Wisdom Tooth Removal

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
December 18, 2018

Doctor showing patient x-ray of their mouth

Wisdom tooth removal: it’s surprisingly common, yet it does make people super nervous. So we’ve compiled a short guide to what you can expect when you need to have one or more of your wisdom teeth extracted.   

When Is It Necessary to Remove a Wisdom Tooth?

Your wisdom teeth are also referred to as your third molars, and they’re the very last teeth that will erupt, all the way in the back of your mouth.

  • For many people, these chompers will grow in just fine, but others will end up with wisdom teeth that didn’t erupt like they should’ve.
  • When wisdom teeth don’t grow in right, they’re called impacted. This means that a tooth has grown in at an angle, either towards the second molar or towards the back of the mouth. It could also mean that, even though the wisdom tooth is straight, it’s trapped in the jawbone. Or it could even mean that the wisdom tooth has grown in sideways (horizontally) within the jawbone.
  • How can you know if one or more of your four wisdom teeth are impacted? Well, your dentist will notice it on an X-ray if you don’t have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you might experience pain, or you may find that food gets trapped easily around a wisdom tooth. There might also be decay, gum disease, or an infection, and the impacted tooth might be causing damage to surrounding teeth and bone. Even more frightening: cysts might develop around a wisdom tooth that’s impacted!
  • Because these chompers are located in the back of the mouth, they can be difficult to keep clean, even when they grow in normally. Therefore, removal might be necessary if your dentist realizes that a tooth has become too damaged as a result of your inability to get back there when you brush and floss.
  • When it comes to wisdom teeth that aren’t causing problems, even when they’re impacted, there’s a bit of debate in the world of dental care. Some experts will tell you that extraction won’t be necessary, while others will still recommend removing the teeth to help prevent potential future problems, such as infection. Also, removing wisdom teeth while you’re younger may reduce the risk of complications. This is why getting multiple opinions could help you decide if you need to remove your wisdom teeth when they’re asymptomatic.

Fun fact: Did you know that some individuals won’t ever develop wisdom teeth? They won’t have to worry about impactions!

What Should You Expect Before Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

Your dentist or an oral surgeon can perform wisdom tooth extraction, and you’ll have an opportunity to talk to your dentist at an appointment before your procedure. Take this time to discuss health problems you’ve been diagnosed with, as well as medications that you’re taking.

During this appointment, you’ll receive important instructions regarding how to prep for the extraction, but don’t be embarrassed to ask loads of questions as well. For example, you can ask about what you can expect during and after the extraction, what type of anesthesia will be best for you, what the risk of complications is, and what you’ll need to do to ensure a speedy recovery.

Note: You’re more likely to have to see an oral surgeon if your wisdom tooth is severely impacted and will require a more surgical approach.

What’s the Procedure Like?

Depending on how difficult your wisdom teeth will be to remove, your dentist will choose the appropriate anesthesia so the procedure can be a pain-free experience.

  • A local anesthetic can be used to completely numb the mouth, just as your dentist would do when you’re getting a cavity filled.
  • Sedation might also be used to help you feel more at ease. For example, laughing gas might be recommended if you need something to help you relax. And IV sedation can help you feel drowsy, or even fall asleep.
  • General anesthesia is an option when it’s best for you to be totally asleep throughout the surgical extraction.  

During the actual procedure, the oral surgeon may need to make an incision in your gums, remove any bone that’s preventing access to the roots of the wisdom tooth, and divide the tooth in order to extract it in pieces. Then, the site of the extraction will be cleaned, and you’ll get stitches to close the wound, if necessary. Finally, a piece of gauze will be set in place to encourage the formation of a blood clot and control any bleeding.

This sounds pretty intense, we know, but not all wisdom tooth extractions will be the same. It depends on how badly impacted your tooth is.

What’s the Recovery Like?

Once the procedure is over, you’re sure to feel a huge sense of relief. But now it’s time to recover. Your dentist will give you instructions on what you should do to help your body heal. For example:

  • You can reduce swelling with an ice pack, as well as reduce soreness in the jaw with some moist heat.
  • You’ll likely need to drink plenty of fluids and eat only soft foods.
  • In terms of brushing your teeth, it’s best to use a bit of caution. You might be told to wait until the second day to brush, and to avoid brushing against blood clots. Also, rinsing your mouth might not be recommended for the first 24 hours either.
  • To tackle any pain that you may experience, your dentist can prescribe the appropriate medications.

Generally, discomfort and swelling can last a few days, and it could take weeks for your mouth to totally heal. However, if your condition isn’t improving, or it’s getting worse, be sure to call your dentist right away.

What About Complications? Can They Happen?

Long-term complications don’t often occur after the removal of wisdom teeth. When complications do happen, however, they may include damage to the jawbone, nerves, sinuses, or nearby teeth, as well as infection within the socket where the tooth used to be. Dry socket, which is painful, might also occur.

Wisdom Tooth Removal: Not as Frightening as You Might Think

Sure, any dental procedure can be scary, but with an experienced dental expert performing a wisdom tooth extraction, you can rest assured that you’ll be in good hands and that everything will be just fine. Remember, a lot of people have their wisdom teeth removed, so you aren’t alone, and this is a procedure that’s done on many patients every single day. Plus, if your wisdom teeth are causing you loads of problems, you’ll feel so much better when they’re out of your mouth!

One final note: Having your wisdom teeth removed is daunting enough without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for it. That’s why the right dental insurance can come in super handy, so consider signing up for a plan that will help you cover the costs of extractions. That way, you can focus more on prep and recovery, and less on payment, when a wisdom tooth needs to come out. 


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