What to Expect When Wisdom Teeth or Third Molars Need to Be Removed

Many young adults have heard incredible accounts of the ordeals experienced when wisdom teeth need to be removed or extracted. Although there are some great stories, most of these dramatic accounts can be minimized if a patient is prepared for what to expect before, during, and after the dental procedure find wisdom teeth removal.

It is best to remove wisdom teeth before the third molar roots have fully developed. Removing the teeth before the roots are long and anchored into the jaw makes the procedure easier on the patient and the dentist. Typically, the evaluation to remove wisdom teeth should occur when the patient is around 16 or 17 years of age. However, depending on how quickly the patient has physically matured, the possibility of removing the teeth could occur earlier. A general rule of thumb is to consider removing the teeth during the last two years of high school. Beginning the evaluation process early allows the patient to schedule a time when there is adequate “down” time for healing.

Once a panoramic or 3-D cone beam x-ray has been taken of the teeth, the dentist will be able to identify how difficult the wisdom teeth extractions will be. Evaluation of the third molar extractions will include looking at the surrounding bone, tooth root structure, position of the wisdom teeth, and even how wide the patient can open his mouth. Often the option of sedation is considered depending on the patient’s anxiety level. If sedation is used in addition to a local anesthetic, the patient will need to follow the guidelines to minimize any complications.

Often some tissue and or bone will need to be removed in addition to removing the wisdom teeth. Depending on what is needed during the procedure, resorbable sutures may be placed to help close the extracted tooth socket. In addition, biting on moist gauze or a tea bag can be used to help maintain the blood clot that forms in the missing tooth’s socket. Maintaining the blood clot in the tooth socket is important. Avoiding smoking, sucking through a straw, or any activity that might remove the blood clot is advised for at least the first 36 to 48 hours.

After the procedure, it is important to have adequate rest and nutrition for optimal healing. Unless there was an infection prior to the dental procedure, typically, antibiotics are not recommended during the recovery phase. Patients should anticipate some swelling in the jaw area, especially if some tissue and bone needed to be removed. Maximum swelling occurs around 72 hours after the surgery. After that time, swelling and discomfort should decrease.

After a few days of rest, the patient should be able to resume his normal activities. If the patient experiences a dull, constant, achy sensation a few days after the procedure, he should contact his dental office. This problem, often referred to as a “dry socket”, can be easily remedied by one’s dentist. Understanding what is normal during the healing process helps to reduce the concern over having wisdom teeth removed. When the patient knows what to expect, the best end results can be achieved.

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