Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are usually the last teeth to develop. Most of us have four wisdom teeth, one at the back in each section of the mouth. They usually emerge during our late teens or early twenties.
Oftentimes, wisdom teeth become trapped or impacted in the jawbone or simply fail to erupt. This can cause crowding or displacement of other teeth or lead to the development of localized tooth decay, infection or gum disease. Impacted wisdom teeth are set in the jawbone in unusual positions, sometimes horizontally, which stops them from erupting in a normal way.
In most cases, it's recommended that impacted wisdom teeth be extracted. Depending on the position of it, wisdom tooth removal can be performed in your dentist's office, at an outpatient surgical facility or in a hospital.
To extract wisdom teeth, an incision is made and overlying soft tissue and bone are removed, exposing the crown of the impacted tooth. The tooth is extracted whole or surgically cut into large pieces, which can be removed separately if the entire tooth cannot be removed at once. The site is then closed with stitches. If the tooth is not impacted, extraction is the same as with other teeth.
After the procedure, ask your dentist about these techniques to help ease discomfort and promote healing:
- Use ice packs on the cheek for swelling, alternating on and off every thirty minutes
- Apply biting pressure with clean gauze to stop bleeding
- Eat soft foods and drink extra liquids
- Brush carefully the day after surgery
- Take prescribed medications and follow all instructions
- Avoid using drinking straws to preserve the blood clot in the tooth socket
- Use a therapeutic rinse if recommended by your dentist
You should call your dentist or physician immediately if excessive bleeding, swelling, persistent or severe pain or fever occurs.