A Total Guide to Wisdom Teeth

wisdom teeth

The most common dental procedure in America is wisdom teeth removal. Americans have close to 10 million wisdom teeth extracted each year, but the surgery itself and the recovery is still unknown to many people. 

We will uncover every mystery surrounding this surprisingly common procedure, including what wisdom teeth are, how much it costs to remove wisdom teeth, and what to expect during recovery. We will also include a few common questions around the topic.

Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth seem something like an evolutionary joke. What is their purpose in the human jaw anyway?

The wisdom teeth are also known as the third molars. They are typically the last set of teeth to erupt and will emerge between the ages of 17 and 21. Dentists will begin evaluating their patients at age 16 for the potential of an impacted tooth. The teeth are most often removed because the jaw is too small for the four extra molars.

So why do we have wisdom teeth? Well, it is commonly believed by scientists that we evolved them to help handle chewing raw meat, leaves, roots, and nuts in the ancient past. But since we invented cooking and cutlery much of the softening, smashing, cutting, and processing of the food before digesting is done before we put the food in our mouth. So, we have gradually evolved to not need wisdom teeth as much. Some people may not even have wisdom teeth.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

The most common reason for wisdom teeth extraction is because they can cause problems down the road if left to erupt on their own. Sometimes this can lead to great pain as they put pressure on the other teeth as they erupt. But this is not always the case. 

They can get stuck in the jaw and become impacted. They may not be able to break through the gums and into your mouth. As time goes by and you age, your bones grow harder, which makes teeth much harder to extract. Waiting to get them removed can complicate the surgery.

When Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?

The American Dental Association recommends that people between the ages of 16 to 19 should have their wisdom teeth evaluated by a dentist to determine the impact of their wisdom teeth and if they should be removed. 

There is no optimum age for removal. When to get them removed depends largely on the age of the person, the size, the angle they are coming in, and even things like overall health and any other medical conditions.

Three important factors to consider include:

  1. Are the teeth impacted? Impacted teeth grow in at odd angles. This can cause greater problems if left untreated.
  2. Are the teeth crowded? When the teeth are close together, they can push against each other. This can cause pain and infection as bacteria finds a new home in the hard-to-reach spaces between the teeth.
  3. Are they causing pain? Any pain or discomfort indicates that the wisdom teeth will have to be removed.

Do Wisdom Teeth Have To Be Removed?

Wisdom teeth will need to be removed whenever they may cause greater problems in the jaw. X-rays taken starting around age 16 can reveal any potential problems so your dentist can recommend a course of action. Other reasons why they may be removed include:

  • They may damage other teeth. This can happen because of greater pressure put on them as the wisdom teeth come in.
  • Jaw damage. An impacted tooth can create cysts and abscesses that can eat away at the jaw.
  • Sinus issues. The pressure from the new teeth could potentially put pressure on the sinuses, causing pain, pressure, and congestion.
  • Gum inflammation can occur as the gums around the impacted wisdom tooth become inflamed and hard to clean.
  • Cavities can form if the tooth is inaccessible by brushing and bacteria are able to create pockets where they thrive and multiply.
  • Alignment of the teeth can be disrupted by the new teeth the can push around the other teeth, creating crowding.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Extracted?

Wisdom teeth are most commonly extracted because they will grow in impacted. Impacted means that the tooth has formed, but does not erupt. If the tooth does not fully emerge from the jaw, it is called partially impacted. An impacted tooth can cause a host of issues, and your dentist will likely recommend extraction. 

Getting an impacted tooth removed can prevent:

  • Pain at the site of the impacted tooth.
  • Food can become trapped and lead to tooth decay.
  • The wisdom teeth can damage the nearby teeth and gum tissue.
  • The jaw can become damaged
  • The gum can become irritated due to inflammation.
  • Cysts and tumors can appear near the impacted tooth due to inflammation and infection.
  • Bacteria can grow in the impact site and cause infection.
  • Your teeth can shift around in your jaw due to the new teeth coming in
  •  This can lead to jaw and gum disease as the bacteria eats away at the teeth

Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Painful? Can You Describe The Procedure?

Many people are concerned with the pain that may result due to the extraction. However, the extraction is most often performed under local anesthesia. An alternative method of anesthesia can be provided and arranged with the oral surgeon before the procedure. 

The procedure is not painful as the surgery site is anesthetized, or you may be under general anesthesia. After the surgery, most people experience pain. How much pain is dependent on the pain medication proscribed by your dentist and the individual’s pain tolerance. Most experience discomfort for three days after the procedure.

How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom tooth extraction is a kind of oral surgery where the gums are cut to allow access to wisdom teeth. The tissue that connects the wisdom tooth and the jaw is removed and then the tooth itself is removed. Lastly, the gums are sewn closed again. Sometimes the wisdom tooth can be cut into sections to be removed. 

What Does Recovery From Wisdom Teeth Extraction Look Like?

It generally takes five to seven days for most patients to recover. During this time they may experience:

  • Expect for bleeding in the first 24 hours. This can be controlled by biting down on some gauze for 45 minutes. 
  • You can also expect facial swelling which can be relieved by applying a cold pack or ice to the area for ten minutes on and 20 minutes off.
  • If you get stitches they may need to be removed. Your oral surgeon will arrange another appointment to get these removed. Many use dissolving stitches.
  • Consider using over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Your dentist may proscribe something stronger if needed.
  • Do not rinse your mouth for 24 hours following the surgery. After that time, gently rinse with a saltwater gargle after meals and before bed. Continue the rinse for five days after wisdom teeth removal.
  • Eat mostly liquids after the diet. Choose foods like pudding, applesauce, and mashed potatoes.
  • Brush and floss as normal, avoiding the extraction site.

How Much Does It Cost To Extract Wisdom Teeth?

The cost of a wisdom tooth extraction varies, but generally, a removal ranges between $75 and $200 per tooth. Impacted wisdom teeth can range between $225 to $600 per tooth.

Insurance most often covers this procedure, which is a welcome relief. Check with your insurance to see what your expected payment and coverage would be.

Wisdom Teeth Q&A

Is It Painful?

You should not feel any pain during the extraction as the area is anesthetized. 

Does Your Jaw Get Broken?

No, this is a myth. There is no need to break the jaw to extract the tooth, even for the most troublesome teeth.

Can You Remove Your Own Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth should be removed by a dentist or oral surgeon. Your dentist can take X-rays of your mouth to determine if surgery is needed.

What Happens If You Wait Too Long?

Extractions don’t need immediate action in most cases. But, waiting too long can lead to negative outcomes like infection, orthodontic problems, and abscesses.

Is It Safe To Remove All The Wisdom Teeth At Once?

Yes, this is the most common practice when removing wisdom teeth.

Does The Extraction Change Your Smile?

It can narrow your jaw and help your teeth be less crowded, resulting in a more positive gain for your smile overall.

 La Verne Dental & Implant Center in  La Verne, CA can do all the necessary dental work to determine the option that’s right for you. La Verne Dental & Implant Center proudly serves the  La Verne area with a full range of Dental & Implant services.  Give us a call at (909) 596-1155 to schedule an appointment.