At Southtowns Dental, we understand that having your wisdom teeth removed can be a scary thought. We also understand the reasons why it can be necessary to make a proactive decision now that will prevent your wisdom teeth from causing much larger problems later in life.
We are here to help you understand your dental health and make the right decision about wisdom tooth extraction.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction – The Facts
Did you know the average mouth can only accommodate 28 teeth? By age 18, most people will develop an additional four molars, known as wisdom teeth. The reason why they come in so much later than your other adult teeth remains a mystery, but unfortunately, by the time they arrive, most people do not have room in their jaw bones to allow them to come in straight.
When space is limited, your wisdom teeth can grow in sideways or become impacted against your back molars. This can cause damage to those molars and, if your wisdom teeth are not removed, it can cause the other teeth in your mouth to shift.
Wisdom teeth alone can undo years of work—and thousands of dollars—spent on orthodontia as a child to give you a perfect smile.
In addition to the superficial reasons, there are legitimate health risks to living with impacted wisdom teeth. They are more difficult to clean and thus are more subject to tooth decay than regular teeth. Irritation and inflammation are common, which can lead to gum disease. Cysts can form as a result of inflammation, causing damage to your jawbone, teeth and facial nerves.
What symptoms might suggest you need to have your wisdom teeth removed?
First, it is important to note that people benefit from having wisdom teeth removed before symptoms start. Once you are experiencing the common symptoms related to impacted wisdom teeth, the damage has already begun.
The longer you wait into adulthood, the more difficult the extraction can be and the more damage can be done.
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, they may be related to wisdom teeth:
- Pain or swelling in the corners of your mouth
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Bad taste or bad breath
- Tooth decay in the molars surrounding your wisdom teeth
How do I know if my wisdom teeth are impacted?
Not all wisdom teeth pierce through the gums. They can be impacted even if you don’t feel them there. Some do come in straight and do not present as much of a problem. Some grow in crooked.
There’s only one way to know for sure. Visit a dentist. A routine dental X-ray in your late teens will show whether your wisdom teeth are likely to cause problems. X-rays can be done after a routine cleaning and take little time at all. Once you’ve seen whether there’s a problem, we at Southtowns Dental can help you plan for extraction that minimizes the inconveniences to daily life.
When should I have my wisdom teeth removed?
The ideal time to have them removed is as a teenager. Once your dentist has reviewed X-rays of your mouth, he or she will be able to tell whether you’ve got enough room to accommodate them when they grow in, or whether you’re a candidate for extraction.
Removing them earlier is better. As a young person, the roots have not had as much time to fully form, making extraction much easier and causing fewer potential complications from oral surgery.
Basically, the longer you wait, the more difficult the extraction will be, while the effect of impacted wisdom teeth will be felt even greater.
What happens if I don’t get my wisdom teeth removed?
For starters, it’s good life policy to follow the advice of trained medical professionals. They understand the potential hazards you’re facing.
If you opt to go against your doctor’s advice, there are potential problems down the road. Because wisdom teeth decay at a faster rate than your other teeth, you are more likely to suffer from tooth and jaw pain later in life. If you wait until adulthood to have wisdom teeth extracted, they will be fully formed and thus much more difficult to remove. Such procedures are associated with more risks and complications.
If your doctor tells you that your wisdom teeth need to come out, you should listen! We understand it isn’t a pleasant idea, but the potential effects to dental health and quality of life down the road are far worse.
OK, so what is the wisdom tooth extraction procedure actually like?
First thing to understand: Wisdom tooth extraction is an extremely common dental procedure, something we do at Southtowns Dental on the regular. Our doctors are trained to do this, they are used to it and while we know for you it’s not an everyday occurrence, for us it is.
On your first visit, you’ll meet with a doctor for a consultation. We will review your X-ray and thoroughly explain the surgical process, answering any questions you have about how the teeth will be removed.
From there, we will book a surgery date that works best for your schedule. Patients typically will require only a day off of work or school during recovery. We understand convenience is a factor and will work with you to schedule a date far enough in advance to allow you to make appropriate arrangements.
The most common procedure involves a local anesthetic, where you remain conscious but sedated using nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas). The gas relaxes a person and makes them more compliant so the doctors can complete the surgery with minimal interference. Your mouth is also numbed so you cannot feel any pain. The entire surgery typically takes less than an hour.
What about recovery? Because I’ve heard some things …
For starters, you’re going to need to arrange for a ride home—you will not be in any shape to drive a car.
Patients leave the office biting down on gauze to control the bleeding. This is entirely normal, though we understand it can be a scary thought. Within 30 to 45 minutes after the surgery, clots begin to form and the bleeding subsides. We’ll give you additional gauze to swap out if you need more.
The bleeding process is actually essential for a smooth recovery. Without the blood to form clots, healing can’t begin. Avoid the urge to spit or rinse your mouth out for the first 24 hours.
Expect to be on a liquid diet for at least the first 48 hours. Soup broths and protein shakes are the most common alternatives to solid food. An important note: Like with any dental surgery, avoid using straws to suck in liquid. It puts additional stress on the affected areas and can cause the clotted blood to burst, resulting in additional bleeding and longer recovery time.
As for when you return to solid food, that’s essentially up to you. Once your mouth feels less tender, you can switch to soft foods, like mashed potatoes, yogurt, or bananas. Expect to remain more or less on a soft food diet for about a week after the surgery.
We understand drinking your lunch and eating yogurt and mashed potatoes isn’t exactly the most appealing thought, but avoiding chewy foods will ensure a smoother and quicker recovery time, so suck it up. (Just not with a straw!)
What about pain medication?
Typically, your doctor will give you instructions for over-the-counter painkillers like Advil or Tylenol, which are taken every six hours until the pain subsides on its own. Depending on the type of surgery you’ve had, some patients will be prescribed a two- or three-day course of prescription painkillers, though this is not the standard practice.
How much does wisdom tooth removal cost and will my dental insurance cover wisdom tooth extraction?
Unfortunately, the simple answer is, there is no simple answer to this question. There are a number of different factors that can affect the total cost of wisdom tooth extractions. Dental insurance plans also vary widely in what percentage of oral surgery they cover, and how high your deductible is for such procedures.
The best answer is to consult with a doctor from Southtowns Dental and we can help you work through the financial aspect as well as the procedure itself.
Our goal is to make the process of wisdom tooth extraction as painless as possible. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and someone from our staff will personally answer your questions and make sure you’re as comfortable as possible with all of the information before deciding if now is the right time for your wisdom tooth extraction.