For decades, having wisdom teeth removed was a rite of passage for teenagers. They were routinely removed whether they had problems or not. Today, most experts agree that wisdom teeth should be carefully evaluated, but they do not necessarily need to be removed if they do not show signs of issues. Still, wisdom teeth are the most likely of all teeth to need extraction. If you are due for an evaluation of your wisdom teeth, you likely have some questions. Here are the answers to the top 10 most common questions about wisdom teeth.
1. What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third molars, located in the very back of the mouth. They got their name because unlike the rest of the permanent teeth, they typically do not emerge until the late teens or early 20s. Although most people have one wisdom tooth in each corner of the mouth, some people only have some, or even none. A few people actually have extra teeth develop in that area.
Wisdom teeth were vital to our ancestors at a time when leafy greens formed the bulk of their diets. Today, though, evolution and changes in diet have resulted in smaller jaws that often do not have room for these teeth.
2. Why are wisdom teeth removed?
Wisdom teeth are no longer routinely removed. However, in many cases they develop serious problems. They may become impacted, or unable to fully emerge. They may crowd the other teeth, causing shifting. They may emerge twisted or even sideways. In addition, they are difficult to reach with a toothbrush, putting them at higher risk for cavities and even infections. We will carefully evaluate the positioning of your wisdom teeth. If they appear to be straight and are not crowding your other teeth, we will likely recommend keeping them.
3. When should wisdom teeth be removed?
If removal is recommended, the optimal time is the late teen years. This will result in more predictable, safer surgery and a faster recovery time. It also allows you to schedule the surgery at a time when it is least disruptive to your life, such as a school break.
4. How are wisdom teeth removed?
After thoroughly numbing the teeth and surrounding tissues with a local anesthetic, we use dental forceps to gently loosen and remove each wisdom tooth. In some cases, we might need to cut a tooth into pieces to facilitate extraction. IV sedation is available for those who are anxious about the procedure. We will place self-dissolving stitches where necessary to help with healing.
5. What should I expect immediately afterwards?
The local anesthetic will take a few hours to wear off, so be very careful not to bite your tongue or lips. You will be given prescription painkillers. Take the first dose before the local anesthetic wears off to prevent pain from building, and continue to take your medications as instructed even when you are not hurting. It is far easier to stay ahead of potential pain than to fight it after it sets in.
6. How long until I stop bleeding?
Bleeding after wisdom tooth extraction is usually mild to moderate. Carefully bite down on cotton gauze as directed for the first few hours to encourage blood clotting. Within several hours after the procedure, bleeding should stop, although you might experience a slight oozing for another day or so.
7. Does someone need to drive me home?
If you receive sedation, you must bring an adult with you to drive you home. If not, then you are free to drive yourself. However, you will be uncomfortable, so if possible, it is best to have someone take you home and stay with you for the next few hours.
8. How long does recovery take?
Most people find that the discomfort wears off within 3 days, and all swelling is gone within about a week. Icing frequently during the first 36 hours can minimize both swelling and pain. You might have some lingering sensitivity, but you should be fully back to normal in a week to 10 days.
9. How long will I be on medication?
We generally prescribe 3 to 7 days of pain medication and 5 to 7 days of antibiotics. Please remember to take your full course of antibiotics, regardless of how you feel.
10. Why should I choose an oral surgeon instead of my regular dentist?
Oral surgeons undergo four to six years of additional postgraduate training (after dental school). We are trained to perform oral surgery procedures that range from very simple to quite complex. Therefore, no matter what complications might arise during your surgery, we are well-equipped to handle them. This ensures that you have the simplest, safest, and easiest procedure possible.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to start your journey with a skilled, compassionate oral surgeon that you can trust, contact Hoboken Oral Surgery today at 201-659-6999 to schedule a consultation.