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Did you know that wisdom teeth are actually not needed? Much like an appendix, these third molars are superfluous, and some people don’t even develop them. Because of this, and because they often lead to problems over time, it is common to remove them before they can cause trouble.

These third molars are usually located in the back of the mouth with two on the upper arch and two on the lower arch. Wisdom teeth can break through the gums during one’s late teens or early twenties. If they happen to get trapped under the gums, or there’s not enough room for them to erupt, they are “impacted.” They sometimes erupt at an angle or on their sides or become stuck in the jawbone. This can damage the neighboring teeth or bones and leave you in pain, or with cysts filled with fluid or abscess.

Signs of Wisdom Tooth Problems

– Jaw pain
– Unpleasant smells and taste in the mouth
– Chronic sore throat & sinus problems
– Swelling in the cheeks, jaw or lymph nodes
– Red, swollen gums

If a wisdom tooth is impacted, it can hinder daily oral hygiene care if you can’t brush and floss properly, making you more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. In fact, the longer you wait to remove them, the more fully formed the roots become, making it harder to extract the tooth and taking longer to heal.

Extracting Wisdom Teeth

The good news is removing one or more of these third molars is simpler than ever. It is almost always done as an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day. With advances in sedation dentistry, you will be made as comfortable as possible during the surgery. The gums will be numbed and, depending on your needs, you might be given local anesthesia where you are awake and feel some pressure, sedation where you are awake but not quite as conscious, or general anesthesia where you will be fully asleep.

A special instrument is used to loosen the wisdom tooth and disconnect it from the surrounding tissue so it can be popped out. Gauze will be placed onto the sockets to help clotting take place for the site to heal properly. Once you have awakened fully, you will need someone to drive you home. You can expect some swelling, discomfort and soreness after the surgery.

Addressing Discomfort

Barring complications, any discomfort can be treated with:

– Ibuprofen and acetaminophen (or prescription pain medication if bone was taken out)
– Applying an ice pack to the jaw
– Sticking with cold foods and beverages

Preventing Dry Socket

You’ll want to rest the day after the surgery and avoid strenuous activity for a week to keep the blood clot from loosening. Following all aftercare instructions will facilitate proper healing to avoid a dry socket. This means following our doctor’s post-surgical instructions, especially oral hygiene care, avoiding straws until the site heals to keep the clot from dislodging, and abstaining from tobacco as it can slow down your healing process and raise the possibilities of complications.

If you have questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth, or you would like help with an impacted tooth, please give our skilled team a call. We are happy to assist you with all of your oral surgery needs!