What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars—there are usually 4, but you can have 1, 2, 3, or none—that come in normally in your late teens or early-to-mid twenties. They are located at the very back of the mouth on the top and bottom.
The reason why wisdom teeth grow in at all is because our ancient human ancestors needed the extra teeth for their diet, which consisted of raw, difficult-to-tear foods. These foods no longer make up our primary diet, but our bodies have not quite caught up to that change, so most of us still grow wisdom teeth when we reach adulthood.
Why Get Your Wisdom Teeth Out?
There are a number of reasons why you should consider getting your wisdom teeth out. Some people find that their wisdom teeth grow in straight and have enough room in the mouth so that they do not cause any issues, however it is more likely that wisdom teeth will cause some difficulties and many people find that having them extracted is the best option. Here are some of the most common reasons why we recommend our patients have their wisdom teeth removed.
Getting wisdom teeth out early in life as a preventative measure ensures they won’t cause you problems later in life and the extraction process is usually easier at a younger age because the tooth roots are not fully developed.
If they grow in sideways or are otherwise hard to reach, it can make brushing your wisdom teeth very difficult or impossible so they will get cavities and cause oral health problems such as gum disease.
Wisdom teeth sometimes become impacted in the jaw, which can cause pain, swelling, and infection.
If they don’t have enough room, wisdom teeth can push against other teeth and cause misalignment.
Fluid-filled cysts can form around wisdom teeth within the jawbone.
Paresthesia is bruising of the nerves that causes a numb feeling in the cheeks, lips, or tongue. The numbness can last a few days to a few months or even, in rare cases, be permanent. Paresthesia is not a common side effect of wisdom tooth extraction, but it does happen from time to time.
Dry socket, which is a painful inflammation of the socket area where the wisdom tooth was removed, is fairly common after wisdom teeth removal surgery. Dry socket is more likely to occur in women who are on birth control medication. If you are a woman taking hormonal contraceptive pills, try to schedule your wisdom tooth removal surgery towards the end of your cycle, around day 23-28. This reduces your risk of dry socket.
The use of general anesthetic always comes with some risks. Your dentist will let you know what the risks are and what your options are in terms of anesthetic/sedation. Usually, we recommend the use of local anaesthesia for wisdom-tooth extraction, but ultimately this decision will be dependant on your anxiety surrounding the surgery and your comfort level with sedation methods.
Wisdom Tooth Removal Process at Tsawwassen Family Dental
Before having your wisdom teeth removed, you will need to come in for an evaluation. At this appointment, we will conduct an oral examination and take x-rays of your mouth so that our oral surgeons can assess the position of your wisdom teeth and determine whether they are currently causing problems or are likely to do so in the future.
Fully erupted wisdom teeth can be extracted the same way as other teeth. This is easier than extracting a wisdom tooth that is impacted or not completely erupted, so sometimes your dentist will advise you to wait for a wisdom tooth to grow in fully before having it removed.
Wisdom teeth that are impacted or embedded in the jawbone and beneath the gums are a bit more complicated to remove. Your dentist will need to make an incision in the gum and then remove the piece of jawbone that is overtop of the tooth. It is common to remove the tooth in small sections at a time as opposed to all at once in this situation in order to minimize the amount of bone that needs to be removed in order to make room for the extraction.
At Tsawwassen Family Dental, wisdom-teeth removal is usually performed under oral sedation and local anesthesia. Once the teeth have been extracted, the gum is sutured back up. We will then place some gauze in your mouth and ask you to bite down on it to help control bleeding. After the procedure, you will rest under our supervision until you are ready to go home. When you leave, you will be provided with a postoperative kit that includes instructions for recovery, a prescription for pain medication, antibiotics, and a follow-up appointment for the following week if needed.
Recovery After Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Full recovery after having your wisdom teeth out usually only takes a few days, but it can take less or more time depending on the individual. Immediately after your wisdom tooth extraction, it is normal to have some bleeding. After 24 hours or so blood clots will form, stopping the bleeding.
You will experience swelling of the mouth and cheeks as well as some stiffness or soreness in the jaw. These normally all improve after a week or so, but it is different for everyone.
If you have remaining stitches that need to be removed, your dentist can do so once your mouth has mostly healed, usually after about 7 days.
Your dentist will give you individual instructions on how to help the healing process along, but there are a few basics that apply to most everyone during their recovery. It’s essential to keep the area clean by rinsing with warm water regularly. An antiseptic mouthwash is also recommended. You should also stick to only liquids and soft foods such as pudding, broth, mashed bananas, and soft noodles until the socket is healed. We will send you home with a postoperative kit and detailed instructions after your wisdom-teeth extraction to help you have the best recovery possible.