Did you know that wisdom teeth are actually not needed? Much like an appendix, these third molars are superfluous, and some people don’t even develop them. Because of this, and because they often lead to problems over time, it is common to remove them before they can cause trouble.
The third molars (wisdom teeth) are located in the back of the mouth with two on the upper arch and two on the lower arch. Wisdom teeth usually start to break through the gums during one’s late teens or early twenties. If they happen to get trapped under the gums, or there’s not enough room for them to erupt, they are ”impacted”. They sometimes erupt at an angle or on their sides or become stuck in the jawbone. This can damage the neighboring teeth or bones, or lead to infection and pain.
Signs of Wisdom Tooth Problems
• Pain, redness, or swelling of the gums behind the second molar teeth
• Sore throat or pain that radiates to the ear
• Bad taste or discharge
• Sense of pressure against back teeth
• However, most wisdom teeth are not symptomatic.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted, it leads to a buildup of bacteria in the surrounding gum tissue which is impossible to clean adequately. This make you more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. Removing the wisdom teeth early (in the mid-teens to early twenties), helps to prevent long-term problems and reduces the surgical risk. In fact, the longer you wait to remove them, the more fully formed the roots become, making it harder to extract the teeth and taking longer to heal.
Extracting Wisdom Teeth
The good news is removing one or more of these third molars is simpler than ever. It is done in the office, and usually takes about 30-40 minutes to perform. Advances in anesthetic techniques allow us to keep you comfortable during the procedure. The surgery can be accomplished under local anesthesia, where the surgical area is numbed, but most people prefer to use intravenous sedation or general anesthesia so they can be asleep during the procedure. We will discuss your options at your consultation and customize the anesthesia to your needs.
To remove an impacted wisdom tooth, a small incision is made so the tooth can be uncovered. The tooth is then removed and if necessary a suture is placed to close the incision. After the procedure is complete, gauze pads will be placed over the surgical sites and you will be asked to bite down to apply pressure. If you have been sedated, you will recover in our office surgical suite until you are ready for discharge and can be driven home by your escort.
What to Expect After Surgery
There will be some minor bleeding throughout the first day. You will be given instructions on how to manage this. You will have some discomfort which is typically easily managed by following instructions given on pain management (more below). You will also have some swelling in the cheeks which usually peeks on the third post-operative day and is mostly resolved after the first week. Your jaw will be somewhat stiff and you may have a mild sore throat.
Most discomfort can be managed using a combination of ibuprofen and Tylenol. We will make recommendations for a specific regimen based on your particular case and your medical history. A narcotic prescription will usually be provided for more involved cases to be used as a backup. Most people have to use very little of the prescription pain medication if they follow our pain control recommendations closely. Other post op care will involve using ice to reduce swelling, and rinsing with salt water to keep the surgical sites clean.
If you have questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, or you would like help with an impacted tooth, please give our skilled team a call. We are happy to assist you with all of your oral surgery needs!