may cut into the bone to reach the full tooth, and then remove the tooth and root, as well as any debris in the area. Once the tooth is out, they will clean the area and stitch it closed to allow for faster healing, and place gauze to help blood clot naturally.
After Your Wisdom Tooth Extraction
After your appointment, you’ll need a little time to rest up at home. The recovery process is different for everyone. Some people experience little swelling and are back to normal activities in a day or two, while others take longer to get back to their routine. Most can expect from a few days up to a week of discomfort with some pain and swelling around the cheeks.
For at least a few days, it’s best to eat soft foods like soups, fruit smoothies, yogurt, and ice cream. It’s important to drink plenty of water and stay away from hot liquids and drinks like coffee, alcohol, and carbonated sodas for at least 24 hours. You should also avoid spicy foods and anything crunchy or chewy for a little while.
Every few hours and after all meals, use a warm saltwater rinse to gently clean the mouth. You won’t brush your teeth right after the procedure, but can begin gently brushing again after 24 hours. You might experience swelling and bruising of the cheeks, which you can manage with ice packs. For pain, take medication as prescribed by your surgeon or manage with over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Aspirin. Your pain level will vary depending on the severity of the procedure and your individual pain tolerance.
During recovery, it’s very important to protect the wisdom tooth extraction area. You should avoid spitting, using a straw, heavy exercise or sport, and smoking for a few days to a week. This is because the area where the extraction occurred will be very sensitive and protected by a blood clot where the bone was exposed. If this area is damaged, and the blood clot removed, the area will be open to bacteria and infection. To prevent this, be sure to follow your dentist’s recommendations for care after surgery.
If you experience more pain, excessive bleeding, excessive or long-lasting numbness, fever, or swelling that gets worse contact your dentist or surgeon.
Why a Wisdom Tooth Extraction Procedure is Worth It
After about a week, you’ll be back to your normal diet and routine. Your stitches will dissolve on their own or you’ll have an appointment to have them removed once the area is healed. While you should still take care of the sensitive area, you can add back in chewy foods as you’re ready. Recovery from wisdom tooth extraction is not always fun — despite all the ice cream you have an excuse to eat — but it’s worth it to save yourself from the potential discomfort and pain if the teeth had been allowed to come in and cause problems.
All in all, the wisdom tooth extraction procedure is a short moment in your life that could save you a lot of pain in the future. You can think about having your wisdom teeth taken out as a rite of passage, a story you can share well into adulthood. By enduring the procedure, you will protect your teeth and your health, and have a bonus anecdote to tell your friends.
Time to have those wisdom teeth looked at? Schedule your appointment with Creason, Weber & Mountford today. We can take a look, identify which teeth might be causing you pain, and recommend the best maxillofacial surgeon for you. Give us a call at 616-842-0822 or reach out to us online today.