Wisdom Teeth Removal
By the age of 18, the average adult has 32 teeth; 16 teeth on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine, and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth (molar teeth) are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.
The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.”
Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to successfully erupt.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.
Wisdom Teeth Presentation
To provide you with a better understanding of wisdom teeth, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to wisdom teeth are discussed.
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. McConnell, Dr. Napier, Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Petree and Dr. Mizukawa can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there are present or may be future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Drs. McConnell, Napier, Kennedy, Petree and Mizukawa have the training, license and experience to provide various types of anesthesia for patients to select the best alternative.
Wisdom Teeth: The Procedure
The length of your surgery depends on a variety of factors including the level of impaction of your teeth and the number of teeth being removed. However, most wisdom teeth extractions can be performed in about an hour. During that time you will be kept comfortable with anesthesia.
In most cases, the removal of wisdom teeth is performed under local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia) or general anesthesia. These options, as well as the surgical risks (i.e., sensory nerve damage, sinus complications), will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed. Once the teeth are removed, the gum is sutured.
To help control bleeding, bite down on the gauze placed in your mouth. You will rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, your postoperative kit will include postoperative instructions, a prescription for pain medication, and/or antibiotics.
The Day of Your Procedure
Prior to your wisdom teeth removal surgery, we will send you home with very specific pre and post-surgical instructions so that you know what to expect.
A few key items:
- Don’t eat or drink the day of your procedure. (Pre-approved medications may be taken with a sip of water.)
- Anesthesia: Most people prefer to be sedated for the procedure, however we do offer a variety of levels of anesthesia to accommodate personal preferences. We are trained and highly experienced with anesthesia to provide you with a safe and comfortable experience.
- Bring a Parent (or responsible adult): It is necessary that you bring a responsible adult with you to the office and that they remain with you throughout the day. We will not be able to release you alone.
- Medications: Make sure you have your pain medications (over the counter and prescription if necessary) ready to go for when the anesthesia starts to wear off at home.
- When You Get Home: You will feel sleepy for the remainder of the day. You may have numbness in the jaw (which shouldn’t be confused with nerve damage) and possibly a sensation of your gums feeling swollen and pulling away from your teeth – all of this is a normal part of the healing process.
- Foods: Specific instructions will be sent home with you regarding the reintroduction of foods. But, as a general rule, start with clear liquids and progress to other soft foods slowly. Avoid dairy products the first day, as they tend to interact with anesthesia, sometimes causing nausea.
- NO Straws: Throughout the healing period, you may not use straws (or tobacco). Using straws can dislodge the clot that is covering your extraction site, resulting in a very painful condition called “dry socket”.
Recovery from Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Post-op soreness can typically be managed with over-the-counter medications, however all medication options will be discussed ahead of your surgery to ensure that you have adequate pain relief at home as the anesthesia wears off.
As with any surgical procedure, there are possible complications associated with the removal of third molars. Since the procedure has been very well tested, these complications (nerve injuries, fractures and injury to the joint) are very rare, and, if the surgery is performed at an early age, the risk is even less.
Our services are provided in an environment of optimum safety that utilizes modern monitoring equipment and staff who are experienced in anesthesia techniques. Our four offices are conveniently located in Knoxville, Maryville, Seymour & Powell.