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Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Wisdom Teeth Out

Wednesday - May 29th, 2019
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Did your dental professional tell you it’s time to get yours or your child’s wisdom teeth removed? If so, you likely have many questions such as, “Is this really necessary?” (according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons it IS necessary for 9 out of 10 people), “Why do we have wisdom teeth anyway?” and “How much is this going to cost?” among others. To help you get all the answers to your wisdom teeth questions, we pulled together some of our most frequently asked questions we hear from our patients about wisdom teeth which are questions you are likely asking right now too.

Everything You Need to Know about Wisdom Teeth

What are wisdom teeth?
Flatter teeth used to grind food down are called molars. Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars and the last permanent teeth most people get. Typically, there are two wisdom teeth on the top and two on the bottom for a total of four, but it’s possible to have more or less or even none at all!

When do most people get their wisdom teeth?
By the time a patient is 12 years old, their wisdom teeth can usually be seen on an X-ray. At this point, they are still below the gum line and won’t erupt (or try to) until the patient is 12 to 25 years old.

Why are they called wisdom teeth?
Many people believe we call our third set of molars wisdom teeth because people get them when a child is older (and wiser) but we don’t know the origin of the nickname for sure.

What does it mean if my wisdom teeth are impacted?
Your jaw is unable to accommodate your wisdom teeth and they are trapped from moving into their proper place by other teeth or bones. Because they are stuck, it can create pressure and pain.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Not everyone gets their wisdom teeth extracted, but about 85 percent of wisdom teeth will need to be removed according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The American Dental Association recommends wisdom teeth removal if they:

Cause crowding of other teeth or move other teeth and make them crooked
Grow in sideways or another undesirable position (often tilted forward)
Only partially erupt
Contribute to jaw pain
Continually get tooth decay or infections (food and bacteria can get trapped when wisdom teeth partially erupt)
Don’t have room to erupt (average human mouth can accommodate 28 to 32 teeth)
Have impacted teeth

On rare occasions, cysts (a fluid-filled sac) or tumors can form in the soft tissue that can cause damage to the jaw and surrounding teeth.

If most people get them removed, why do we have wisdom teeth anyway?
The human jaw got smaller over history and it’s possible that the human race has simply outgrown its need for wisdom teeth. These third molars were much more useful for a diet that consisted of meats, nuts, roots and leaves like our late ancestors ate. Since we more consistently cook our food which makes it soft and use modern utensils instead of our teeth to cut it up, we don’t need the same chewing power as what was required in the past. So, wisdom teeth may no longer serve a purpose similar to our appendix.

Does everyone need to get their wisdom teeth removed?
In some cases, wisdom teeth grow in without any complications. If they remain cavity and pain-free, there will be no need to extract them. However, your dentist will still monitor them at regular exams and through X-rays to be sure they stay healthy and nothing changes with their condition to warrant getting them removed.

What if I don’t want to get my wisdom teeth removed?
As the patient, you can always refuse dental recommendations. We encourage you to discuss your reasons for avoiding wisdom teeth removal with your dental professional if they recommended doing so for your oral health. Pay special attention to proper brushing and flossing of your wisdom teeth; due to their location at the back of your mouth, it can be difficult to keep them healthy.

What You Need to Know to Prepare for Wisdom Teeth Surgery

When should people have wisdom teeth surgery?
Dentists begin to monitor wisdom teeth as soon as they are visible on X-rays. Typically, the best time to extract wisdom teeth is when their roots are about two-thirds formed and the patient is 15 to 18 years old. People older than 35 tend to have more challenging oral surgeries, more complications and longer recovery times than those in their late teens and early 20s.

Am I too old to have wisdom teeth surgery?
Your dental professional might still recommend removing your wisdom teeth even if you are past your teens. They need to be removed if you have pain or other issues with them.

Who is qualified to remove wisdom teeth?
A professional dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon is qualified to remove wisdom teeth.

How much does it cost to get wisdom teeth removed?
The cost to get wisdom teeth removed varies. Some people only have one to remove while others have five. Some patients just use local anesthesia while others need to get general anesthesia. As your provider for an estimate of the cost and be sure to verify with your insurance company to understand what is covered. Also, many dental offices offer payment plans.

What does wisdom teeth surgery entail?
Wisdom teeth surgery is an outpatient procedure that can be very important to ensure the long-term health of your teeth and mouth. Depending on your needs, your provider will numb the area with a local anesthetic. If you are having more than one wisdom tooth extracted or have anxiety, general anesthesia to allow you to sleep through the procedure might also be used. If you do have general anesthesia, your provider will request that you don’t eat or drink anything past midnight the night before your procedure. Actual surgery typically lasts just 45 minutes, but the entire process can take several hours to include your check-in and post-surgery assessments.

To remove your wisdom teeth, the dentist will open the gum tissue above the tooth and take out any bone that’s covering the tooth and then remove the tooth. In some cases, you might need stitches that often dissolve. You will have a piece of folded cotton gauze pad in your mouth that you will bite on to stop the bleeding.

What You Need to Know about Wisdom Teeth Surgery Recovery

What should I expect after wisdom teeth surgery?
Take it easy for 24 to 72 hours after wisdom teeth surgery! You will likely have some bleeding, bruising, pain and swelling. It can take up to a week to feel completely recovered, but most are back at it within two to three days. Your dental professional will give you a prescription for pain medicine or will advise regarding over-the-counter pain relief suggestions.

What are some tips to help recover from wisdom tooth surgery?
Do not BRUSH your teeth for the first 24 hours. Yes, that’s probably the only time your dentist will give you a pass on brushing and flossing.
Bite gently on your gauze pads until bleeding stops. Replace a gauze pad when it becomes soaked with blood. If your bleeding doesn’t stop within 24 hours call your dental professional.
Your mouth will be numb so you must take special care not to bite your lip, cheek or tongue.
Prop your head will pillows; lying flat can prolong bleeding.
Ice packs can reduce swelling. For the first 24 hours, apply ice packs for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Using a drinking straw can delay healing or cause a dry socket. Avoid straws for two to three days!
Rinse your mouth with warm salt water after 24 hours several times a day to promote healing and reduce swelling.

What should you eat after wisdom teeth surgery?
A soft diet is recommended after wisdom teeth surgery. Here are some suggestions:

Soft-serve ice cream
Mashed potatoes
Broth-based soup (but nothing too hot)
Instant oatmeal

Foods to avoid after wisdom teeth surgery:
Crunchy, chewy or spicy foods for at least a week
Acidic foods
Solid foods
Alcohol and coffee for the first 24 hours

What are dry sockets?
A dry socket is a painful inflammation that can develop in the open tooth socket of the jawbone after a tooth has been extracted. Although it can happen when any tooth is removed, it’s most common with the removal of wisdom teeth.

What causes dry sockets?
Bone and nerve endings can be exposed when a blood clot is dislodged or disintegrates from the extraction site and this can cause a dry socket. Dry sockets cause intense pain that can extend up to the ear, they can smell bad and the pain can last several days.

Women suffer from dry sockets more than men. The culprit is believed to be the estrogen hormone. Women who take birth control pills are twice as likely to get dry sockets as those who don’t. For a better chance of avoiding a dry socket, women who take birth control pills should schedule surgery at the end of their menstrual cycle (days 23 to 28).

How do you treat dry sockets?
Contact your dental professional if you suspect a dry socket. If they determine you do have a dry socket, they will often place a medicated gauze pad or paste into the socket, prescribe an antibiotic to get rid of the infection and give you more pain medicine.

Did we answer all your wisdom teeth questions? If you have a question we didn’t answer, give us a call at 1-800-TO-SMILE (1-800-867-6453) or contact us online to schedule a wisdom tooth consultation.