About Wisdom Teeth

By the age of 18, most adults will have 32 total teeth. However, nearly 90% of adults will only have the approximate jaw size to hold 28. Those extra four teeth are typically the third molars, or "wisdom teeth." Some people are born without these "extra" teeth – in fact, they are the most common teeth to be born without – but for the rest of us, the extra teeth in the jaw causes problems. When the wisdom teeth come in (years after the rest of our permanent teeth), there is often little to no space for them to erupt. This forces them into strange positions, or to grow into spaces they were not meant to – a condition called "impacted". This can damage the wisdom teeth and the surrounding teeth and tissues, including the possibility of cysts, abscesses, tumors and other maladies.

When Should Wisdom Teeth Come Out?

The "common wisdom" of years past indicated that wisdom teeth should only be taken out after they erupted or caused problems. We now know, however, that in many cases, wisdom teeth can already cause major problems before erupting. A recent study by the AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) shows that normally erupted, well positioned wisdom teeth can be just as prone to infection as impacted wisdom teeth, furthering the case for the early extraction of wisdom teeth.

Waiting to remove a wisdom tooth only gives the tooth time to grow larger and become more difficult to extract. Also, older patients often suffer more complications and longer recovery times than their younger counterparts when undergoing wisdom tooth extractions.

Before Your Procedure

Wisdom tooth extractions typically begin with an examination so we can best determine the best method of extraction. This exam usually involves a comprehensive "panorex" x-ray, taken either by our office or by your general dentist, if they have the necessary equipment. Once we have examined your mouth and x-rays, we can make a diagnosis and recommendation regarding your wisdom teeth. Wisdom tooth extractions are the most common procedures for oral surgeons, meaning our experience and expertise are best suited for this particular situation.

We will give you appropriate pre-operative instructions so that your procedure proceeds as smoothly as possible. Before the procedure, an appropriate anesthesia will be administered to maximize comfort during the procedure.

After Your Procedure

After the wisdom tooth is removed:

  • The gum will be sutured and gauze placed on the extraction site in order to minimize bleeding.
  • You will be given post-operative instructions and any needed materials to help with healing and recovery.
  • In most cases, we will recommend a special diet for several days after the surgery. Soft foods, cool liquids, and no straws, rinsing, smoking or sucking of any kind will help keep you nourished and also minimize the chance of damaging or removing the blood clot forming in the extraction site.
  • You should expect some light bruising, swelling and bleeding. If you have a concern, don't hesitate to call our office.
  • After the first 24 hours following the procedure, we typically recommend using a salt-water rinse to help accelerate healing. Simply mix a tablespoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water, and gently rinse the solution for 30 seconds, two to three times a day for about a week.
  • Be careful not to damage the extraction site while brushing and flossing. Further details can be found in our post-operative materials.
  • We will schedule a follow-up appointment, usually around a week after the day of your wisdom tooth extraction, so that we can ensure the extraction site is healing properly, and to make sure you have no questions or problems we can address.