Not everyone has wisdom teeth. They aren’t always needed for your overall chewing ability.
But if you do, these four teeth—two on top, two on bottom—are the third and final set of molars you’ll get. They usually erupt, i.e., push through your gums, when you’re in your late teens or early 20s.
Your wisdom teeth are kind of like the appendix of your mouth. They’re there, but most of the time, there’s really no reason for them, and sometimes they can unleash utter chaos upon your body.
That’s why so many dentists recommend people undergo a wisdom teeth removal procedure, even if their wisdom teeth aren’t causing any problems. Of course, not everyone follows this advice.
Wisdom teeth removal isn’t likely to be high on your to-do list if they’re not bothering you. But, depending on how your teeth are situated, they can cause trouble for you and your mouth down the road if you leave them in there.
Wisdom teeth can wreak havoc on your mouth in a few ways.
Sometimes wisdom teeth can be impacted, which happens when they try to squeeze into a spot where there’s no room, which can crowd the rest of your teeth.
This might happen when they grow in at an angle or flat on their sides, or they might stay in their lane but get trapped within the jawbone instead of fully erupting. All of this can lead to complications like pain, fluid-filled cysts, or damage to the nearby teeth or bones.
This can also make it harder to clean your teeth properly, which can lead to periodontitis (gum disease) symptoms like swollen and bleeding gums and bad breath. It can even cause difficulty opening your mouth and breathing.
How do I know the condition of my wisdom teeth?
During your routine dental examination, whether you’re having pain or not, your dentist will typically want to do an X-ray to see what’s going on with your wisdom teeth—namely, how they’re positioned and how much room you have for them to grow.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or your dentist foresees problems with your wisdom teeth, you’ll schedule an appointment to actually have them removed. This will be done by either your dentist or an oral surgeon.
Removing wisdom teeth shouldn’t be painful.
Luckily, wisdom teeth removal isn’t something out of a horror movie. You will be given some sort of numbing mechanism. It may be local anaesthesia (you’re awake and may feel pressure but shouldn’t feel pain), sedation (you’re awake but with lessened consciousness and won’t remember much), or general anaesthesia (you’re completely knocked out and won’t remember).
The type you get depends on how difficult the dentist or surgeon thinks the procedure will be, plus how nervous you are.
Once your ability to feel pain has been dulled, your dentist or oral surgeon will use a special instrument to loosen and disconnect the tissue around your wisdom teeth, then essentially pop them. Sometimes they may divide the teeth into sections before removal if that’s easier.
The whole thing requires more “finesse” than force. They may place some stitches, but either way they’ll put gauze over the holes to promote clotting that will help your wounds heal.
Recovery after extraction procedure
After the procedure you are expected to take things easy and let yourself heal.
Your specific experience after procedure can vary. Your level of post-procedure discomfort will depend on factors like how impacted or infected the teeth were. No matter what, your gums where your wisdom teeth were will typically be sore to the touch for about a week. But barring any complications, the pain tends to get a lot better after a day or two.
And don’t be surprised if your face looks like a Snapchat chipmunk filter for a few days. It’s completely normal to experience swelling and pain after wisdom teeth removal.
You can also ask your dentist or surgeon about using an ice pack to relieve any pain, swelling, or bruising. Depending on how severe your extraction was, your dentist or surgeon may suggest you only eat soft foods for a certain amount of time.
Sometime, extraction could lead to a condition called dry socket, an incredibly painful condition where the clot over an extraction site gets dislodged prematurely.
Dry socket is the most common complication after tooth extraction, it is not infection but delayed wound healing. It’s often described as a world of pain, so it’s really important that you follow all post-op instructions.
How soon should I have my wisdom teeth removed?
If you need your wisdom teeth removed, it really is…wise…to have the procedure done when you’re younger if possible rather than putting it off. As you get older, your teeth’s roots form more fully and can make extractions tougher. You’ll also have less blood vessels in your jaw, so healing tends to take a little longer.
Plus, the longer you leave wisdom teeth in, the greater your chances of developing cysts and abscesses.
If you still have your wisdom teeth and you’re not sure what to do, talk to your dentist about it. They should be able to help you come up with a solid game plan.