All you need to know about wisdom teeth

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What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third molars located at the back of your mouth. They may erupt in both the upper and lower arches of both sides, usually between the ages of 17-25.


We commonly tend to associate wisdom teeth with pain and swelling around the mouth. This is because most people do not have enough space in their jaws to accommodate a third set of molars. Hence, when their last molars erupt, they push against the other teeth, causing them to shift. This can lead to several problems such as pain, discomfort, and even infection. However, in some people, third molars continue to erupt normally without causing any problems at all.

Your dentist might recommend that you get them extracted as soon as possible to prevent potential future problems.

Why is it necessary to get them removed?

When there isn’t enough room for a third molar to erupt into the mouth normally, it becomes impacted. By definition, an impacted tooth is one that fails to erupt within the usual range of expected time. The tooth becomes impacted because the adjacent teeth, overlying bone, excessive soft tissue, or a genetic abnormality may prevent its eruption. Because they have failed to erupt, they will stay unerupted in your jawbone unless surgically removed.

Wisdom teeth may erupt partially, meaning that a part of them remains embedded in the bone while a portion erupts through the gums. Partially erupted wisdom teeth are more prone to become infected as they allow an opening for the bacteria to enter around a tooth and cause infection. This inevitably results in pain, swelling, infection, and can even lead to general illness such as fever. They’re also hard to clean because of their awkward positioning and are hence more vulnerable to decay.

An impacted tooth may grow in a variety of directions, such as

  • At an angle towards the adjacent tooth (second molar)
  • At an angle towards the back of the mouth
  • At a right angle to the other teeth (in a horizontal position)
  • Straight up, like the other teeth, but trapped in the jawbone

Poor alignment of wisdom teeth can damage adjacent structures, such as teeth, jawbone, or nerves.

Do I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?

The simple answer is this: If they’re causing problems, then yes. If not, then no.

Having your wisdom teeth removed is not always necessary.

If your wisdom teeth aren’t causing pain, it’s likely because they’re not causing any problems. But you can’t be sure unless your doctor has taken an x-ray of your wisdom teeth. An x-ray can reveal whether the tooth is impacted, causing damage to other teeth, or is not a cause for concern at all.

Some dentists take out healthy wisdom teeth at a younger age to prevent problems later on. Symptom-free wisdom teeth could still harbor disease. As you age, it becomes difficult to extract your wisdom teeth and more complications are bound to occur.

Doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer are here to help and give you their professional advice on whether or not you need to get your wisdom teeth removed!

Call now at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) to book an appointment with us today.

When is wisdom tooth extraction needed?

It becomes necessary to get them removed as they can cause many serious problems if left unaddressed. Listed below are some of them:

  • They trap food and debris, leading to the gums around the wisdom tooth becoming infected and swollen
  • Cause pain and severe discomfort
  • Cause tooth decay in the adjacent tooth as they hamper adequate cleaning of second molars
  • Cause infection in the gums (periodontal disease)
  • Cause damage to the surrounding bone
  • May cause the development of a cyst
  • May cause problems with the orthodontic treatment required to straighten other teeth

How is a wisdom tooth extracted?

Wisdom tooth extraction is an outpatient procedure that takes around 45 minutes or less. An outpatient procedure means that you arrive at the office and leave the same day, without the need for being admitted overnight.

Your dentist starts by taking a detailed history, inquiring about your medical health, medications, and habits.

You’re given local anesthesia or sedation during surgery to numb your tooth and the surrounding tissue. Local anesthesia is administered as a shot of either novocaine, lidocaine, or mepivacaine. If you have anxiety issues, you may be given nitrous oxide, or laughing gas to calm you down. The effects start to wear off shortly after the procedure.

An IV sedation includes injecting an anesthetic through a vein in your arm. It keeps you asleep throughout the procedure.

To gain access to your wisdom tooth, your dentist will need to cut through your gums and bone. This requires sutures to close the wound after the tooth is pulled out. Your dentist will stitch the wound back together to help it heal quickly. The stitches easily dissolve on their own in a few days.

What to expect after surgery and how to care for your wound:

Some pain and swelling are completely normal after the procedure. These symptoms subside on their own in about three days.

Here are some easy ideas to help curb the swelling and pain:

  • Place an ice-pack on your face to reduce swelling
  • Eat soft foods like pasta, rice, or soup
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Start brushing your teeth on the second day after surgery
  • Take your pain medication on time
  • Call your doctor if your pain and swelling don’t improve within 5-7 days
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater starting from the second day after surgery. Saltwater is a great antiseptic and works to reduce the load of bacteria in your mouth

Make sure that you DON’T do the following:

  • Do not sip through a straw. Doing so might dislodge the blood clots that have formed to heal the wound and start bleeding
  • Do not spit often
  • Do not chew on hard foods as they can hurt the wound
  • Do not rinse your mouth using a lot of force, if you really need to it, do it very gently
  • Do not smoke as it delays healing

Take a good rest and avoid any strenuous activity that might cause physical exertion for at least two to three days following your surgery. Over exhaustion can hinder your healing and lead to more bleeding.

Pain and swelling are common complaints after any invasive procedure. To reduce discomfort, your doctor might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. Apply ice or cold compress to your face to reduce swelling. Take your pain medication as soon as you are instructed to, even if you don’t yet feel pain.

Make sure to eat a soft, nutrient-rich diet. It is very important to keep your mouth clean, especially after you eat to remove any food particles that may be left in your mouth.

Understand that complete healing takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months following extraction. However, after the first or second week, enough healing will have occurred for you to comfortably resume eating and be completely pain-free in the area of extraction.

Drs. Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer, here at Periodontal Associates are skilled at performing atraumatic wisdom teeth extraction procedures. Call now at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton) and get in touch!

Are there any risks involved with this procedure?

When it comes to the risks associated with this procedure, there isn’t much to worry about as long you’re following the post-operative instructions given by your doctor. There is a slight chance of infection, just as with any other surgical procedure, but easily preventable given that you’re meticulous about post-op care.

Dry socket:

A not-so-common complication following a wisdom tooth extraction is a dry socket. It occurs when either a blood clot fails to form in the extraction site, or it becomes dislodged due to poor post-op care. Without clot formation, healing is invariably delayed. A dry socket is typically on the 3rd or 4th-day post-extraction. Common symptoms are dull aching pain accompanied by a foul mouth odor. If this happens, go to your dentist immediately. Your dentist will treat it by placing medication in your extraction socket.

Bleeding from the surgical site is another uncommon finding after the procedure. There’s no need to be alarmed if you experience bleeding from your gums at any time after the surgery. Know that it will take time to heal, just like any other wound.

You may experience insensitivity of the lower lip, tongue, or chin (caused to damage to a nerve during the procedure). This may last a few days, weeks, months, or even be permanent.

Since this procedure entails removing the gum tissue, you are bound to feel some degree of sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. It will get better with time.

Be patient and take extra care of your oral hygiene.

Your dental health matters the most to us! If you have any questions regarding your wisdom teeth, please do not hesitate to contact us at (303)-755-4500 (Aurora) or (303)-795-5700 (Littleton). Doctors Heller, Beckman, Thousand, and Hyer would be more than happy to answer all your queries!