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What to Expect When Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

Removing your wisdom teeth is a rite of passage for most teenagers or young adults. In fact, millions of wisdom teeth are extracted annually. However, we’re sure that knowing that fact doesn’t decrease your anxiety or make you eager to jump into the dentist’s chair. 

Let’s review some basic information about what to expect when getting your wisdom teeth removed. 

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third group of molars in the very back of your mouth. They are the last of your permanent teeth to erupt or appear. This usually happens when you are between 17 and 25 years old. 

While not everyone has wisdom teeth that develop, the majority of us do.

Why Do My Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?

Unfortunately, your mouth is typically not large enough to have the space needed for your wisdom teeth to develop normally or even erupt. 

Wisdom teeth are known to grow at an irregular angle either towards the front or back of your mouth. Even if they do grow at a normal angle, they often remain completely or partially trapped or impacted in your jawbone. If they do start to erupt, they can damage your other teeth.

For all of these reasons, most people have their wisdom teeth removed. Doing so helps to ensure that you do not experience these possible future complications:

  • A cyst (fluid-filled sac) forms next to the wisdom tooth
  • Damage to nearby teeth or bone
  • Food getting trapped
  • Gum disease or infection
  • Pain 
  • Tooth decay in the wisdom tooth

If you need to have your wisdom teeth removed, your dentist will let you know. It may be possible that your dentist can do it in their office. If not, they will refer you to an oral surgeon.

How Do I Prepare?

During your pre-procedure appointment, your dentist or oral surgeon will talk you through the process. This will also include a conversation about what type of sedation you want. 

What Are My Sedation Options?

Local Anesthesia

This is similar to what is done when you have a filling or other dental work. The gums around the wisdom teeth are first numbed. Then, injections are administered to further numb the entire area around the extraction sites. While you do not feel pain throughout the procedure, you remain awake.

Sedation Anesthesia

With this option, anesthesia is given to you through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. The anesthesia sedates you enough that you do not feel any pain. However, you do remain conscious with some memory of the procedure.

General Anesthesia  

The final option completely knocks you unconscious for the entire procedure. This option is usually administered through an IV line. The anesthesia causes you to lose consciousness, so you will feel no pain and have no memory of the extraction. While you’re unconscious, you will be closely monitored.

What Steps Should I Take to Prepare? 

In addition to discussing anesthesia, your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with a list of instructions before and after the extraction.

Take time before the surgery to prepare. It will help ensure that you heal properly. It will also assist you in being as comfortable as possible while you recover.

Here are some steps to consider.

Plan Ahead for School, Work, and Child or Pet Care

You will need several days to recover. Be sure to consider your obligations so you can plan ahead and have that time available.

If you go to school, let your teachers know you will be out. Make the necessary arrangements for deadlines or tests you may miss. Try to get ahead of your homework, if possible, so you do not get behind. 

If you work, schedule the time off with your supervisor. You should only need 2 to 3 days. However, if you have a physical job that requires heavy lifting, consider taking an additional few days off, unless they can have you do something light while you recover.

If you are a parent or have a pet, consider having someone else take care of them for the first couple of days. Depending on the situation, they can stay in your home or help by taking your child or pet to their home while you recover.   

Regardless of your circumstances, avoid strenuous activities during your initial recovery. Take the time to let yourself heal.

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Your surgical team will not care what you look like when you show up to have your wisdom teeth removed. Neither should you. 

Wear something loose and comfortable. Depending on the anesthesia you choose, you should wear a short-sleeved shirt or something that can be easily rolled up to access your arm.

You do not need to worry about styling your hair or wearing makeup. After the procedure, you will just want to go home and sleep. 

Make Travel Arrangements

Someone will need to take you to and from your appointment. Whether you elect for local or general anesthesia, you will not be able to drive yourself home. 

Ask a parent, sibling, spouse, family member, or friend to drive you to your appointment and back. Also ask them to ensure you get into your home safely and comfortably.

Prepare Your Space

You will want plenty of sleep for the first 12 to 24 hours. This is part of the normal healing process. To make sure you can rest comfortably, get your space ready beforehand. This may be your bedroom or the front room. 

You will want to have a variety of relaxing and enjoyable things to do while you recover. This can include watching TV, streaming movies, playing video games, reading books, or doing puzzles. We recommend having several things on hand that you can easily access.

You should make sure that you have plenty of things that you can eat. After your wisdom teeth removal, you will be limited in your food choices. This is to make sure that the incision site stays free from harm.   

For the first 1 to 2 days, you should limit yourself to soft foods, such as apple sauce, ice cream, mashed potatoes, soup, pudding, Jell-O, and broth. As your incisions heal, you can start to eat semi-soft foods, which require a small amount of chewing. This might include soft fruits, cottage cheese, oatmeal, soft cheese, scrambled eggs, toast, and steamed vegetables.

As you heal, you should avoid hard, crunchy, sticky, acidic, and spicy foods. This should also include anything that gets easily stuck in your teeth. These types of foods can create issues for you as you recover.

Pick Up Your Medication

Lastly, pick up any medication that you might need. Many people manage their pain with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen. 

If you are prescribed any pain medication or antibiotics, we recommend filling the prescriptions ahead of time.

What Should I Expect During the Procedure?

With all of the preparation done, you’re ready to have your procedure. Let’s explain more about what will happen during the wisdom teeth extraction.

Your surgical team will begin by sedating you based on your chosen method. They will ensure you cannot feel anything before they begin the extraction.

Once you are sedated, your dentist or oral surgeon will make an incision in your gums to expose the tooth and bone. They will remove any bone that might obstruct their access to the wisdom tooth. Next, they will loosen the tooth and remove it from its socket.

After removing the tooth, they will clean the area or socket of any debris. They then close the incision, usually with stitches that dissolve in a few days. Lastly, they place gauze over the site. This helps control any minor bleeding that may occur. It also helps the blood clot to form in the socket.

The process is then repeated for the remaining wisdom teeth. The entire procedure, from start to finish, usually takes less than an hour.

What Does the Recovery Process Look Like?

It can take up to 2 weeks to fully recover from having your wisdom teeth removed. However, you will start to feel more normal after 2 to 3 days. 

While the recovery process can vary by person, you should expect to feel mild discomfort and pain for the first couple of days. Minor bleeding can also occur during the first 24 hours.

Here are common symptoms you may experience during the first several days:

  • Dry socket (the blood clot is dislodged from the socket exposing the bone and nerves)
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Minor bleeding
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Your dentist or oral surgeon will give you a list of aftercare instructions, which will likely include doing the following:

  • Rest
  • Drink water
  • Use an ice pack to reduce swelling
  • Replace the gauze when needed
  • Eat soft foods and then slowly introduce semi-soft foods
  • Take pain medication as instructed

They will also encourage you to avoid the following:

  • Brushing your teeth for 24 hours
  • Rinsing your mouth for 24 hours
  • Drinking other beverages besides water for 24 hours
  • Doing any strenuous activities for 2 to 3 days
  • Spitting or swishing excessively
  • Smoking for at least 3 days
  • Using a straw for a week

After 2 to 3 days, you can typically begin to resume your normal day-to-day activities. However, remember that your mouth is still healing, so use caution until it fully heals.

You typically do not need to follow up with your dentist or oral surgeon after removing your wisdom teeth. However, if you experience any of the following, contact them for further instructions: 

  • Blood or pus in your nasal drainage
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Fever 
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Pain not relieved by medication
  • Pus oozing from the socket
  • Swelling that increases

If you are in need of a dentist in the Idaho Falls area or have questions about having wisdom or other tooth extractions, contact Family Dental Health Center today at 208-529-0120 to schedule an appointment. Our experienced staff is dedicated to helping you and your family with all your dental needs. We provide a safe and friendly environment that will leave you happy and smiling.