What You Should Know About Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth won’t make you smarter. They’re called that because they usually come in when you’re older, around 17 to 21. These teeth are in the very back of your mouth. You get two on top and two on the bottom as part of a complete set of 32 adult teeth.

Wisdom teeth are molars, your toughest, widest teeth that grind food. But some people don’t have room for all their wisdom teeth. They’re the ones most commonly missing from adult mouths. Some would theorize that our jaws have changed over the years due to changes in our diet.

Why They’re Taken Out

You’re more likely to have issues with these molars than with any other teeth. Each year, some 10 million wisdom teeth are removed, or extracted, in the U.S. A top reason is impaction, when the tooth may not have enough room to come out from the gum like it should.

Other Issues

Any wisdom tooth with signs of disease or clear problems should come out. Reasons include:

  • Infection or cavities
  • Lesions (abnormal looking tissue)
  • Damage to nearby teeth
  • Bone loss around roots
  • Not enough room to brush and floss around the tooth

Some dentists recommend taking them out as a precaution because they could cause problems in the future, like:

Before the tooth comes in, the sack of tissue around it can grow into a cyst, which can lead to bone loss in your jaw.
If the tooth is on its side under your gum, it can destroy nearby teeth by eating away the roots.
Bacteria and plaque can build up around a tooth that’s only partly out.

But many researchers and public-health experts don’t think taking out otherwise healthy teeth is a good idea. We would want to look at each individual case to make the best decision.

Simple Extraction

How your tooth is taken out will depend on how far it is out of your gum. If it has come in completely, we can simply pull it out. The doctor will numb your gums, then use a needle to put a stronger numbing medicine in the area. Then loosen the tooth with a tool called an elevator, then pull the tooth with dental forceps, which look like pliers. They’ll clean out the area and pack it with gauze to stop bleeding.

What to Expect After Simple Extraction

You’ll probably have a little bleeding the first day. You may also feel sore and swollen for a few days. Any bruises could take a bit longer to go away. You shouldn’t brush your teeth for 24 hours. After that, gently gargle with warm saltwater every 2 hours for a week.

Surgical Extraction

If your tooth is still below the gum line, you’ll likely need to have it removed. During the operation, you’ll be given medicine to make you sleepy, so you won’t feel pain or remember much. The doctor will cut open the gum and remove the tooth bone to get to the root. They may need to cut the tooth into pieces to keep the hole as small as possible.

After Surgery

It’s a good idea to have a ride home because you may be groggy from the medicine. You may be able to manage your pain with over-the-counter drugs, or your we may recommend prescription painkillers, especially if we need to take out any bone.

You should be able to get back to your normal activities the next day.

To speed the healing and ease any pain, you might:

  • Hold a cold pack against your jaw to help with soreness and swelling.
  • Try not to spit too much so you won’t move the blood clot that’s keeping the area from bleeding.
  • Drink lots of water, but stay away from alcohol, hot beverages, or sodas for 24 hours.
  • You probably won’t be able to fully open your mouth for about a week. Stick to soft foods that won’t bother the area.

Call us Right away if:

  • You have a hard time breathing or swallowing.
  • Blood won’t stop oozing after a day or two, or pain lasts more than a week.
  • Your face or jaw stays swollen for more than a few days.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel numbness or notice pus or foul smells.

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