I have had the privilege of being the designated driver for several people that were getting their wisdom teeth removed over the years. It’s almost a rite of passage since most wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17 and 25. It’s quite the experience and everyone reacts differently. In any case, rather you are young or reaching your prime, wisdom teeth can become a problem and need to be removed.
There are many reasons that wisdom teeth require removal. Unfortunately, most can cause much more pain and damage if they are not dealt with. Wisdom teeth are the fourth set of molars located at the very back of your jaw. As they come in, there can be several complications that occur. First, your jaw could be too small to accommodate another set of molars. In this case, the teeth simply can’t come in. There is nowhere for them to go. Secondly, the wisdom teeth can come in at an incorrect angle causing them to push your other teeth over in your mouth making them painful and crooked. This does not only affect the way your teeth look but the way they function as well. It can cause your teeth to wear incorrectly or trap food and cause decay. The wisdom teeth can also become impacted. In this case, the teeth are not able to come through the gums and become trapped.
The American Dental Association recommends having your mouth inspected between the ages of 17 and 21 to see if you will need your wisdom teeth removed. The reason is that teeth form from the crown to the roots. Removing the wisdom teeth before the roots form is usually much easier, safer and has less recovery time. The position and development of the wisdom teeth will determine what procedure is necessary.
Wisdom teeth that have breached the gum generally only require local anesthesia. The gum is loosened around the protruding tooth. The tooth is sectioned and then removed by the dentist with specialized tools. This procedure does not typically require stitches.
Wisdom teeth that have root complications or are impacted need to be surgically removed. This procedure also requires local anesthesia to numb the immediate area. Next, sedation or general anesthesia is given. You don’t feel any pain and have limited or no memory of the procedure that usually takes about 45 minutes. An incision is made at each site to expose the tooth and bone. Any bone that blocks access to the tooth is removed. The tooth is sectioned and removed with specialized tools. The area is cleaned of any excess tooth or bone debris. The gum is stitched and gauze is put in place to help control bleeding and help a blood clot form.
The recovery is a very important part of wisdom teeth removal. If you had local anesthesia, you should only have a short recovery period in the dentist’s chair before being allowed to go home. If you had general or sedation anesthesia, you will have a slightly longer recovery period, usually in a recovery room. You will be asked to have someone else drive you home. Painkillers and sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to help with the healing process. Recovery can take a couple of weeks to get back to normal, but the majority of activity can be resumed after a day or so. Non-carbonated liquids only are recommended in the beginning, transitioning to soft food as tolerated. Eating can be very difficult in the beginning and your jaw may be very sore. Keeping your head elevated for the first couple of days is recommended and ice packs on the affected area help with swelling and bruising.
It is critical that the patient does not smoke or use a straw in the first 24 to 48 hours. The sucking motion can cause the blood clot that formed to become dislodged forming a dry socket in which the underlying bone is exposed to air and germs. This is very painful. Carbonated beverages also pose this threat. Other complications can be infection, sinus perforation, nerve damage or complications from the anesthesia.