Wisdom Teeth Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to Common Questions About Wisdom Teeth

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What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are your third molars located in the very back of your mouth. They usually are the last to develop and typically start to try to erupt into the mouth in your teenage years. They tend to be problematic because most people’s jaw doesn’t have adequate room for them to erupt in all the way to keep them clean. This can lead to infection and damage to the adjacent second molar.

At what age do people get wisdom teeth?

Most people get their wisdom teeth in their teenage years.

Does everyone have wisdom teeth?

No, not everyone gets wisdom teeth. While many people get all four of their wisdom teeth, some people may only develop three, two or even just one, or none. You can even be born with extra wisdom teeth as well.

What are some symptoms of wisdom teeth?

Some symptoms of wisdom teeth are pain in the jaw, tenderness, swelling around the gums, discharge if an abscess or infection is present, or you can see it poking through the gum behind your second molar (normally your last visible molar in the back of your mouth). Some people, however, don’t have any visible or noticeable symptoms of wisdom tooth pain. Your dentist at your routine cleaning appointment as a young adult will screen for them with an x-ray and examination.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Most people don’t have enough room for there wisdom teeth to fully erupt into there mouth. When this happens, bacteria enter by the wisdom tooth and can cause infection and pain. It can also cause damage to the adjacent second molar. Wisdom teeth can also contribute to crowding of the rest of your teeth. There can also be cyst formation with a wisdom tooth that can not fully erupt in.

What are impacted wisdom teeth?

A wisdom tooth is considered impacted if the wisdom tooth is covered in something. That something can be either bone and or soft tissue. Ironically it is not if a wisdom tooth is impacted that makes it difficult to remove but more the extent of the root formation. If the roots are long and curvy then they are harder to remove vs short roots. So, it is important to get evaluated for your wisdom teeth at about 16 years of age to assess them.

What are some problems that can arise if I do not remove my wisdom teeth?

Infection, damage to the adjacent second molar, crowding, and cyst formation.

How much will it cost to get my wisdom teeth removed?

Every case varies because the treatment is dependent on the position and complexity of each tooth and the number of wisdom teeth you have. It also varies based off of what kind of dental insurance you have. We do a consultation first to take an x-ray, examination, and check your insurance for you to get you an accurate estimate. For more information on wisdom teeth please contact our office.

How long does local anesthesia last?

The numbing effects of the local anesthetic will last about 2-12 hours so it will give the patient some time to take pain medications on a full stomach. There are different types of local anesthetic that last different amount of time. The upper jaw in general is less painful and we typically use 2 hours numbing on the upper jaw. The lower jaw can be more painful in recovery and so we use 8–10-hour local anesthesia on the lower.

Can I be sedated during my wisdom teeth removal?

Yes. Most patients are nervous to get their wisdom teeth out and want some form of sedation. The most common types of sedation / anesthesia are:
1. Local anesthesia – numbs the affected area but you are fully awake
2. Nitrous oxide also called laughing gas- we still use local anesthesia but then also the gas which you breath through your nose and helps you feel relaxed, tingling, and floaty. You still remember the hole appointment but helps with low to moderate nervousness.
3. Oral sedation- Is a relaxing pill like Valium that you can take 1 hour prior to your appointment. This helps relax you more then the laughing gas and we also still get you numb with the local anesthesia. You can’t drive yourself so you have to come with a ride.
4. IV sedation- this is where you are put in a twilight sleep and don’t remember the surgery. We still get you numb while you are in the twilight sleep so that when you wake up you are not in pain. This is for patients who do not want to remember the surgery. You also can not drive your self and need to come with a ride.
At your wisdom tooth consultation, we will go over these more in detail.

What is the recovery period for wisdom teeth extractions?

We usually estimate 2-7 days for a recovery period; however, some people may experience shorter or longer recovery times. Ultimately, it is all dependent on the patient and degree of difficulty of the case. At your consultation we will be able to give you a better estimate on your recovery after examining you and reviewing your x-ray with you.

Will I have sutures (stitches) where the wisdom teeth were removed?

We place dissolvable sutures at the wisdom tooth sites that typically last about 7 days. We do not place a suture if there was infection at the site or if the wisdom tooth was partially in so we don’t trap bacteria in the wound.

I have something white and sharp poking out of the gum near where the extraction was. Should I be concerned?

After surgical extractions, patients may discover tooth or pieces of the bone working their way to the surface of the extraction site (known as a “bone spur”). Don’t worry – this is a common occurrence. When the tooth is being extracted, pieces of the tooth’s bony socket may break off during the process. These slivers cannot be integrated into the healing tissues so your body will naturally begin to eject them, causing them to penetrate through the gum tissue. They typically will fall out on their own if given enough time. If not, please give our office a call.

What are dry sockets?

Once the tooth is removed, there is a hole in the bone called a socket where the tooth roots use to be. A blood clot forms in that area to protect the bone and nerves and works as a biologic band aid. If that clot becomes dislodged or is prematurely lost, it will cause the bone and nerve endings to be exposed to air, or what is termed a “dry socket”. So, a dry socket is an extraction site where the roots use to be with no blood clot in it. It is painful and causes delayed wound healing. It is important to keep the wound clean with mouth rinsing and gentle irrigation with a syringe. This will allow the gum to heal over as soon as possible for the pain to go away from the exposed nerve endings.

How do I know if I have a dry socket?

Dry sockets typically occur three to four days after wisdom tooth removal. So instead of your pain continuing to decrease on day 3 and 4 it starts to increase. Swelling is down but pain stays elevated if not increased. Symptoms include pain that radiates to your ear and is not alleviated after taking pain medication, bad breath, unpleasant taste/smell in your mouth, but NOT increase in swelling. Ironically dry socket is not an infection but just loss of the blood clot. If you have infection you have an increase in pain and swelling. With dry socket you do not get an increase in swelling but get an increase in pain on day 3 and 4. If you get dry socket it is important to keep the wound clean of food debris by irrigating and mouth rinsing so the gum can heal over as soon as possible.

What can I eat after my wisdom teeth are removed?

For the first 2-3 days we recommend soft foods immediately following surgery, anything soft is ok: apple sauce, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, steamed vegetables, well-cooked pasta, cream of wheat, soft fish, smooth soups, pancakes, canned fruit, scrambled eggs, pancakes, yogurt, pudding, smoothies, anything out of a blender. As you are feeling better you can gradually advance your diet back to normal. Ideally you want to irrigate and or mouthrinse every time after eating.
Foods to avoid would include spicy foods, anything with seeds, hard or chewy foods (like chips or crackers), acidic foods and drinks, and anything with small particles (for example – strawberries).

Can I work out after getting my wisdom teeth removed?

We recommend taking it easy for the first 2 days following wisdom tooth removal to avoid exercise or participate in any strenuous activity. Exercising too early could dislodge the blood clot and increase your recovery time as well as discomfort. If you are not taking narcotic pain medicine and feeling well enough to work then you can.

Can I travel after getting my wisdom teeth removed?

Yes, we recommend waiting at least a day or two following wisdom tooth removal to travel (as mentioned, 2nd or 3rd day is the peak of discomfort and swelling). But if you had to travel the next day you could. But you can not drive while taking narcotic pain medication.