Perhaps the most dreaded dental procedure is the removal of the wisdom teeth. Generally, teens and young adults hear horror stories about recoveries or watch funny videos of people who are recovering after surgery.
However, wisdom teeth can be misunderstood, and most of the time, the procedure itself does not have to be traumatic. If you are concerned about wisdom teeth growth and removal, learn more about common questions and concerns that patients might have about the teeth, the removal process, and the recovery.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth (so named because they grow in during adolescence or early adulthood) don’t always have to be removed. They can grow into your mouth straight and cause few, if any, long-term dental problems. However, the majority of people need some or all of these four large molars removed because:
- They can crowd other teeth. Teens who have had braces can be dismayed to discover that their wisdom teeth are pushing their nicely-straightened smile out of alignment. Crowding also causes cleaning issues which increases the risk of dental decay.
- They can grow crooked or even sideways. A common problem is that a person’s mouth can actually be too small for wisdom teeth to emerge properly. The teeth push into the roots of other teeth. This problem is known as impaction, and it causes pain and can damage other teeth that are otherwise healthy.
- They can aggravate other conditions. Patients who have headaches, jaw problems, or migraines may find that wisdom teeth make these problems worse.
Wisdom teeth are slow growing, and problems might not appear right away. For example, cysts or open pockets can form around these teeth, causing pain in the jaw or creating places for bacteria to collect. You might have tender or swollen gums or even risk developing an abscess.
Sometimes, dentists advocate for removal because extraction is much less involved when the teeth are still small and have not caused any problems. Because your bones (including your jaw) harden with age, the earlier the extraction occurs, the better the recovery.
Does Everyone Need Tooth Extraction?
However, not every needs their wisdom teeth removed. It’s a very common procedure, and it is often done to prevent complications that could occur later. But, for people who have large mouths and teeth that appear on x-ray to be growing in straight, the dentist may favor a wait-and-see approach instead of suggesting surgery.
Does Extraction Require Full Anesthesia?
Another concern that patients often have is about the extensiveness of the extraction process. Many recorded videos show people coming out of full anesthesia, where they were put completely under for the procedure.
However, not all patients require such extensive anesthesia. Your dentist will assess the severity of the extraction. Some people may have smaller, simpler teeth that can be removed in just a few minutes under local pain medication. The dentist might provide an IV sedative to help reduce anxiety.
Occasionally, the surgery is more complicated. For example, some teeth are set very deep and are quite large, requiring the dentist to cut the tooth into parts into order to remove the tooth with minimal side effects to the rest of the mouth. Impacted teeth might also take much longer to carefully extract.
Some patients prefer the idea of general anesthesia that puts them to sleep, especially if they have fears about dental work. Others may not like the idea of being completely out. These are concerns to address with your dentist.
Can a Dentist Remove All the Teeth at Once?
You might have had a friend who had one or two wisdom teeth removed. You also might know someone who got all four done at the same time. Again, these choices are made on a case-by-case basis with your dentist.
For some people, removing one or two at a time makes the recovery process easier to handle. For others, doing all four makes the most sense because then they just need one appointment and can get the entire process over with more quickly.
How Bad Is the Recovery Process?
How well you recover from tooth extraction largely depends on you. Your dentist will provide you with medications to manage the pain, but they will also give you some antibiotics to prevent infection. If you take your other medications faithfully for the full prescribed period, you are less likely to develop complications after surgery.
You will also receive detailed instructions on post-surgical care. For example, you will need to change your gauze to soak up bleeding, and you won’t be able to eat solid foods for a few days.
If you try to accelerate your recovery, you risk exposing the extraction site to infection and food particles. You also risk disturbing the clots over the tooth site, which can cause a painful condition called dry socket.
For more information on wisdom teeth and extraction, contact us at Apollo Dental Center.