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Wisdom Tooth Removal & What Patients Must Know

Wisdom teeth, often called third molars, appear in the mouth after a person turns 17. However, some men and women don’t see their wisdom teeth until they turn 25. These are the last of the person’s teeth to erupt and are at the rear of the mouth. People call them wisdom teeth because they show up when the person becomes wiser or more mature. Why should a person consider having these teeth removed? What problems can they cause?

Degrees of Impaction
A dentist or oral surgeon determines the degree of impaction and the best course of action regarding the wisdom teeth. There are three types of impaction a person should know and why they are of concern.

Soft tooth impaction occurs when the crown or upper part of the tooth penetrates the bone, but much of the tooth remains hidden under the gum. This leads to difficulty in keeping the area clean. Food may get trapped below the gum and bring about tooth decay or an infection. Removal of the tooth prevents the pain and swelling that accompany the infection or tooth decay.

A partial bony impaction occurs when the tooth has made its way to the surface, but part of the crown remains below the gum and jawbone. As with soft tooth impaction, people find they cannot keep the area clean. Infections become of concern, which is why the dentist or oral surgeon will recommend you have the tooth removed.

If you are dealing with a complete bony impaction, the tooth remains enclosed in the jawbone. This requires more involved removal techniques. The dentist or oral surgeon evaluates the mouth and decides how to proceed.

Why Do These Teeth Need to Be Removed?
Some individuals never have their wisdom teeth removed. Other men and women, however, find they need to have the third molars extracted. This may be because they are impacted and could lead to oral health issues in the future. Wisdom teeth coming in at the wrong angle may press against other teeth and lead to their misalignment or other issues.

Some people find their mouth is too small to accommodate a full set of teeth and need their wisdom teeth removed to have space for the others. Certain people find the wisdom teeth have decayed. This common problem comes about as the third molars sit far back in the mouth. The person might not be able to reach them with their toothbrush or to floss them properly.

Removing the Wisdom Teeth
Before the procedure, the dentist or oral surgeon conducts a complete examination of the mouth. They talk with the patient about any health issues the patient has and any medications they take. During this visit, the patient asks questions about the procedure, the anesthesia the dental practitioner will use, and recovery.

During the Procedure
Wisdom tooth extraction typically takes 45 minutes or less. The doctor administers anesthesia, so the patient feels no pain. Some procedures require nothing more than a local anesthetic or laughing gas. When the patient and doctor agree on this option, the patient feels alert during or immediately after the team stops administering the laughing gas.

IV sedation benefits some patients. The doctor begins by numbing the patient’s mouth before administering medication through a vein in their arm. Many patients find they sleep throughout the procedure if the dentist uses IV sedation.

Certain patients require general anesthesia. This involves the administration of gas through a mask or medication through a vein. Patients remain asleep throughout the procedure and spend time in recovery before awakening.

The doctor may need to cut the gum or bone to remove the wisdom tooth. When this occurs, they stitch up the wound to allow it to heal. The stitches may dissolve in a few days, or the patient might need to schedule a follow-up visit to have them removed. The dentist also places gauze pads in the patient’s mouth to soak up some blood.

Recovering From Wisdom Tooth Surgery
Patients respond differently to anesthesia. Individuals who opt for local anesthesia may find they can drive themselves home. Other anesthesia options require someone else to drive. Some people who choose local anesthesia return to work the same day or engage in other activities. Those with IV sedation or general anesthesia need more time before they are fully alert again.

Many people state they have little or no pain after the procedure. However, expect some discomfort and swelling in the 72 hours following the surgery. In addition, the mouth rarely heals completely for a few weeks.

During the first three days following the procedure, use an ice pack to keep swelling to a minimum and prevent the skin from changing color. Moist heat helps if the jaw is sore and exercise the jaw by gently opening and closing the mouth. Limit your caloric intake to soft foods and drink lots of fluids.

Don’t brush your teeth until 24 hours after the surgery and avoid blood clots when doing so. The doctor will prescribe medications to reduce the pain and swelling. Take these as directed and call the office if a fever develops or if the pain and swelling increase.

Avoid using a straw or spitting, as doing so could loosen the blood clots that help the mouth heal. Don’t harshly rinse the mouth. Do so gently and avoid any sticky, hard, or crunchy foods. They could irritate the wounds. Finally, avoid smoking, as the chemical substances in the smoke could slow the healing process.

What to Expect While Healing
During the first 24 hours following the procedure, blood clots form at the procedure site. Within three days, swelling should decrease. After seven days, the dentist removes any remaining stitches, and the jaw stiffness and soreness should continue to diminish. Within two weeks, any bruising from the surgery should disappear. If an infection develops or the blood clots loosen, the process takes longer.

Protecting the Blood Clots
Blood clots play a role in the healing process. They slow or stop bleeding, enable new tissue to grow while protecting the site from infection, and protect the bone that was exposed as part of the procedure. To protect the blood clots, don’t brush the teeth near the surgery site, rinse the mouth, or consume hot drinks for 24 hours after the procedure. Avoid straws, smoking, and alcohol during this period. Once the 24-period passes, use an antiseptic mouth rinse to rinse the mouth and surgery site. Warm salt water helps minimize the swelling while soothing the sore gums. Finally, raise the head as you sleep.

Speak with your dentist to determine if the wisdom teeth will require removal. Regular visits to the dentist allow them to monitor the development of these teeth and take early action if the dentist or oral surgeon must remove them. See a dentist regularly to protect your oral health, as it affects your overall health. The better you feel, the more you can do in life. This remains priceless.