You’ve been to the dentist, your teeth are vibrant and healthy, and now you have questions about your wisdom teeth. Are they healthy? Have they broken through the gum line? Are they impacted or infected? Asking and getting answers to these questions will be an essential piece to keeping your mouth healthy. Let’s find out more about your wisdom teeth and what care and maintenance are necessary to keep your oral health in check:
Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Your wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that sit in the very back of your mouth. They usually appear on x-rays when you are between the age of 17-25, and depending on their size, position and location, they may need to be removed. People have them removed for various reasons, including:
- Impaction–when teeth become trapped in gum tissue or the jawbone
- Improper positioning–they come in at the wrong angle, pushing against other teeth and compromising the health of other tissues in the mouth
- Small jaw structure–your mouth simply isn’t big enough to accommodate three sets of molars
- The presence of cavities or gum disease–these teeth may compromise the health of the other teeth around them due to disease or decay
Preventing future dental issues
Nowadays, dentists tend to subscribe to the belief that extraction of all wisdom teeth is best, even if they aren’t presenting problems up front. The rationale behind the decision to remove wisdom teeth is that they could cause complications and disease down the road, so removing them when a patient is still relatively young could help prevent future conditions that could compromise oral health. Older patients could develop complications from surgery that can easily be prevented by implementing extraction procedures in a patient’s teens and early twenties.
Am I old enough have my wisdom teeth extracted?
In general, it is not a good idea to have wisdom teeth extracted until they show up on film; in some cases, this can happen for a patient as young as 15 or 16, but in most cases, wisdom teeth are fully formed and showing up in the mouth in some fashion by age 20. Having a conversation with your dental care provider and having x-rays taken will give you a good idea of when it would be ideal to schedule your extraction procedure.
What to expect from extraction
The majority of extraction procedures are outpatient—you will go home that very day. Having a conversation with your dentist prior to your extraction will allow you to adequately prepare for your surgery. Ask and answer the following questions as you prepare for your procedure:
- Will I need to make arrangements for someone to drive me home?
- Can I take prescribed medications or over the counter medications prior to my procedure?
- Do I need to refrain from eating and/or drinking for a certain period of time prior to my surgery?
- What kind of follow up care will be necessary as I recover?
The more you know, the more successful your experience with extraction is likely to be. Follow the recommendations of your doctor and dental care provider as you make plans for pre and post care.
What is involved in an extraction procedure?
You will receive either local or light general anesthesia prior to any dental work being started; this will keep you comfortable and allow your dental care team unrestricted access to areas of your mouth that might otherwise be difficult to get to. If your tooth has already broken through existing gum tissue, your dentist will make a simple extraction. In other cases, when a tooth has not broken through yet or is positioned poorly within the mouth, he may need to make incisions in both gum tissue and bone to extract the tooth and its root system. Following removal, your dentist will thoroughly clean the area and stitch the wound back together to promote optimal healing.
What do I need to know about post-surgical care?
Follow all steps outlined by your dental care team regarding healing time. For instance:
1. Expect to see some blood near your surgical site. This is normal; most dentists discourage excessive spitting, as this can dislodge the blood clot that is protecting your wound site. Keeping this clot in place will be essential as you work to prevent food debris and dry socket from becoming an issue.
2. Follow all directions with regard to pain medications and proper dosage. Some dentists may prescribe a stronger pain medication, while others recommend an over the counter solution such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Follow directions with regard to timing and dosage, and let your dentist know if you need additional pain management assistance.
3. There is likely to be swelling in and around the surgical site. Expect some mild bruising on the outside of your cheeks as well; this will usually subside within a few hours to a few days after your procedure. If you notice that swelling has not subsided, or if you spike a fever accompanied by additional swelling and pain, seek medical attention immediately.
4. Do not under any circumstances use a straw for drinking beverages for at least the first three days after your procedure. This can lead to a very painful condition called dry socket, which can cause an infection that settles deep into bone tissue. Drink lukewarm or tepid beverages for the first 24 hours after your surgery, and avoid swishing excessively, as this may also dislodge the blood clot needed for protection and healing.
5. Eat only soft foods that are not irritating to the mouth or throat. Examples of good foods to eat in the days following surgery include:
- Soft pasta dishes
- Mashed potatoes
- Pureed fruit
- Soft breads
Recovery is easy….with the right dental professional
If you are in need of tooth extraction in NYC, there is no better place to look than Dr. Marc Lazare, D.D.S. and his talented team of professionals. From start to finish, his talented team can provide you with the comfort and care needed to make your wisdom tooth extraction a breeze. Contact us today to make your appointment, and look forward to a happier, healthier smile.