According to the American Public Health Association, Americans spend almost $3 billion dollars a year on wisdom teeth removal for 10 million teeth. That’s a startling number, considering some people don’t have wisdom teeth at all.
If you’re experiencing pain in your jaw, you may need your wisdom teeth removed as well. It’s a common and safe surgery, but you may still be wondering what to expect.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the four (two on the top and two on the bottom) hindmost molars in your mouth. They are the third and final set to arrive, usually in your late teens or twenties.
That is if you have wisdom teeth at all. They are not important for your overall chewing ability, so many people do not have them. In fact, wisdom teeth may disappear completely before long, but that doesn’t help you if you’re having problems now.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Process
One of the most common reasons for removing wisdom teeth is if they become impacted. When your wisdom teeth crowd the rest of your teeth as they come in, it can cause pain, cysts, or damage to nearby teeth. However, that isn’t the only reason for wisdom teeth removal.
The first step for removing wisdom teeth is for the dentist to take an x-ray of your mouth. That will show them how your wisdom teeth are growing in and exactly how large they are. With this information, the dentist will know what to expect during the operation.
The dentist will then give you some form of anesthesia or sedation. The exact form of sedation is up to you so it’s worth discussing your options with your dentist. Those options include:
- Local anesthetic to numb your gums and the area around the wisdom teeth
- Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to help keep you calm
- Full sedation with intravenous anesthetic
After you are sedated, the dentist will then cut through the tissue, and bone if necessary, around your wisdom teeth and remove them. Because they grow directly out of the jawbone, removing wisdom teeth is more involved and potentially painful than removing a typical tooth.
Recovering From Wisdom Teeth Removal
You can expect to taste blood in your mouth for a few days after the surgery, but that should dissipate with time. You may experience some swelling in the area as well.
The most important thing to avoid is dry sockets, which can be both painful and dangerous. Dry sockets happen when your mouth cannot form a blood clot in order to heal properly.
Both smoking and using a straw can cause dry sockets, so you will need to avoid both after surgery. Instead, try to eat cold or soft foods, and avoid chewing with the area around the wisdom teeth.
To help avoid infection and to manage the pain, the dentist will provide you with antibiotics and pain medication. You can take the pain medication as you need it, but it’s important to take the full course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better before they run out.
Most people recover from wisdom teeth removal in about a week. After you heal, you will be able to eat and chew normally without any discomfort.
Don’t Neglect Your Oral Health
It’s easy to underestimate how important good oral care is for your overall health and happiness. Many people loathe going to the dentist, and showing up for wisdom teeth removal can be especially frightening.
But, a little knowledge can help demystify the process. Now that you know what to expect, it should be easy.
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