Wisdom teeth (also called third molars) are the last teeth in the very back of your mouth. They are the last teeth to erupt, usually in your late teens or early twenties.For many people, you may never get wisdom teeth. While most adults have four wisdom teeth, around 35% of Americans have fewer. You may only have two, or even one wisdom tooth! Of course, whether these teeth erupt properly is another story.
When wisdom teeth should be extracted
It’s very common for wisdom teeth to become impacted, which simply means that they don’t erupt the way they should. There may not be enough room in your jaw, or the angle of entry is wrong.
If a wisdom tooth is impacted, we need to remove it as soon as possible, as it will undoubtedly cause serious problems for you. You may develop gum tenderness or notice swelling and pain. In some cases, even if your wisdom teeth erupt properly, we may recommend extracting them.
Statistically, over 85% of adults have their wisdom teeth removed. And while this number is declining, in many cases it makes sense to remove them. There are a few basic reasons:
- They are difficult to clean, and you are more likely to develop periodontal disease if you keep them.
- Your risk of problems also increases with age.
- If you get an odd number, they can cause your bite to shift over time, requiring orthodontic treatment.
If you’re thinking about having your wisdom teeth removed, it’s best to do it as soon as possible. The younger you are, the less likely these teeth have fully formed roots, which means removing them will be much easier. Your recovery time will also be reduced significantly. If you’re not sure whether you should remove your wisdom teeth, the best thing to do is to have x-rays taken. That will help us make a recommendation one way or the other.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I always need to have all my wisdom teeth removed?
No, not always. More often than not, wisdom teeth cause serious issues (such as putting pressure on adjoining tooth/nerve, or causing crowding leading to unaligned teeth, pain, or infection). But some people have ample room for the wisdom teeth to erupt and never have them extracted. In that case you simply treat them like any other molar.
We can tell you when or if you need your wisdom teeth removed by taking a panoramic/scan x-ray. But typically before that happens, a patient will feel soreness/tenderness on the gum tissue in the area that the wisdom teeth are located. This pain is usually caused by them trying to erupt. Once they start moving to erupt you should call us for an appointment. (Remember, generally there is not enough room for them to fully erupt, so don’t wait that long!)
Do my wisdom teeth have to be showing before I get them removed?
In some cases the wisdom teeth are located horizontally under the tissue and have to be surgically removed. Our office generally will refer a patient whose wisdom teeth have not erupted to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon normally IV sedates the patient (put to sleep) and all four are surgically removed at once. The cost is typically greater since it’s a specialist and their out-of-pocket expense is more. However, this is the best option for a patient with non-erupted wisdom teeth.
Are all four wisdom teeth extracted in a single appointment?
Typically, no. We prefer to do it in two appointments, where we numb one side of the mouth at a time. We’ve found this to be a much easier process for our patients.
Do I need to have x-rays taken?
Yes. X-rays are legally required before a diagnosis can be done to determine appropriate treatment. We do accept recent x-rays from another dentist.
Does insurance typically cover wisdom teeth removal?
Most insurances do cover this procedure if the patients policy has major coverage included. However, some policies are preventative and basic coverage only.
Do I have to change what I eat/drink afterward?
Yes, during the first 24 hours patients cannot smoke or use tobacco, drink through a straw, swish liquids, or drink hot beverages/soups. (Lukewarm or room temperature beverages are OK.) These simple changes prevent dry socket from occurring.
Does the process hurt?
You will likely experience pain/soreness after the operation, as you recover. This can be treated with medication such as Ibuprofen. During the extraction itself you are numb so you will only feel slight pressure.
How long does the appointment for an extraction take?
We allow one hour for a single tooth, and 1.5 hours for two teeth.
How long is the recovery?
Recovery depends on the original condition of the tooth, and your age. On the low end, you should allow at least three days. On the high end, a week and in some cases two weeks is necessary.
What kind of complications can occur?
The most common complication is dry socket, which usually only occurs if you do not follow our post op guidelines. (Dry socket is when the blood clot is removed from the extraction site causing it to be “dry” and open.)
We will give you detailed instructions on how to prevent this.
What kind of sedation/anesthesia do you use?
We use local anesthesia (numbing), nitrous gas, and oral sedation (such as anti-anxiety medication).
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