Wisdom Teeth Removal
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that usually come in during your late teens. For most people, they are potential problems because there is not enough room in the mouth for growth. The teeth may only partially break through the bone and gum, or end up at an angle that moves other teeth out of alignment. They can allow bacteria to grow around them, leading to tooth decay of the wisdom teeth and possibly other molars, or even a painful abscess. When issues begin your dentist may tell you it is time to consider wisdom teeth removal. Below we have listed everything you need to know about wisdom teeth removal.
Why Wisdom Teeth?
Why do we get them at all? Scientists believe wisdom teeth evolved in response to early humans’ mostly raw diet; robust, uncooked plants and meat required a lot of chewing that wore down teeth quickly. In a world with no dental care, people lost teeth at younger ages as well. By early adulthood, most people needed a fresh set of molars and the room for them.
We have outgrown our need for our wisdom teeth in the intervening centuries, and for most people, it is healthier to have them removed. Not everyone gets wisdom teeth, and not everyone needs to have them pulled out, but it is essential to have them thoroughly examined as a late teen or early adult. If they do have to come out, the procedure has lower risks and faster healing time at that point than having them removed in your thirties or older.
Some dentists do this procedure themselves, and others refer patients to an oral surgeon who specializes in extractions. You may also be issued a referral if your wisdom teeth appear to be more difficult to remove, or if you have other health problems that can cause complications.
You may opt to have only the teeth causing problems removed. Others may choose to have them all out at the same time or to have one side of the mouth done on one visit and the other side done at another time. The surgery generally takes 20 minutes to an hour depending on how many teeth are removed and how complex the removal is.
Your surgeon will help you decide what anesthesia you want. No matter which you choose, your mouth will also be numbed with a local anesthetic so you won’t feel anything. You can have nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), which will put you in a relaxed but conscious state. You will be able to see and hear what is going on but it will all be a bit dreamy. You may feel pressure as the dentist works, but no pain. Or you can choose a general anesthetic, and sleep through the whole procedure. If you choose the latter, the surgeon will recommend that you not eat or drink anything the day of the surgery.
Once you are anesthetized, the surgeon will then make a small incision to locate and remove the tooth. He or she will want to make sure the entire roots are removed. Some teeth may break into pieces as they are removed, or the surgeon may break them to remove them through a smaller incision for less trauma to the gums and jaw. After the tooth is removed, the surgeon sutures the opening and you are brought out of the anesthesia.
You will probably be asked to bite on some gauze after the surgery is completed. This helps stop the bleeding. If bleeding starts up again, you can use more gauze, or try biting on a wet tea bag (the tea has chemicals in it that constrict the blood vessels).
The surgeon may give you a prescription for a painkiller like Vicodin, and some antibiotics as well to keep the site from getting infected. Many people who have the surgery don’t need a prescription-strength painkiller and get by with over the counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Recovery from the worst effects of wisdom teeth removal takes 48-72 hours. During that period, you will probably be somewhat groggy and should not attempt to eat or drink anything for several hours. Later you can have liquids such as milkshakes or smoothies, or very soft food like yogurt or gelatin. Ice cream (without anything else in it that would have to be chewed) is often suggested because, in addition to tasting good and going down easily, the coldness will help reduce pain and swelling in your mouth. After the first few days, you can switch to a soft food diet, but you won’t be able to resume regular eating for about a week.
You will almost certainly have swelling around the jaw for the first few days, and may even have some bruising appear. This should subside by the third or fourth day. If the swelling and pain are not decreasing, you should return to the dentist who did the procedure for a follow-up to make sure there is no infection or other complication.
Are You Ready?
Having your wisdom teeth extracted can be scary to anticipate, but it’s important to remember that thousands of people have this minor procedure every year. Ask the dentist or surgeon all the questions you need to ahead of time so that you can be informed and confident going into the process, and plan to pamper yourself a bit on the other side of it, so you can heal up and feel good again as soon as possible.
Visit Maiden Lane Dental, Financial District, NYC to discuss your wisdom teeth removal and options. Our staff is friendly and courteous and are happy to make you feel welcomed and comfortable.