Wisdom Teeth FAQs
Answers to your questions about wisdom tooth removal as an adult.
Why are wisdom teeth a problem?
There are several reasons why wisdom teeth can be a health problem for adults. For this reason, we recommend having your wisdom teeth evaluated for removal as early as possible, generally during the teen years. Make sure you find a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon for their expert specialist opinion. If you’re an adult and have never had yours removed, consider that problems can develop at any age.
Wisdom teeth are molars, which tend to develop more cavities and cracks than other teeth. They can be difficult to brush and floss, particularly if they don’t fully emerge from the gums. Many wisdom teeth have difficulty coming in because, in most people, the jaw doesn’t have enough space for them. The teeth may come in crooked, become infected, or shift your other teeth.
What is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?
Impaction means the tooth has become trapped in the jawbone and can’t fully emerge. There are several types of impactions, and all of them can lead to dental health problems.
- Soft tissue impaction is when a wisdom tooth erupts but is partially covered by the gums, preventing you from cleaning the tooth properly.
- A partial impaction may start to come in, then get stuck or blocked. The tooth never fully emerges, leading to cleaning problems and a non-functional tooth.
- Complete impaction means there is no space for your wisdom tooth. It stays in the jawline and has to be surgically removed. This extraction can present difficulties as you get older because nerves and tissue become entwined around the tooth.
What are some symptoms of wisdom teeth issues?
If you’re an adult and have not had your wisdom teeth removed, you may develop issues later in life due to an impacted wisdom tooth, including:
- Swelling or tenderness
- Bleeding gums, particularly when brushing
- A jaw or ear pain
- Dark spots on your molars
- Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth
- Chronic bad breath
- cysts and tumors can also develop around impacted wisdom teeth that can displace them over time
What can happen without wisdom teeth removal?
Some people never have their wisdom teeth removed and are fine. The third molars never erupt or partially erupt and don’t cause a problem. But for most people, issues eventually crop up.
The crowding caused by wisdom teeth makes it harder to clean around them and the adjacent molars. This can lead to gum disease, bone loss, and cavities. Crowding can also push your other teeth out of alignment, leading to crooked teeth that don’t meet properly for chewing and speaking. Impacted wisdom teeth can develop cysts around them, damaging the surrounding jawbone and other teeth. The cysts can become infected and are challenging to treat without removing the tooth.
How long does wisdom teeth removal take?
Removing a single wisdom tooth without complications can take less than an hour.
If you have multiple wisdom teeth removed or the impaction is complex, it takes longer. As you age, the roots of your teeth grow longer and get closer to sensory nerves in the jaws making the removal of them more difficult with increased risk of nerve injury. Wisdom teeth are near nerve bundles and close to sinus passages in the upper jaw. Both of these issues can make the procedure more time-consuming. Dr. Stamboulieh uses anesthetics and deep sedation/general anesthesia to keep you comfortable and relaxed during the entire procedure.
Should I have all my wisdom teeth removed at once?
Regardless of when you have your wisdom teeth removed, it is generally a good idea to have all of them taken out at the same time to avoid needing oral surgery more than once. However, every patient is different. X-rays and a physical exam combined with your symptoms help Dr. Stamboulieh determine whether all four wisdom teeth should be removed. If one or more wisdom teeth aren’t causing problems, he may elect to leave them in place.
What is a dry socket?
Most people recover from wisdom teeth removal with no complications beyond some mild pain and swelling. Rarely, a dry socket may develop. This happens when the blood clot over the removal site is dislodged, leading to dull, throbbing pain. If you suspect you have a dry socket, contact our office. We may place a medicated dressing in the empty socket that acts as an internal bandaid. Fortunately, most patients don’t develop a dry socket. If they do, recovery may take a few days longer but shouldn’t lead to complications.
How long does it take to recover from wisdom tooth removal?
As we age, the healing process slows down a bit, which is one reason so many people have their wisdom teeth removed when they are in their teens or early twenties. In your thirties or older, you may have mild pain and swelling for three to five days after wisdom teeth removal. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a quick recovery:
- Rest at home for a day or two following surgery
- Use ice packs to minimize facial swelling
- Moist heat can reduce jaw pain
- Open and close your mouth frequently to avoid stiffness, but do not over open or overuse
- Drink lots of fluids, especially water
- Eat a very soft food diet for a few days
- You can brush your teeth the first day
At Legacy Implant and Oral Surgery, we are experienced in wisdom teeth removal at all ages. If you have questions or want to discuss having your wisdom teeth removed, please contact our office at (214) 387-4900 or schedule an appointment online.