Why are wisdom teeth extracted?

A wisdom tooth is extracted to correct an actual problem or to prevent them in the future. When wisdom teeth come in, a number of problems can occur:

  • Your jaw may not be large enough for them, and they may become impacted and unable to break through your gums.
  • Your wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. Food and germs can get trapped under the flap and cause your gums to become red, swollen, and painful. These are signs of infection.
  • More serious problems can develop from impacted teeth, such as infection, damage to other teeth and bone, or a cyst.
  • One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.

If there is a risk that misaligned wisdom teeth will jeopardize your health your dentist will recommend wisdom teeth extraction or removal.

What happens during wisdom teeth extraction?

Before removing a wisdom tooth, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. A general anesthetic may be used, especially if several or all of your wisdom teeth will be removed at the same time. A general anesthetic prevents pain in the whole body and will cause you to sleep through the procedure. Your dentist will probably recommend that you don’t eat or drink after midnight on the night before surgery so that you are prepared for the anesthetic.

To remove the wisdom tooth, your dentist will open up the gum tissue over the tooth and take out any bone that is covering the tooth. He or she will separate the tissue connecting the wisdom tooth to the bone and then remove the tooth. Sometimes the dentist will cut the tooth into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.

After the wisdom tooth is removed, you may need stitches. Some stitches dissolve over time and some have to be removed after a few days. Your dentist will tell you whether your stitches need to be removed. A folded cotton gauze pad placed over the wound will help stop the bleeding.

What should I do after my wisdom teeth are removed?

In most cases, the wisdom tooth removal recovery period lasts only a few days. Take painkillers as prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon. The following tips will help speed your recovery:

  • Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after wisdom teeth removal.
  • Do not lie flat. This may prolong bleeding. Prop up your head with pillows.
  • Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
  • Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding, or a thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.
  • Do not use a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot and delay healing of the wisdom teeth removal area.
  • Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.

Your dentist will remove the stitches a few days after the wisdom teeth extraction, if needed.

Jean Brown research is currently conducting a study of an investigational medication to treat pain associated with the extraction of wisdom teeth. To learn more about the wisdom teeth study in Salt Lake City, Utah, visit the Jean Brown Research wisdom teeth study page.