Wisdom Teeth Removal: A Complete Guide

You probably know someone who has had a tooth extraction, as it is a common dental procedure. In fact, approximately 5 million Americans experience wisdom teeth removal each year. Research also reports that about 70% of people will need their wisdom teeth removed at some point in their life.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars to erupt into the mouth, which typically happens to individuals in their late teenage years. They often erupt into the mouth improperly, which can lead to pain, swelling, infection, and damage to nearby teeth. As a result of these consequences, dental professionals may recommend for their removal.

Understanding Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, are the last teeth to develop in the mouth. Most people have four wisdom teeth, with two developing in the upper jaw and two developing in the lower jaw. Some people, however, only develop some of the wisdom teeth or never develop any at all. Wisdom teeth commonly have issues with erupting, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral issues.

Researchers believe that wisdom teeth served a digestive purpose in the past to aid in our ancestors’ primitive diet, which consisted of harder foods than today. Now, wisdom teeth are considered to be vestigial, no longer serving a purpose.

The Role of Wisdom Teeth in Oral Health

As mentioned, wisdom teeth dating back in history were used to help chew hard foods like nuts, roots, and meats, according to anthropologists. It is believed that over time, the use for wisdom teeth has become limited, as the modern diet consists of much softer foods. Many individuals do not have space within their mouths for the eruption of the wisdom teeth, which leads to wisdom tooth impaction. Wisdom tooth impaction can cause several oral health issues, which often gives reason for their extraction.

Common Problems Caused by Wisdom Teeth

  • Oral pain
  • Dental crowding
  • Trouble chewing
  • Infection
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Damage to adjacent teeth
  • Oral cysts
  • Tumors
  • Persistent bad breath

Signs You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

Here are some common signs and symptoms that indicate you may need wisdom teeth surgery:

  • Tender or swollen gums near wisdom teeth
  • Oral pain towards the back of the mouth
  • Sinus problems
  • Persistent headaches
  • Dental crowding
  • Trouble eating or speaking
  • Wisdom tooth infection or infection of adjacent teeth
  • Oral cyst growth

When to Seek Dental Consultation

Watch out for the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, which all indicate a need to seek dental consultation. An infected wisdom tooth can lead to the spread of harmful oral bacteria to other parts of the body, which can be life-threatening. It is important to seek dental consultation immediately upon recognition of these signs and symptoms, and they will determine if wisdom tooth extraction is necessary.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure

Preparing for the Procedure

Your dental professional will help you prepare for wisdom teeth surgery. They will go over the step-by-step process with you and answer any questions you may have. They will explain dental anesthesia options, which will each have specific guidelines for how to prepare for the surgery. You may be asked to arrange transportation following the procedure.

During the Surgery - What to Expect

You may be wondering, ‘how long does wisdom teeth removal take?’ This can depend on the amount of wisdom teeth being extracted, the complexity of the surgery, among other factors. On average, the procedure takes about an hour to remove all four wisdom teeth.

First, dental anesthesia will be given to minimize discomfort throughout the procedure. If you have a partially erupted wisdom tooth, a small incision will be made through the gums to access the tooth for removal. For fully impacted wisdom teeth that are stuck underneath the gums, a surgical cut into the gums and bone is often necessary.

Post-Surgery Care and Monitoring

Once the surgery is complete, you will be monitored for a period of time to before dismissal. Your dental professional may use stitches over the incision, and will inform you if you need to come in for their removal or if they are dissolvable. Gauze will be placed over the extraction site to control bleeding. Wisdom teeth removal recovery instructions will be provided.

Recovery and Aftercare

Immediate Post-Procedure Care

  • If experiencing pain, your dental professional may recommend over-the-counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol.
  • You may use an ice pack on the outside of your face near the extraction site for 15 minutes at a time to help reduce swelling.
  • Use clean gauze in the extraction area for about 1 hour after the extraction to help control bleeding.
  • Consume soft foods and stay hydrated with water.
  • Do not smoke or consume alcohol.
  • Depending on the type of anesthesia used, you may not be able to drive for the first 48 hours after the surgery.
  • You may be recommended to take 1-2 days off work following the surgery.

Long-Term Recovery Tips

  • Gently rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouth rinses or warm salt water a couple days after the surgery.
  • Avoid spitting, using straws, and consuming hot foods and beverages until the extraction sites have healed to avoid disrupting the healing process and natural formation of blood clots in the extraction area.
  • Continue to stay hydrated with water and consume soft foods for the first few days.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and exercise for the first few days after the extraction.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol for the first few days after the extraction.

Risks and Complications of Wisdom Teeth Removal

Common Post-Surgical Complications

In general, post-surgical complications can be prevented. However, some individuals may experience issues like wisdom teeth removal infection and wisdom teeth removal swelling. If this occurs, it is important to inform your dental professional immediately. They may prescribe antibiotics to help treat the infection.

Another common complication of wisdom teeth removal is dry socket. If the blood clot does not form in the extraction site or becomes dislodged, a painful throbbing pain caused by dry socket may occur. Treatment of dry socket can include rinsing out the socket, applying a wound dressing with medicine, and pain medication.

How to Mitigate Potential Risks

To help avoid post-surgical complications, it is essential to follow the advice of your dental professional. You should avoid rinsing, spitting, using straws, consuming hot foods or beverages, and eating hard foods to avoid harming the forming blood clots. Also avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.

Cost Considerations

Wisdom teeth removal cost can differ based on numerous factors. These factors include the number of wisdom teeth that need to be removed, whether the tooth is fully erupted, fully impacted, or partially impacted, the type of dental anesthesia to be used, the dental office and dentists’ expertise, and wisdom teeth removal age.

On average, wisdom teeth removal cost without insurance is around $75–$200 per tooth for fully erupted wisdom teeth using local anesthesia. The cost for impacted wisdom teeth is approximately $225–$600 per tooth using local anesthesia. In terms of other dental anesthesia options, nitrous oxide averages $40–$90, and general anesthetic averages $250–$800.

Procedure Type (without insurance)Average Cost Range (USD)
Fully Erupted Wisdom Teeth Removal$75 - $200 per tooth
Impacted Wisdom Teeth Removal$225 - $600 per tooth
Dental Anesthesia: Nitrous Oxide$40 - $90
Dental Anesthesia: General Anesthetic$250 - $800

Insurance and Financing Options

Fortunately, the cost of wisdom teeth extraction can be reduced through dental insurance plans or other financing options such as payment plans or discounts. Speak with our caring team at Gentle Dental to learn about our affordable financing options. Our practices accept most dental insurance plans, as well as Essential Dental Plan, Care Credit and a Pay-Over-Time financing option from Sunbit.

Your Wisdom Teeth Removal Experts

Wisdom teeth removal is a very common tooth extraction that impacts people everywhere. Dental issues such as oral pain, infection, and swelling are common complications of wisdom teeth that warrant tooth extraction. A significant difference in oral symptoms can be noticed from before and after wisdom teeth removal. Schedule a consultation with our team of dental experts at Gentle Dental to evaluate your wisdom teeth.