An estimated 5 million people get their wisdom teeth removed every year. It’s become standard practice to simply preemptively remove wisdom teeth while a patient is young. As we age, our jaws get stronger, so it becomes harder to remove wisdom teeth.
But why do we even have wisdom teeth, if nearly everyone has to get them pulled anyway? And what happens when you get your wisdom teeth out?
We have the answers.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, sometimes called third molars, are an evolutionary relic, like the appendix or tonsils. The early people had a diet that focused on things that required a lot more chewing, like sticks and roots. So the back teeth would wear down fast.
That’s where wisdom teeth came in. They show up later in our dental lifetime (around age 17 to 25). So when our molars wear down from chewing on all those sticks, wisdom teeth move in to take their place.
Now, our diet is a lot softer than it used to be, and our dental maintenance is significantly better. So we don’t need our wisdom teeth anymore. They can cause more trouble than they’re worth.
Should your wisdom teeth act up, they can cause infections, jaw rot, tooth decay, and even abysses. That’s why many dentists pull them preemptively, though there’s a lot of debate about whether this is still the best practice.
What Happens Before I Get My Wisdom Teeth Pulled?
As the patient, the call to get your wisdom teeth removed is (mostly) up to you. But if your teeth become infected or start to cause trouble, you may not have much choice. Your dentist may encourage you to remove wisdom teeth to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Fortunately, if you go to get your teeth cleaned every six months, your dentist will be able to keep an eye on your wisdom teeth. They’ll let you know when it looks like they might need to come out before they start causing trouble.
So you’ll have plenty of time before the big day to prepare for the procedure. Beforehand, you’ll talk about the procedure and discuss any potential health concerns.
On the day of, you need to have a ride home, as you’ll be too loopy to drive. Make sure to let your employer (or school) know what’s going on, and set up pet care or child care if you need to.
What Should I Expect From the Surgery?
You’ll be under anesthesia throughout the surgery and might likely sleep through the whole thing. You won’t be able to feel anything.
Overall, the surgery shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes, and you’ll be on your way home. Typically, the recovery time to get your wisdom teeth out is three days. After that, you should be feeling back to normal.
What Does the Surgeon Do?
Depending on your particular wisdom teeth, the surgeon may have to do a few different things. If your wisdom teeth haven’t erupted, (they don’t poke through your gums) the surgeon will make an incision in your gums to better access the tooth.
From there, the surgeon may have to remove bone to get better access to your wisdom teeth. Then they’ll cut the tooth into smaller parts to make it easier to take out.
Once the tooth is out, the surgeon will stitch up your gum, and likely put gauze in your mouth to help create a blood clot to heal faster.
What Should I Expect After the Surgery?
Immediately after the surgery, you’ll likely still be under the effects of anesthesia and won’t feel any pain. But this will likely wear off in an hour or so.
You can use ice packs on your jaw immediately. Remember, don’t put the ice pack directly to your skin, as this can cause an ice burn.
After the surgery, you should only eat soft foods like soup or applesauce, ice cream or jello. Avoid eating anything that could get lodged in your gum holes.
You also need to avoid smoking, spitting, or using a straw for a few days after your surgery. Doing so can create a dry socket – a painful surgery complication.
Your surgeon will give you some painkillers and instructions to take care of your healing mouth. You’ll have to rinse your mouth with saltwater. Instead of spitting, let the water fall out of your mouth.
You should also use gauze if your gums are bleeding. This will help stem the flow and help build clots.
Side Effects to Worry About
Most wisdom teeth extraction surgeries go off without a hitch. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, call your surgeon immediately.
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Excessive bleeding
- Severe pain not relieved by prescribed pain medications
- Swelling that worsens after two or three days
- A bad taste in your mouth not removed with saltwater rinsing
- Pus in or oozing from the socket
- Persistent numbness or loss of feeling
- Blood or pus in nasal discharge
Now You Know What Happens When You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Out
Getting your wisdom teeth out is a common procedure. Depending on the type of anesthesia you get, you may sleep through the whole surgery, and you definitely won’t feel any pain.
Expect recovery to take three days to a week, depending on whether your teeth were impacted. Eat soft foods that won’t get into your gum holes. So that’s what happens when you get your wisdom teeth out.
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