Going in for a wisdom tooth extraction can understandably be nerve-wracking. Wisdom tooth extractions, however, are a common and generally safe outpatient surgery procedure.
In the US alone, almost five million people get wisdom teeth extractions each year, resulting in the removal of approximately 10 million wisdom teeth. The main reason behind this is impacted wisdom teeth.
What Are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth — also known as third molars — erupt typically from the ages of 17 to 25. Since wisdom teeth emerge later in life, many often end up impacted.
An impacted wisdom tooth is when a wisdom tooth does not have enough space to fully emerge or develop in a normal position. The teeth end up partially or fully trapped under the gums or in the jawbone.
Why Is Extraction Necessary?
Wisdom teeth don’t always require extraction, but if your wisdom teeth are impacted or causing problems, the dentist will generally recommend an extraction. Wisdom tooth extraction is necessary to prevent any potential future problems and maintain good oral health.
Other reasons why you may require wisdom teeth removal include:
- Wisdom teeth erupt crooked or sideways
- Trapped food and cavities in or around the tooth due to difficulty brushing
- Developing gum disease around the molars
Problems Caused by Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain, infection, and other dental problems unless they are addressed immediately. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can cause other complications such as cavities, cysts, damage to surrounding teeth, and even the development of tumors.
In many cases, impacted wisdom teeth may result in gum or periodontal disease. Pericoronitis — or inflammation of the gums around wisdom teeth — can cause fever, severe tooth pain, pus, lockjaw, and facial swelling.
Additionally, failure to address wisdom teeth problems can potentially lead to serious issues like bone loss or jaw damage.
What To Expect During the Wisdom Tooth Extraction Process
Before the extraction appointment, you will meet with your oral surgeon for an assessment of your third molars and go over how they will handle the extraction.
During this consultation, they will also discuss anesthesia options: local anesthesia, general anesthesia, and IV sedation. It is important to inform your surgeon about any prescriptions, vitamins, supplements, or other medications you may be taking, as some may interact adversely with the anesthesia.
On the day itself, you will have anesthesia or sedation administered before the tooth extraction procedure begins. The extraction process will start with the surgeon making an incision in the gum tissue. This incision exposes the tooth and bone making it easier to remove anything blocking access to the wisdom tooth root. In some cases, the wisdom tooth may be divided into segments for easier removal.
After the tooth removal, your surgeon will remove any debris and clean up the site. Depending on the incision size and the original state of the tooth, your surgeon may need to stitch the wound close. Lastly, they will apply gauze to stem the bleeding and help facilitate faster clotting and healing.
Post-Extraction Recovery and Follow-up Care
Recovering from a wisdom tooth removal generally takes only one to two weeks. Patients will generally need to avoid strenuous activities for a few days. On average, most can resume daily activities, like school or work, within three to five days.
Postoperative pain and swelling are normal once the anesthesia or sedation wears off. Pain medication is usually prescribed, and a cold compress helps manage swelling and discomfort. However, if the pain and swelling persist after four days, it may be a sign of an infection — and consulting your surgeon will be necessary.
During your wisdom tooth extraction recovery, stick to a soft food diet for at least the first three to five days. It is also best to avoid chewy, hot, and spicy foods temporarily. Moreover, it is recommended not to use a straw when drinking, as these may dislodge the blood clots on the wound and cause dry sockets.
Safe and Seamless Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Wisdom teeth removal is a common dental procedure, and understanding what to expect can ease any anxiety you may have. If you experience any tooth pain, swelling, bleeding gums, or difficulty opening your mouth, you may have impacted wisdom teeth and require extraction.
Our team of highly experienced dentists are well-versed in conducting safe, seamless, and stress-free wisdom teeth removals. Call Green Valley Oral Surgery today at (707) 314-3282 to schedule a consultation or visit our website to learn more.