About Wisdom Teeth Removal

Tooth removal isn't fun, but it doesn't have to be scary. Know what to expect when it comes to wisdom tooth extraction surgery.

About Wisdom Teeth Removal
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Overview
Your wisdom teeth, or third molars, typically develop in your late teen years. At that point your mouth has 28 teeth. Your wisdom teeth bring the count up to 32, which can cause crowding and complications. Your dentist may recommend having them removed before they can cause serious problems. If you have them removed when you are a teenager, your recovery time will typically be less than it would be as an adult.
Reasons for Removal
Even if the wisdom teeth are not currently causing difficulties, it may be wise to remove them as a precaution. They can become impacted, or trapped in an improper position in your mouth. Bacteria can build up, potentially resulting in infections and gum disease. Impacted wisdom teeth may also result in cysts, which can expand and damage both the adjacent teeth and your jawbone.
Preparation for Surgery
Your surgeon will discuss with you the necessary preparations for surgery. These typically include avoiding food and drink for at least six hours prior to surgery, cleaning your teeth thoroughly the week before to reduce bacteria and having someone to drive you home following the procedure. You will also be told to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and to remove jewelry. You will also need to discuss all your current medications and herbal supplements with your doctor.
Surgical Procedures
The difficulty of extracting the tooth depends on how it is positioned in your mouth. Sometimes it is no more difficult than extracting any other tooth. However, if it has not emerged from your gums yet, the surgeon will make a gum tissue flap to gain access to it. The tooth may also be cut into sections and removed one section at a time. Before beginning the procedure, surgeons will often administer both a general anesthetic so you will be unconscious and a local anesthetic to keep the area numb.
Complications
Occasionally, patients may experience complications from surgery. Teenage patients typically experience fewer complications than adult patients. It is rare to experience nerve damage, but it is possible, depending on the position of the tooth and the nerve beneath it. Infections are also a possibility with any surgery. If you get an infection, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics.
Recovery
After tooth extraction, it's normal to experience swelling. Try using an ice pack. You may still experience some bleeding. Your surgeon will give you gauze to bite on, and the bleeding should stop in a few hours. If the bleeding continues, call your surgeon. Your surgeon will also prescribe pain medication. You will be limited to soft foods and liquids for a few days while healing. When brushing your teeth, you will need to avoid the surgical area for at least a day. If you are a smoker, it's important to avoid smoking for at least 48 hours following surgery. You will notice stitches in your mouth; they will dissolve on their own, usually in about a week. Every patient's recovery time is different; some people can go back to work or school the following day; others may need a few days of recovery time.
Resources
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Dentistry Information
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Oral Surgery: Wisdom Teeth
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American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons