Wisdom teeth are the third set of adult molars, found at the very end of each arch of teeth. They usually come in when a person is in their late teens or early twenties, but they may become impacted (trapped in the bone or gum) due to lack of room or a poor angle of entry.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may need to be removed. If it is not removed, you may develop gum tenderness, swelling, or even severe pain. Even some wisdom teeth that have come in can be difficult to clean and are susceptible to recurring infections, tooth decay, and gum disease – even affecting adjacent teeth.
Everyone’s mouth is different and your dentist will use x-rays, often a panoramic X-ray, to determine if your wisdom teeth need to be removed. If your dentist diagnoses that your wisdom teeth require extraction, it is best to have it done sooner rather than later. Problems with wisdom teeth are generally diagnosed in a patient’s late teens or early twenties, at which age the roots are often not fully formed and the surrounding bone is less dense. This makes the surgery easier and the recovery time shorter.
For a wisdom tooth extraction, your dentist will keep you comfortable by using a local anesthetic. It is possible that your dentist can use additional medication to help keep you calm during the procedure. Occasionally, some people have their wisdom teeth extracted all at once under general anesthesia. If the wisdom tooth is impacted, your dentist may need to remove part of the bone covering the tooth. Impacted teeth are often “sectioned” to be removed in pieces, making the procedure easier for the patient. Healing time for wisdom tooth extraction varies depending on the degree of difficulty related to the extraction and the individual patient. Your dentist will let you know what to expect and provide instructions to help you have a comfortable and swift healing process.