Do you feel a pain in the back of your upper or lower jaw? Have your gums become sensitive in that area? These may be indications that you need your wisdom teeth removed. If so, you shouldn’t procrastinate. Wisdom teeth can cause a great deal of damage to neighboring teeth if you wait too long.
What are wisdom teeth?
A wisdom tooth is any of the four third molars that usually appear in young adults between the ages of 17 and 25. While most individuals have four wisdom teeth, it is possible to have more, in which case they are referred to as “supernumerary teeth.” Some adults do not develop wisdom teeth at all.
When they are healthy and properly aligned, wisdom teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth. However, more often than not, they become misaligned (positioned horizontally, angled toward or away from the second molars, or angled inward or outward) and need to be extracted. Even worse, they can crowd or damage adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or nerves
Wisdom teeth also can be impacted, which means they become enclosed within the soft tissue and/or the jawbone or only partially break through or erupt through the gum. Partial eruption of the wisdom teeth allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection, which can cause pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, and general illness. Partially erupted teeth are also more prone to tooth decay and gum disease because their difficult-to-reach location and awkward positioning make brushing and flossing difficult.
How are wisdom teeth removed?
The relative ease with which a dentist or oral surgeon can extract wisdom teeth depends on the position of the teeth and their stage of development. A wisdom tooth that is fully erupted through the gum can be extracted as easily as any other tooth. However, a wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums and embedded in the jawbone will require an incision into the gums and then removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth. In such cases, the tooth may be extracted in small sections rather than removed in one piece. This minimizes the amount of bone that needs to be removed to get the tooth out.
Before your wisdom teeth are pulled, the teeth and the surrounding tissue will be numbed with a local anesthetic—the same type used to numb a tooth before you have a cavity filled. In addition to the local anesthetic to numb the pain, you and your dentist or oral surgeon may decide that a sedative is desired to control any nervousness and anxiety. Sedation is a common option for removal of wisdom teeth. Our oral surgeons are all trained in sedation dentistry and can help alleviate any anxiety you may have.
What to expect afterwards.
The speed of recovery after you have your wisdom teeth removed depends on how difficult the extraction was. Complete healing usually doesn’t occur for several weeks following the extraction. However, usually within the first week or two, there is enough healing for the area of extraction to feel reasonably comfortable. The dentist will explain exactly what steps you should take following the surgery, but generally here’s what to expect:
- Bleeding may occur for several hours after the extraction. To control it, position a piece of clean moist gauze over the empty tooth socket and bite down firmly. Apply continual pressure for about 45 minutes. A moistened tea bag proves particularly effective because the tannic acid in tea helps healing blood clots to form, functioning similar to scabs over an open wound.
- You should avoid rinsing or spitting for about 24 hours after the procedure and any “sucking” action (like drinking through a straw or smoking). It’s also best to avoid hot liquids like coffee or soup.
- Facial swelling in the area where the tooth was extracted is normal. A piece of ice wrapped in cloth and placed on the swollen area (10 minutes on, 20 minutes off) can help relieve this. After the first 24 hours, treat any facial swelling with heat. Applying a moist warm towel to the swollen area on a 20-minute on, 20-minute off schedule works well.
- Pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can relieve minor pain. The dentist may prescribe more potent pain relievers, as necessary.
- Consume a liquid diet until all the numbness from the anesthesia has worn off followed by soft foods for a few days after that. You should also avoid alcoholic beverages if you’re taking narcotic pain medication.
- Continue to brush your teeth, but avoid the teeth close to the extracted tooth during the first 24 hours. Do not use commercial mouth rinses because they can irritate the extraction area.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) after meals and before bed starting the second day after the extraction. Again, you should avoid using commercial mouth rinses.
The dental surgeons at Crystal Dental Centers have performed many wisdom teeth extractions and can advise you on when’s the right time to get the procedure done. Keep in mind that wisdom teeth can cause a great deal of damage to neighboring teeth if you wait too long. Come in today or schedule an appointment with our office today for a consultation! Contact Us!