Wisdom teeth, the third molars on each side of the upper and lower jaw, sometimes require removal. Since they are the last set of teeth to erupt, they typically appear when an individual reaches their late teens or their early 20s. Perhaps most concerning of all is when wisdom teeth only emerge partially or if they are impacted. Other concerns include overly crowded wisdom teeth as well as the pain associated with misaligned wisdom teeth and the possibility of infection.
We can offer specifics about when it is best to have wisdom teeth removed. However, in most cases, when these teeth are removed before the age of 20, they have tooth roots that are much less developed, resulting in fewer complications. Most dental professionals recommend having wisdom teeth removed somewhere between the age of 16 and 18. The first step is first to be evaluated by your oral surgeon to see if a tooth extraction is indeed necessary.
The Procedure And The Healing Process
Patients having wisdom teeth removed should understand that there is some level of discomfort and swelling that is associated with any oral surgery. This is a normal part of the procedure and the healing process. It is important to note that wisdom teeth should be extracted if it appears that they will present a problem later on down the road. If there is not enough room remaining on the jaw for the wisdom teeth to grow in normally, it is best to have them removed.
When crowding of wisdom teeth occurs, they can come in at an angle, or they may not emerge fully. Ultimately, oral health-related problems such as pain and infection could result. Impacted wisdom teeth can damage other surrounding healthy teeth and may cause severe disease and other dental problems. In most cases, wisdom tooth removal is an outpatient procedure. While any tooth extraction is considered major surgery, it is often done under general or local anesthesia in an outpatient environment.
The Healing Process
After the surgical removal of wisdom teeth, it is recommended to follow your oral surgeon’s directions as a way to avoid any potential complications or infections. As stated, pain and swelling are a normal part of having wisdom teeth extracted. There may also be some bleeding of the gums, as the healing process will take time. Surgeons recommend being very careful not to dislodge any blood clots located around the site of the surgery.
Patients should exercise caution by avoiding the consumption of solid or hard foods, coffee, alcohol, hot beverages, or soda for at least the first few days following this type of surgical procedure. Equally important is to avoid brushing your teeth for the first day after the procedure. The firm bristles of a toothbrush could cause additional bleeding or the dislodging of a blood clot. The good news is that in most situations, a patient can expect the recovery time for wisdom teeth extraction to be about 3 to 4 days. In some cases, it may take up to a week or longer, but these cases are the exception rather than the rule.
Avoid Vigorous Activity
A factor that will determine how quick the recovery processes will be included how severe the wisdom tooth impaction was at the time of removal. Those who have had wisdom tooth surgery should plan to rest and avoid substantial activity for at least the first few days. Always keep in mind that any activity for the first week following surgery that might dislodge or disrupt a blood clot should be avoided.
Patients may take over-the-counter pain medication or prescription medication as directed. Swelling is a normal part of the post-surgical experience when having teeth extracted. Placing an ice pack on the outside of the face over the jaw area can help reduce any swelling. Going back and forth between hot and cold compresses can help to reduce inflammation and ease any ongoing discomfort.
The First 24 Hours
It is essential to follow your oral surgeon or dentist’s instructions following surgery as a way to care for your mouth throughout the recovery period. Patients will likely be advised not to floss, brush, or rinse for the first 24 hours after wisdom tooth extraction surgery. Following the early 24 hours, it is usually okay to brush gently and rinse with a solution of warm water and salt as frequently as possible. This will keep the site of the surgical procedure clean and help to avoid infection.
Also, eating soft foods is always a good idea following surgery. This includes foods like cottage cheese, applesauce, yogurt, and any other type of soft food that will not interfere with the healing process. Eventually, patients can move into a diet that includes semi-soft foods and, finally, solid foods. While recovery will take several days, there may still be discomfort and swelling as long as a week or two out following surgery. The consistent use of ice packs along with frequently rinsing with warm salty water will help to facilitate healing. If you experience any unusual symptoms or side effects following surgery, call your oral surgeon as soon as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns about tooth extraction or any oral surgery procedure, please contact our office. We offer free consultation and X-ray for our patients.
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