Getting wisdom teeth removed is a rite of passage for many teenagers in junior high and high school. However, for parents who have been informed that their teenager needs to have their wisdom teeth removed, or for adults finally looking into undergoing this procedure, there may be feelings of uncertainty. This is particularly true if you are unfamiliar with wisdom teeth and the removal process. You may even find yourself wondering what wisdom teeth are and what causes them to need to be removed in the first place. To help patients (and their parents) feel more comfortable about an upcoming wisdom teeth removal, here is a look at answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about wisdom teeth.
1) What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, which are officially known as third molars, are the last set of teeth to come in at the back of your mouth. Similar to your other molars, the primary function of wisdom teeth is to grind food as part of the digestive process. While most teeth come in before adolescence, third molars usually develop between the ages of 15 and 20. Since this later age is associated with the onset of maturity and wisdom, third molars have come to be known as wisdom teeth. However, each individual is unique, and some people may develop wisdom teeth as early as their preteens, or as late as their 30s. Additionally, some people will not get all four wisdom teeth, and there are some people whose wisdom teeth never develop.
2) Why Do They Need to Be Removed?
There is a common misconception that wisdom teeth always need to be removed, which leads many people to wonder why we even have these teeth. However, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. If an individual's wisdom teeth grow in healthy, they are positioned correctly, and there are no complications, then there is no reason to have them removed. Unfortunately, this is not a common occurrence, as wisdom teeth rarely grow properly without complications. Most people simply do not have room in their jaws for an additional set of teeth after all of their other teeth have come in, which can cause their wisdom teeth to become impacted.
When there is not enough room for wisdom teeth to come in properly, and they become impacted, this can result in a variety of complications including damage to surrounding teeth, cavities, gum infections, and even cysts. For the majority of people, a lack of room in the mouth will prevent wisdom teeth from growing in properly, and these teeth will need to be removed in order to prevent future complications.
3) Do They Really Need to Be Removed?
Parents often wonder if their child's wisdom teeth really need to be removed, particularly if they are not currently experiencing any pain or complications. However, if your dentist or oral surgeon has identified problems with your child's wisdom teeth, removal will be critical in helping to prevent potential complications down the road. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what is best for your child, and if they are not currently experiencing any complications, you may be able to put off wisdom teeth removal. However, it is important to note that the longer wisdom teeth removal is put off, the more likely it is that your child will experience complications such as infected gums, cavities, jaw damage, and sinus issues resulting from impacted wisdom teeth. Additionally, the recovery process from wisdom teeth removal is usually easier for teenagers, which is why dentists and oral surgeons often recommend wisdom teeth be removed sooner rather than later.
4) What Is Recovery Like?
If you or your child is scheduled to undergo wisdom teeth removal, you may be worried about the recovery process, and you may find yourself wondering how long recovery will take and what symptoms will be like. However, the fact is that the recovery period can vary greatly from one person to the next. While the general rule is to give yourself a week to fully recover after having your wisdom teeth removed, some people may experience significantly shorter or longer recovery times. This is particularly true of patients having their wisdom teeth removed in their 30s or 40s, as it may take them a couple of weeks to recover.
In the days following wisdom teeth removal, it is likely that the patient will experience some minor swelling, bruising, and pain once the anesthesia wears off. However, these symptoms should subside after three to four days. During this time, it is important that you or your teen rests and follows the post-operative instructions provided by their oral surgeon. The patient should be provided with instructions on what pain medication they can take, methods they can use to help with swelling (such as applying ice packs), and what they should and shouldn't eat. It is important that parents are aware of these instructions, and that they make sure that their teen follows their doctor's orders. Generally, it is advised that patients plan to rest for 3-4 days before returning to school or work following wisdom teeth removal. This is why many parents choose to have their teen's wisdom teeth removed during winter or summer break so that their child will have time to recover.
5) What Can I Eat After My Wisdom Teeth Are Removed?
One of the biggest concerns people have about wisdom teeth removal is what they will be able to eat following the procedure. As always, it is important that you follow post-operative instructions, as your dentist or oral surgeon will likely provide you with instructions regarding what you can and can't eat following surgery, as well as how long to wait after surgery before eating. Immediately following the surgery, it is usually recommended to start off with clear liquids like apple juice and water. If that goes well, slowly transition to soft foods such as applesauce, jello, smoothies (without a straw), mashed potatoes, and soft fruit. After a couple of days, you may be able to slowly introduce more solid foods, but it is always important to follow your doctor's recommendations. Make sure to avoid spicy foods, anything with seeds, anything crunchy, or food that is hard to chew for the first couple of days.
For many patients (and their parents), wisdom teeth removal is an intimidating prospect, as this may be their first surgery. Fortunately, wisdom teeth removal is generally a quick outpatient procedure, and following post-operative instructions will ensure that you get back to your normal activities in no time.
If you or your child is in need of wisdom teeth removal, feel free to contact us to learn more about this procedure. At North Shore Smile Surgery, our experienced team can answer any additional questions you may have. You are also welcome to schedule an appointment on our website when you are ready to have your wisdom teeth removed.