Written by: Mitra Bolouri, DDS (Dallas County Dental Society Member)
It’s summertime, which for many high school and college students means it’s a good time to get their wisdom teeth extracted if necessary. Wisdom teeth are what many people refer to as the third set of molars that most individuals have. Typically, they will arrive between the ages of seventeen and twenty one, making them the last set of teeth to erupt. Much like a baby or child has discomfort when their teeth come in, there can be some soreness as the wisdom teeth come in.
If the wisdom teeth come in correctly, they can aid in chewing, just like the other molars. With diligent brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings, they can remain in the mouth without any complications. However, there are certain circumstances when the wisdom teeth should be removed.
Should my wisdom teeth be extracted?
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, wisdom teeth in the presence of disease or with a high risk of developing disease should be removed. According to the American Dental Association, this can include the presence of things such as pain, infection, cysts, tumors, damage to neighboring teeth, gum disease, and tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend the removal of your wisdom teeth if you are highly susceptible to cavities on your other teeth or have a history of poor oral hygiene habits. In some cases, wisdom teeth are impacted, meaning they will not serve any function chewing and may need to be removed as they may be more susceptible to disease.
If your dentist examines your wisdom teeth and sees they are free from cavities, gum disease, or any other issues, he or she may recommend that you keep them. However, they can always cause problems later on, so diligent brushing and flossing is necessary, as well as regular dental check ups and cleanings.
What should I expect if I’m getting my wisdom teeth removed?
Your dentist may recommend that you see an oral surgeon for your wisdom teeth extractions, or your dentist may provide this treatment themselves. There are different options for anesthesia, depending on what you and your provider decide is a good option for you. You will be numbed around the teeth and gums using dental anesthetic, but you may elect to use nitrous (“laughing gas”), sedation, or general anesthesia to make your more comfortable during the procedure.
Afterwards, you will experience some soreness. Your provider will go over what you should and shouldn’t do to help with healing and minimize discomfort. Don’t hesitate to call your dentist if you have any questions! In young, healthy individuals, healing is generally faster, which is why many providers prefer to take wisdom teeth out when the patient is young. In the presence of disease, either around the teeth or systemic, healing may take longer.
In some cases, a dry socket can occur. This is when the blood clot that has formed where the tooth was is displaced, causing the nerves and bones to be exposed to the oral cavity. Avoiding smoking or drinking through a straw can decrease the chance that you’ll get a dry socket, although it is still possible. A dry socket can be very painful and you should call the provider who performed the extractions if you suspect you have one. They may see you to clean the site and place a medicament in the socket to promote healing.
Knowing what you or your child can expect with regards to their wisdom teeth and potential extractions can help alleviate some of the fears that you may have. Your dentist can help evaluate if wisdom teeth removal is the right decision for you and answer any other questions you may have.