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Wisdom Teeth Extraction

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth often first appear in young adults between the ages of 17 to 21. They are also called third molars. Because most mouths are too small for 4 more teeth, wisdom teeth often need to be removed. This is called an extraction. It sometimes needs to be done as soon as they erupt or break through the surface.

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

These symptoms may mean that the wisdom teeth have erupted and should be removed before they cause more serious problems.

  • Pain

  • Infection in the mouth

  • Facial swelling

  • Swelling of the gumline in the back of the mouth around the wisdom tooth

The wisdom teeth may be partly erupted. That means the teeth have partly surfaced and have no room in the mouth to come in completely.

Completely impacted teeth have not come through the gum and may never erupt into the mouth. If they are not causing problems or seen as a possible problem, then many dentists will choose to watch them over time. If the wisdom teeth are causing problems or likely to cause problems, most oral health specialists will advise to remove them right away. Early removal will help to prevent problems, such as an impacted tooth that could cause damage to the roots of the second molars.

What problems are often linked to impacted wisdom teeth?

  • Plaque buildup and tooth decay if the molars are partly erupted

  • A cyst or fluid-filled sac

  • A tumor

  • Infection

  • Jaw and gum disease

  • Decay of or damage to the tooth beside it 

How are wisdom teeth removed?

The way wisdom teeth are removed depends on things like the position of the teeth and if they're impacted. Generally, to remove the wisdom teeth, your dentist will make a cut or incision through the gum tissue over the tooth. They will gently detach the connective tissue between the tooth and the bone. The tooth is then removed and the opening in the gum is stitched closed. Sometimes, some of the bone surrounding the tooth must be removed. The tooth may need to be cut into sections to allow removal.  

Your mouth will be numb during the procedure, so you don't feel pain. You may be awake during the procedure. In some cases, you may get sedation or general anesthesia. This makes you feel like you're sleeping. You will need an adult to drive you home afterwards.

Your dentist will give you directions for after the procedure. These will include how to take care of your mouth, what to eat, how to control pain and swelling, if you need a follow-up appointment, and what problems to watch for.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Kapner MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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