Everything You Need to Know About Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Are you deciding whether you need your wisdom teeth removed?

Your mouth goes through many changes throughout the course of a lifetime. Wisdom teeth are one of those major dental milestones. Also known as your third molars, wisdom teeth typically appear between the ages of 17 and 21. When they come in correctly, wisdom teeth help you chew. Unfortunately, however, it’s common to experience impacted wisdom teeth, when the molars don’t have enough room to emerge or develop normally. 

If you’re within that age group and have started to notice pain at the back of your mouth, you could have impacted wisdom teeth. When a tooth is impacted under your gum tissue, it can cause pain and various dental complications. The best way to stop wisdom teeth from hurting is to have them removed by a dental surgeon.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Human beings start with 20 baby teeth, which then fall out to make room for up to 32 teeth,  depending on how many of your four potential wisdom teeth come in. There are different theories on why many people don’t grow wisdom teeth anymore, such as that human jaws have gotten smaller over time. Though wisdom teeth were once essential to a human diet of nuts, leaves, and meat, modern cooking and utensils have rendered them unnecessary. Whatever the reason, it’s possible to have zero wisdom teeth or all four. 

Dentist looks at x-ray of teeth on a monitor.Wisdom teeth can cause problems if there isn’t enough space for them or they come through in an incorrect position (like angled or sideways). Your dentist will be monitoring your teeth with x-rays to determine whether any of your wisdom teeth could lead to bigger dental problems. Impacted wisdom teeth can lead to complications including:

  • Tooth decay. Wisdom teeth that aren’t in the correct position may allow food to become trapped, giving bacteria a place to grow. Because wisdom teeth are harder to clean, bacteria can easily get trapped between the gum and a partially impacted tooth. Partially impacted teeth thus present a higher risk of tooth decay than other teeth. 
  • Cysts. Wisdom teeth develop within a sac in the jawbone. The sac may fill with fluid, forming a cyst that damages the roots and jaw bone supporting the teeth.
  • Gum disease. Wisdom teeth that have only partially come through can give bacteria an entry point to the gums, increasing the risk for infection. Also, the difficulty of cleaning impacted wisdom teeth can cause you to develop pericoronitis. Pericoronitis is a painful disorder involving inflammation of the soft tissues around the third molar. 
  • Damage to other teeth. Wisdom teeth that don’t have enough space to grow in may crowd or damage the neighboring teeth. The pressure of the wisdom teeth against other teeth can even cause crowding, which may require orthodontic treatment in some cases. That’s why some dentists will require you to get your wisdom teeth removed before pursuing orthodontic work, such as braces.

Wisdom Tooth Extraction and Recovery

Wisdom tooth extraction is an outpatient surgery, meaning that you can visit the facility for your surgery and leave on the same day. Before the procedure, you’ll be given an injection of local anesthesia to numb the area around your tooth. If you’re anxious about the surgery, the dentist may also give you a sedative (often as an IV in your arm) to help you relax. Sedation anesthesia causes you to fall asleep during the procedure, so you might wake up in a different room from where you started!

It’s normal to experience pain and swelling for a few days after the procedure. You can alleviate the pain by placing an ice pack on your face or taking a pain reliever, such as anti-inflammatory or prescription medication. 

Most patients should expect to experience moderate to severe pain for the first one to three hours after oral surgery. This pain is due to the inflammation of cell membranes in the gums. Because the pain comes from inflammation, the American Dental Association has recommended non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a first-line treatment. 

In fact, a systematic overview of 58,000 patients after wisdom tooth extraction showed that 400 mg of ibuprofen combined with 1,000 mg of acetaminophen was more effective than any treatment involving a prescription painkiller (most commonly opioids).

That’s all to say that if your oral surgeon tells you to take an over-the-counter medication for relief, this recommendation is backed by the research! 

Most people will fully recover from wisdom teeth surgery within four days. It could take a full week to recover if your teeth were impacted or came in at a difficult angle. Keep taking good care of your teeth especially in the first months after surgery, as it’s still possible to develop an infection during this period.

Affordable Wisdom Tooth Extraction at Penn Dental Medicine 

At Penn Dental Medicine, you can stop wisdom teeth from hurting by having them removed at a more affordable rate than you’ll find at many private practices. We offer discounted rates for specialty services and procedures, which are performed by our student dentists. All student dentists are supervised by our world-class faculty members.  

To learn more about PDM’s approach to oral surgery, check out this free eBook guide. You can also call us with questions or to schedule a consultation at 215-898-8965.