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Putting Off That Pesky Wisdom Tooth?

Most people don’t have the removal of their wisdom teeth high on their to-do list, especially if they are not bothering you. However, they can cause trouble for you and your mouth in the future if you don’t have them taken care of.

What do Wisdom Teeth do in your mouth?

Wisdom teeth aren’t necessary for chewing, so many people don’t develop them, but if you do they are the final set of molars. They usually erupt during your late teens or early twenties. Most people know wisdom tooth surgery as a rite of passage and excuse to eat ice cream. Nine out of ten people have at least 1 impacted wisdom tooth. A tooth becomes impacted when there is not enough room for the tooth to enter the mouth in full function.  If left alone, this could cause damage to neighboring teeth or cause infection.

What is an impacted Wisdom Tooth?

When a wisdom tooth is impacted, the tooth is trying to squeeze into a spot where there isn’t any room for it, crowding the rest of your teeth.

An impacted wisdom tooth may:

  • Grow at an angle toward the next tooth
  • Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
  • Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is “lying down” within the jawbone
  • Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone

This can cause many complications including pain, damage to nearby teeth, damage to the jawbone, or fluid-filled cysts. These complications make it harder to clean your teeth, increasing your risk for periodontitis symptoms like swollen and bleeding gums and bad breath. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can even lead to difficulty in opening your mouth.

Wisdom teeth can cause much discomfort when they come in, even if they erupt properly. If they become infected, you will be in even greater pain. To avoid such disastrous symptoms, call our office immediately to set up an appointment to have your wisdom teeth looked at, your dentist may recommend that they be removed.

Getting your wisdom teeth removed when you are younger is recommended because as you get older the teeth’s roots form more fully and make extraction more difficult, and often makes healing more challenging.

You Need an Extraction, Now What?

Whether you get local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia is usually dependent on how difficult the dentist thinks the procedure will be.

When the doctor begins the procedure, they will use a special instrument to loosen and disconnect the tissue surrounding your wisdom tooth and then pop it out. Occasionally the doctor may divide the tooth into smaller pieces in order to make removal easier. You may receive stitches in the surgical site, but there will also be gauze over the holes to promote clotting to help your wound heal.

What Can You Expect During Recovery?

After your wisdom tooth removal, you will have to take things easy in order to let yourself heal. How you feel afterward is dependent on the level of sedation your doctor used, but you will need someone to drive you home. Your face may swell and you may experience some pain, but that is all completely normal.

The amount of pain you experience depends on factors such as the number of teeth removed and how impacted they were. Your gums where your wisdom teeth used to be will be sore to the touch for about one week, but barring any complications, the pain tends to subside after a few days.

Ask your dentist about pain management, they often recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen. They also recommend using an ice pack to relieve the pain, swelling, and bruising. Your dentist will tell you how long you should remain on a soft food diet.

After surgery plan to spend the day resting and recuperating, and avoid strenuous activity for a week as it might cause loss of the blood clot. Drink lots of water after surgery, but avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, carbonated and hot beverages for the first 24 hours.

What is a dry socket?

Dry socket is the most common complication after tooth extraction—which is an incredibly painful condition where the clot over an extraction site gets dislodged and exposes bare bone and nerves. This can happen by using a straw and/or cleaning your mouth too soon or too forcefully. Be sure to ask when you can return to your usual oral hygiene routine.

If you do develop dry socket your dentist will put a medicated paste into the socket to promote healing, and on rare occasions, they may have to go back and try to get closure of the socket by pulling the tissue over it.

Questions to ask your dentist: How many wisdom teeth need to be removed? 

  • What type of anesthesia will I receive?
  • How complicated do you expect the procedure to be?
  • How long is the procedure likely to last?
  • Have the impacted wisdom teeth caused damage to other teeth?
  • Is there a risk that I might have nerve damage?
  • What other dental treatments might I need at a later date?
  • How long does it take to completely heal and return to normal activity?

Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, which could indicate an infection, nerve damage or other serious complication:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fever
  • Severe pain not relieved by prescribed pain medications
  • Swelling that worsens after two or three days
  • A bad taste in your mouth not removed with saltwater rinsing
  • Pus inside or oozing from the socket
  • Persistent numbness or loss of feeling
  • Blood or pus in nasal discharge


Our team is always available to share information and educational materials. The more you understand about your dental treatment plan, the wiser your decisions. If you have any questions or want to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, call us at 201-871-3556 or click here to connect online! 

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