Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth typically come in between ages 17 and 21, and are the last adult teeth that grow in. Sometimes they come in healthy and properly positioned, but sometimes they don’t have enough room to grow in properly, or they begin growing in at the wrong angle. These “impacted” wisdom teeth will have to be removed.

It’s important to visit your dentist regularly, especially during this time, so he or she can track the progress and condition of your teeth. Your dentist will perform an exam and take X-rays to determine if your wisdom teeth require extraction.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Your wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to come in and the farthest back in the mouth. They can be difficult to care for and are often not needed for chewing. Your dentist may recommend that you have your wisdom teeth extracted, especially if they are impacted. This is normally done in your late teens to decrease the risk of complications later on.

Wisdom teeth extraction can help prevent:

  • Infection in the area where a wisdom tooth only partially comes through the gums
  • Damage of other teeth when a wisdom tooth doesn’t have enough room to grow in
  • Tumors or cysts that can form near an impacted tooth

Wisdom tooth extraction can be performed by a general dentist, but your dentist may refer you to a specialist in dental surgery if special care is needed. The specialist, called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, will work with your dentist to provide the best care for you.

Before Surgery

  • Your dentist will describe the procedure and give you advice regarding the surgery. Your dentist may suggest that you bring a friend or family member with you and that you wear comfortable, loose clothing.
  • You will normally be given an anesthetic. This will numb the pain during the procedure but will usually allow you to remain awake. Your dentist may prescribe anti-anxiety medication if you need it.
  • Ask your dentist if you have any questions. Make sure you understand the procedure and how to contact the dentist after hours if you have any problems after surgery.
  • Inform your dentist about your medical history. He or she should be aware of any conditions you have or medication your are taking.

After Surgery

You may experience the following after surgery:

  • Discomfort and swelling. Your dentist my prescribe medication to reduce pain and discomfort, and a cold compress can be effective at reducing swelling. You may have to adhere to a special diet after the surgery. Your dentist may advise you to have only clear liquids for a short time afterwards.
  • Numbness or tingling. You may experience numbness or tingling in the face or jaw as a result of the anesthetic, but normal feeling should return in a few hours. If you continue to experience numbness more that a few days, contact your dentist.
  • Dry Socket. If the blood clot over the tooth socket breaks down early, it can lead to a dry socket. This can lead to additional pain and a bad smell or taste in your mouth. Let your dentist know if you are experiencing these symptoms. Your dentist may treat the dry socket by placing a special dressing in the socket to help it heal.