Why do I have wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or your third set of molars, are believed to be a remnant of our ancestors who had larger jaws and a higher risk of losing teeth that these extras could replace. These third set of molars have, with a few exceptions, become unnecessary as our jaws have become smaller and the likelihood of losing teeth early has drastically decreased. In fact, with each generation we see more impaction of these teeth, and even the total lack of developing them. Fun fact: Dr. Gonzalez only had three wisdom teeth!
What does impaction mean?
Some wisdom teeth grow completely under the bone or partly in the bone and partly in the gums. This is why many patients aren’t even sure if they have wisdom teeth until they cause problems or pain. Dentists believe this impaction is due to lack of space in most people’s jaws.
Can I keep my wisdom teeth? I like being wise!
It depends! More often these third molars pose a lot of problems and little to no benefit, so we encourage patients to get a consultation if they think they have wisdom teeth. Dr. Gonzalez makes recommendations based on your likelihood for problematic things to develop like resorption of the second molars, deep cavities on the wisdom teeth, or inflammation of the gums.
What age is best to take them out?
Generally, the younger the better, but Dr. Gonzalez has taken out wisdom teeth on patients from age 16 to 86! Being younger means you’re better able to recover from the dental surgery and less likely to have developed pain or infection around the wisdom teeth.
What should I expect at my wisdom teeth surgery?
If you are being sedation, see our sedation Q&A here. Once you’re sedated, you will remember very little, if any, of the surgery.
If you are not being sedated, Dr. Gonzalez will get you numb and place a mouth pillow to help you hold your mouth open for the surgery. You won’t feel anything, but you will hear drills and some crackling as Dr. Gonzalez carefully takes your wisdom teeth out. The more impacted the tooth is, the more likely your tooth will need to sectioned into smaller pieces to facilitate easier healing of the area. Dr. Gonzalez may also recommend a bone graft placement to protect the back side of your second molars and may also place stitches to help you heal faster.
What should I expect after my surgery?
Generally, most people are able to return to non-laborious jobs 24-48 hours after the surgery. We ask that you bite firmly on gauze for 30 minutes after your surgery and stay on a soft food diet for a few days. It’s important to not disturb the surgical sites so don’t brush those areas. Dr. Gonzalez may give you a mouth rinse or instruct you to gently gargle warm salt water to help keep the areas clean. You may experience mild swelling of the cheeks that will alleviate in a day or two. You’ll be provided with a reusable heat pack to help.
What drugs will I be given for pain afterward?
Studies have shown that Ibuprofen 800mg (Advil or Motrin) every 8 hours on the clock for the first two days is the BEST pain relief regimen for this type of surgery. Dr. Gonzalez will often recommend adding a Tylenol 325mg in between doses to help with break through pain. For more information see this study
Are there any risks with this surgery?
As with all dental procedures (yes, even your cleaning!) there are risks. The two biggest risks are dry-socket and damage to adjacent structures.
Dry-socket is when the blood clot that acts as a bandage over your extraction site is removed early. This is why we discourage smoking, vigorous cleaning of the area, the use of straws, and consuming alcohol and other carbonated beverages. Even with all these precautions dry-socket can develop (Dr. Gonzalez got one after her wisdom teeth were taken out!) but we are here to help you. Placement of a medicine followed by careful monitoring will help alleviate symptoms and aid in healing.
The most common structures damaged in this surgery are nerves, sinus and the teeth right next to the site. With our offices 3D X-ray technology we are able to preplan the surgery and determine if you have a higher risk of having these structures damaged. This is all discussed at your pre-surgery consultation.