Most people start getting their third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, in their late teens or early 20s. However, in many instances, wisdom teeth become impacted, meaning they do not fully erupt through the gums into the mouth. This may occur because there is not enough room in the jaw for the teeth, because they grow in the wrong direction or are blocked by another tooth. As a result, the tooth can become trapped beneath the jawbone.
In the majority of cases, impacted teeth must be removed. Early removal in young adulthood, before problems begin, is recommended. Even if the teeth are not causing any bothersome symptoms, they can eventually lead to a number of problems, including:
Before you have your wisdom teeth surgically removed, you will meet with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for a consultation. During this visit, the surgeon will take your medical and dental history, noting any problems that may interfere with your surgery. Your doctor also will conduct a thorough examination of your mouth, teeth and jaw. In addition, X-rays of your wisdom teeth and neighboring teeth must be taken before surgery.
If surgical removal of your wisdom teeth is the best option for you, your surgeon will discuss the procedure, explain the risks and benefits, and answer any questions you have. You also will be given specific instructions for what to do before surgery.
The surgical removal of wisdom teeth is a very common procedure. It is performed in your oral and maxillofacial surgeon's office or surgical facility. The procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes and you will be allowed to go home the same day. During the surgery, you will be given local anesthesia, often with sedation, to make you more comfortable.
The surgery involves removing the gum tissue that presides over the tooth, gently detaching the connective tissue between the tooth and the bone, removing the tooth and, finally, suturing the opening in the gum line.
Following surgery, plan for a couple of days' rest afterwards. You may experience some slight bleeding the first day. For the next several days, your jaw will be considerably swollen and sore. However, the swelling and soreness will decrease each day and your doctor will give you pain medication to make you more comfortable.
Because you won't be able to open your mouth fully for about a week, plan to eat a diet of soft foods. Although most people are able to resume their normal activities within a few days of surgery, it takes about four to six weeks for the wounds to fully heal.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow after surgery. To avoid any complications, it is very important that you adhere to these instructions. If at any time you have questions or concerns, be sure to call our office. Our doctors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
Hospital Dentistry Service
707 Parnassus Ave., Suite D-1204
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 502-8914
Fax: (415) 476-8999