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The very idea of getting your wisdom teeth removed might make you nervous. Fortunately, you’re working with an experienced dentist who has successfully extracted hundreds of wisdom teeth.   Before you schedule your surgery, it may put you at ease to educate yourself about what to expect before, during and after your surgery.

Before Treatment:  Understand the Why

Your teeth are in a tight spot! Your third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, don’t erupt until you’re in your late teens or early twenties. Often, your wisdom teeth come in at an angle, or they start to break through your gums without the space to fully erupt. When wisdom teeth cannot fully erupt due to crowded surface area or make contact with other teeth, they are called impacted wisdom teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extraordinarily painful because the tooth’s crown pushes against gum and bone and causes inflammation. Impacted wisdom teeth also can put you at risk for serious infection and cyst development, so it’s best to address the issue before it becomes a major problem.

Because impacted wisdom teeth create risk and discomfort, most dentists recommend removing them in early adulthood. The sooner you get impacted wisdom teeth extracted, the fewer complications you’ll experience during and after surgery. Before the extraction, you’ll need to schedule a consultation with your dentist. Your dentist will examine your third molars and let you know how severely impacted they are. He or she will make the final decision about whether or not you need to have your third molars extracted.

During the Extraction

Your dentist will decide whether you need local or general anesthesia.  Removal wisdom teeth extraction can be considered a major surgery, especially taking into account the degree of impaction; in these cases, many dentists prefer to use general anesthesia to keep their patients comfortable during the procedure.  Other patients may only require local anesthetic or be advised about oral sedation options.  Once you’re comfortable, your dentist will make an incision into your gums and expose your third molars. Your dentist will remove the bone tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth. Depending on your tooth’s size, your dentist also may need to extract your wisdom teeth in sections. After the teeth have been extracted, your dentist will clean the extraction site, add stitches to your gums,and place gauze over the area.

After the Surgery: Relax!

For 24 hours after your surgery, your dentist will likely direct you not to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth. Blood clots need time to form on the extraction sites. You want to be careful to not do anything that might dislodge the clots from your healing gums. You may also be instructed to put gauze on the affected gums for a day or two or until the bleeding stops and healing begins. Be aware of how much your mouth is swelling and how much pain you feel. Your dentist will prescribe you a mild pain killer, which you should take based on their instructions. The pain killer will reduce the stress your body experiences, and allow your mouth to heal faster.

Keep an eye on how much swelling is happening around your mouth and jaw.  Some swelling is normal, but if the swelling becomes excessive, lightly place an ice pack on your jaw. Leave it on for 20 minutes at a time, then take it off for 20 minutes. Repeat until the swelling goes down.

Your recovery time can take as long as a week.  Get plenty of rest and relaxation.  Avoid eating any firm foods or drinking alcohol and coffee. Do not sip anything with a straw.  This can create suction that removes the blot clots in your healing gums and cause a painful situation known as dry sockets. As your gums heal, try to rinse daily with salt water. Just a little bit of rinsing will help to keep the recently healed wounds clean and prevent infection.

Share Your Concerns

Wisdom teeth extraction doesn’t need to be a scary process. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for the upcoming surgery, but if you’re feeling particularly anxious about your procedure, talk to your dentist! They can able to offer more tips that can help you relax, or they can customize your procedure so it’s more comfortable for you.