Wisdom teeth are located in the far back of your mouth. They are the last set of teeth to erupt and usually do so in your late teens or early twenties. Sometimes they are referred to as back or third molars.
Impacted wisdom teeth are horizontally aligned or angled. This causes them to come in misaligned. They can push on your other teeth or their roots, causing painful symptoms or even shifting in your teeth.
Standard wisdom tooth removal is not considered a dental emergency. However, if one or more of your wisdom teeth are impacted, they may be causing you severe pain or discomfort. In this case, you may need a dentist or oral surgeon to perform an emergency wisdom tooth removal.
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause several painful symptoms, including:
Wisdom teeth are not visible until they begin to erupt. That’s why annual x-rays are an essential aspect of your teen dental care check-ups. They allow your dentist to monitor the progress of your wisdom teeth eruption.
Wisdom teeth that partially erupt can cause a dental problem called pericoronitis. This condition is when there is gum tissue covering a portion of the tooth, trapping food and plaque debris. It leads to inflammation, severe pain, and can require antibiotics and an extraction to heal.
Some impacted wisdom teeth may partially erupt through your gums. Others may be very horizontally aligned and will never break through your gum tissue.
Not everyone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed. If your jawbone has enough room for them, and they are coming in straight, you may not need to have them extracted. However, in many cases, wisdom tooth eruption can be painful and cause damage to your adult teeth.
If this is the case, you will need oral surgery to remove your wisdom teeth. Your dentist should be able to tell you whether or not you will experience issues with your wisdom teeth based on a panoramic or 3D X-ray taken during your teenage years.
If you don’t remove impacted wisdom teeth, it can lead to long-term damage, including:
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth, you may be in need of emergency dental care. If your teeth are impacted, the oral surgeon will not be able to perform a simple extraction; they will need to perform a surgical extraction.
While methods and procedures will vary slightly depending on the practitioner, here’s what you should expect when you arrive at the dental office for an emergency wisdom tooth extraction:
After the procedure, you will begin to regain feeling from the anesthetic slowly. This is the most painful part of the experience but can be managed easily with over-the-counter or prescription pain medication. You may also receive antibiotics to prevent infection.
In the following days, it is normal to feel pain, swelling, and bleeding from your wounds. Pain typically ranges from mild to moderate and is rarely severe. The blood clots at the extraction site may get agitated or break. These symptoms typically last three to four days and sometimes up to a week. If they last longer than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.
Warm salt water rinses, as well as ice packs on your jaw, are simple and effective ways to help manage pain during the days following wisdom tooth extractions.
While you are recovering, it is important to refrain from spitting, drinking from a straw, and smoking. Any activity that requires you to suck could cause a dry socket — a painful oral health condition where the blood clots disappear and expose the bone beneath your wound.
You should also stick to eating soft foods such as smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, cottage cheese, or pudding in the days following the extraction. Avoid very hot or cold foods and liquids as well.
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