In this article
Wisdom teeth extraction is an invasive yet often necessary procedure that most people undergo during their teen years. While the procedure is often quick and painless, it’s important to know what to expect during and after removal.
Wisdom teeth (third molars) are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth. They come in behind the 12-year-molars (second molars) about 5 to 9 years later.
Some people are born without wisdom teeth, while others have extra. But most people have four wisdom teeth in total. Wisdom teeth removal is the surgical extraction of these teeth.
People typically get their wisdom teeth removed between ages 16 and 20 because they don’t have space to grow in properly. Wisdom teeth can grow in at various angles, even horizontally, when the jaw isn’t large enough for them to erupt naturally.
Whether your wisdom teeth have emerged or are hiding under your gums, they will often cause oral issues.
If your wisdom teeth are trapped or impacted under the gums, they can cause infections, cysts, and/or damage the surrounding teeth and bone.
If your wisdom teeth have partially emerged, you may have difficulty cleaning the area. This area can become a hot spot for bacteria, oral infection, and gum disease.
Finally, wisdom teeth removal is important because it helps avoid crowding. Most of the time, wisdom teeth don’t grow in straight. This means your other teeth may start to become crooked.
For some people, wisdom teeth extractions are necessary. This is due to a few reasons:
If a wisdom tooth partially erupted through the gums, a serious oral infection or gum disease can develop. These teeth are hard to clean and brush, making them more prone to bacteria buildup and decay.
If a wisdom tooth cannot erupt, it will become trapped under your gums. A cyst or infection can develop if it is not removed. Damage to the roots of the nearest tooth can also occur.
An infected wisdom tooth can cause further damage to surrounding teeth. Symptoms of this include:
Typically, wisdom teeth removal consists of three parts:
A local anesthetic (lidocaine) is administered, which numbs the surgical area.
It may be used by itself or with nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral premedication with an anxiolytic, or I.V. sedation. The surgery does not start until it is in full effect.
People do not feel any pain during the procedure.
During the surgical extraction, the dentist cuts the gingiva (gums) surrounding each tooth with a scalpel.
The gums are peeled back from the underlying bone using surgical instruments. The dental nurse draws the soft tissues back and uses high-speed suction to keep the area clean and dry.
Next, the dentist removes the entire tooth, root pieces, and excess bone.
Once this step is complete, the socket is examined for any remaining fragments that need to be removed and is then closed up. The entire procedure takes 30 minutes or less.
Once the extraction is complete, the gum tissue may be sutured back into place to cover the underlying bone and promote healing. Not all surgeons use stitches.
You will bite on gauze or a bite pack directly after the procedure to ensure the sockets are isolated and help stop bleeding.
Antibiotics, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to prevent infection and manage postoperative pain.
Aftercare tips include:
The surgery often causes swelling, pain, and minor bleeding during the first week. Bruising and swelling of the facial region, such as the cheeks and chin, are also common.
Avoid strenuous activity for a week post-surgery. Everything should heal within 2 to 3 weeks.
The following stages usually occur during the healing process:
Only soft foods should be ingested during the first 2 days post-procedure, such as smoothies, soups, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs.
People should also refrain from using straws after surgery to reduce the chance of a dry socket forming. Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, or hot or carbonated beverages for at least a week.
To relieve pain after the surgery, your dentist may recommend taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen). Or, they may prescribe you a prescription pain reliever. This includes:
Ice packs are also provided to reduce swelling and bruising of the facial region.
Refrain from smoking for one week after surgery to prevent dry socket formation.
Brushing, spitting, and rinsing the mouth are not recommended during the first 24 hours after surgery. However, your doctor may recommend gently rinsing your mouth with saltwater between meals.
Do not touch your stitches. Most extraction stitches dissolve on their own within 7 to 10 days. Your oral surgeon will let you know if non-dissolvable stitches were used.
After your wisdom tooth extraction, it’s important to follow guidelines to ensure you don’t run into issues. Until your mouth has healed after your extraction, do not:
There are some risks associated with wisdom teeth removal, including:
A simple wisdom tooth extraction (non-impacted wisdom teeth) usually costs $75 to $200 per tooth.
For impacted wisdom teeth, you can expect to pay around $225 to $600 per tooth.
If the procedure is medically necessary, most dental insurance plans cover up to half the cost of wisdom teeth removal. Dental plans are usually capped at $1,000 to $1,500 annually.
If your doctor administers anesthesia and sedation before the procedure, you will not feel anything during the surgery. However, you will experience minor discomfort, swelling, and bleeding for a week or two post-op.
A dry socket (alveolar osteitis) is a painful dental condition that occurs in only 2 to 5 percent of people. Dry sockets happen after a tooth is removed when a blood clot does not form to protect the underlying bone, tissues, and nerve.
In rare cases, a dry socket may form within 3 to 5 days of surgery due to smoking, drinking through a straw, or spitting, which results in the exposure of the bone and nerves.
Severe pain, bad breath, and a bad taste in the mouth are common symptoms.
The types of dentists who can safely remove wisdom teeth are oral and maxillofacial surgeons, periodontists, and general dentists.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are qualified to use deeper levels of sedation. For these reasons, they are recommended if a person is at a higher risk for serious complications or prefers I.V. sedation.
Periodontists are also surgeons qualified to use deeper levels of sedation and can also extract wisdom teeth.
General dentists also perform wisdom teeth extractions. However, most general dentists can’t use higher levels of sedation when removing wisdom teeth.
Some people do not require wisdom teeth removal. This is because some people are born without third molars or have less than four of them.
In addition, wisdom teeth removal may not be necessary if your teeth:
In this article