Getting your wisdom teeth removed is a common dental procedure that many individuals undergo during their late teens or early adulthood. While the thought of oral surgery may seem daunting, understanding what to expect can alleviate anxiety and ensure a smooth recovery process. In this article, we will explore what you need to know about wisdom teeth removal and what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, sometimes called third molars, are the last set of permanent teeth to emerge in your mouth. For most people, they appear in their late teens or early twenties, but the timing can vary for each individual. Most people have four wisdom teeth, one in each corner of the mouth.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?
The structure of the human jaw has changed over time, and modern jaws have become smaller than those of our ancestors. As a result, there is often not enough space in the mouth for wisdom teeth to erupt properly. When wisdom teeth do not have enough space, they can become impacted (partially or completely trapped within the jawbone or gum tissue). Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to various complications. Some of the main ones include:
Pain and Discomfort: Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain, tenderness, and swelling in the surrounding gum tissue.
Crowding: Lack of space can cause wisdom teeth to push against existing teeth, leading to misalignment or crowding.
Infection and Gum Disease: Partially erupted wisdom teeth create an opening where bacteria can enter, increasing the risk of infection and gum disease.
Tooth Decay: Wisdom teeth are located at the back of the mouth, making them difficult to clean properly. This can result in tooth decay and cavities.
Preparing for Wisdom Teeth Removal
Consultation and Examination: The first step in the wisdom teeth removal process is a consultation with a dentist. Our dentists conduct a thorough examination, which may include X-rays or panoramic images of your mouth. The exam helps to determine the position and condition of your wisdom teeth.
Prior to the procedure, your dentist or oral surgeon will discuss the anesthesia options available. This is to ensure your comfort during the surgery. We use three common types of anesthesia:
- Local Anesthesia: Numbs the specific area where the wisdom teeth are being removed. This is done with a series of injections.
- Nitrous Oxide: Sometimes called laughing gas, Nitrous Oxide is available in all of our rooms and is a convenient way to help you feel relaxed during your visit.
- Sedation Anesthesia: Administered through an IV, this option allows you to remain conscious but in a relaxed state during the procedure.
Your dentist will provide you with preoperative instructions to follow before your wisdom teeth removal. These may include:
- Fasting: Typically, you will be asked to avoid eating or drinking for a certain period before the surgery, usually around 6-8 hours.
- Medication Adjustments: Inform your dentist about any medications you are currently taking, as some may need to be adjusted or temporarily discontinued.
- Transportation Arrangements: Especially if you receive sedation, it is important to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. If you had sedation anesthesia, we strongly recommend, for your safety, that you use a friend or family member, not a taxi or ride-share service.
The Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure
The specifics of the surgical procedure will depend on the complexity of your case and the position of your wisdom teeth. In general, the steps involved in the extraction include:
- Incision: The gum tissue covering the wisdom tooth is gently incised to expose the tooth and underlying bone.
- Tooth Removal: The tooth is carefully extracted from the socket. In some cases, it may be necessary to divide the tooth into smaller sections for easier removal.
- Closure: Once the tooth is removed, the incision is sutured closed using dissolvable or non-dissolvable stitches.
Duration and Recovery
The length of the procedure can vary depending on the number and complexity of the impacted teeth. Generally, a single wisdom tooth extraction can take around 20-30 minutes. Following the surgery, you will be monitored in a recovery area until you are ready to go home. Full recovery typically takes a few days to a week. During this time you may experience some swelling, discomfort, and mild bruising.
Postoperative Care and Recovery
Your dentist will often prescribe appropriate pain medications to manage any discomfort during the recovery period. Follow the instructions carefully and take the medications as directed.
Swelling and bruising are not uncommon after extractions. Applying ice packs to the affected areas can help reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort. It is advisable to rest and keep your head elevated during the initial days of recovery.
Following the surgery, it is crucial to stick to a soft or liquid diet for a few days to allow proper healing. Avoid hard, crunchy, or spicy foods that can irritate the surgical sites. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid using straws, as the sucking motion can dislodge blood clots and cause a painful condition called dry socket.
Maintaining proper oral hygiene is vital during the recovery phase. Gently brush your teeth, taking care to avoid surgical areas, and rinse your mouth with warm saltwater after meals to keep the area clean and promote healing. It is advisable to avoid using mouthwash or commercial rinses during the initial stages of recovery.
Follow-up and Healing
Your dentist or oral surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your healing progress. During these visits, any necessary adjustments or removal of stitches will be performed.
While complications are rare, it is essential to be aware of any signs that may indicate a problem. Contact your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience prolonged bleeding, severe pain, persistent swelling, fever, or any other concerns during the recovery period.
The thought of getting your wisdom teeth removed may seem intimidating. Understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help ease your worries. Following the guidance of your dentist and adhering to the recommended postoperative care matters. You can ensure a smoother recovery and minimize the risk of complications this way.
Remember, the removal of wisdom teeth is a common procedure, and countless individuals have successfully undergone the process, ultimately leading to improved oral health and well-being. Our dentists here at Cape Dental Care have years of education and experience that all work to make your treatment the highest quality possible. If you need your teeth evaluated or have any other dental needs, contact us for an appointment. We would be honored to be trusted with your care.