What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come into the mouth, typically appearing between the ages of 17-21. They are believed to be a biological relic from early human ancestors. While earlier humans may have needed these four additional back teeth—also known as third molars—to chew coarse diets or replace teeth lost to trauma or decay, people today have virtually no need for them, thanks to softer, healthier diets and better dental care. They’ve become so unnecessary that not everyone develops them. Between 20-25% of people will not develop a full set of wisdom teeth, while more than a third won’t develop them at all.
However, if your wisdom teeth do come in, they probably won’t do it quietly. Because they come in so late, after the mouth and jaw are nearly fully developed, wisdom teeth often come in crooked, impacted, or with very little room. Because of this, nearly 85% of people who develop wisdom teeth need to have them removed, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Why do they need to be removed?
If your wisdom teeth are healthy and erupt in the correct position, they may not need to be removed. However, most wisdom teeth do not erupt completely or correctly from the gums, remaining partially or entirely trapped in the jaw. These are considered impacted teeth and need to be removed to avoid future complications like damage to adjacent teeth, infection, or damage to the bone and gum tissue.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Wisdom teeth that do not pose a risk to tooth decay or gum disease, erupt completely in an upright and functional position, and do not cause pain, probably do not need to be removed. However, only a dental professional can determine if your wisdom teeth need to be removed.
What happens if I don’t get them removed?
If you are one of the few who not only develop wisdom teeth, but have wisdom teeth that erupt completely and correctly, are not painful, and do not pose a risk to tooth decay or gum disease, you may not need them removed. However, because they appear so late and there is not much room for them to erupt properly, healthy, fully erupted wisdom teeth are rare. When they are partially erupted or entirely impacted in the jaw, wisdom teeth that aren’t removed can develop cysts that damage the bone and gum tissue, damage adjacent teeth and cause alignment issues, result in bone loss around the roots, and cause bacterial infections.
How do I know if I’m getting wisdom teeth?
Developing wisdom teeth often cause a variety of symptoms, including swelling or pain in the jaw; an unpleasant taste in your mouth; swelling, bleeding, or tender gums; and difficulty opening your mouth. A dentist can confirm whether or not you are developing wisdom teeth with a dental exam and x-ray.
When is removing wisdom teeth necessary?
Only a dentist or oral surgeon can determine if it is necessary to remove your wisdom teeth, so regular checkups, exams, and x-rays are important for helping them monitor the progression of your wisdom teeth as they develop. They will examine your mouth to evaluate several conditions such as:
- If your jaw is big enough to accommodate these extra teeth.
- The proximity of the wisdom teeth to important nerves in your face and jaw, which could cause complications for later extraction if the tooth’s root becomes entangled with the nerves
- The possibility of pericoronitis, or, the inflammation of the gums around the partially erupted crown of a tooth
- Tooth decay, or even infections, stemming from food and bacteria hiding in the nooks and crannies of a partially erupted tooth
- The possibility of the wisdom teeth forming cyst(s) that could damage the roots of nearby teeth and even the jawbone
Wisdom teeth extraction may be required if your dental health professional identifies the presence or risk of:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Damage to neighboring teeth
What is wisdom teeth removal like?
Wisdom teeth removal is an outpatient surgery, which means you will have the teeth removed and go home the same day, but you will usually need someone to drive you home because you will receive some type of sedation or anesthesia. It can be performed at the dentist’s office or another surgical facility by a dentist or oral surgeon and, depending on what type of anesthesia and numbing agents are required and the extent of the surgery, the procedure can take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes.
You will first be sedated via laughing gas (nitrous oxide), intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia. (If you were prescribed an oral sedative, you would take it before arriving at your appointment and ensure someone drives you there.) You may be awake and relaxed, drifting in and out of consciousness, or, if under general anesthesia, completely asleep.
After the sedation takes effect, a local anesthetic will be applied to numb your wisdom teeth and the surrounding tissues. The dentist or surgeon will begin removing the gum tissue to loosen and remove the teeth, either in sections or whole, if possible. Once the teeth are removed from the gum, the hole may be stitched up to assist with healing.
When the procedure is complete, your sedation will stop and you may be moved to a recovery room. You’ll also be instructed to bite down on gauze to aid in the blood clot formation necessary to help heal your gums.
Wisdom teeth are usually removed through one of two extraction methods: simple or surgical. A dentist or oral surgeon will perform an exam and take x-rays to determine if you need your wisdom teeth removed and how it will need to be done.
A simple extraction requires a local anesthetic and numbing agent injected into your gums before the tooth is loosened and removed.
Partially or completely impacted wisdom teeth typically require surgical extraction. During a surgical extraction, an incision is made in the gum to remove the tooth. If necessary, the tooth will be cut into pieces to keep the incision site as small as possible.
Are you put to sleep for wisdom teeth removal?
Not always. General anesthesia—which puts you to sleep—may be recommended if you are having multiple wisdom teeth removed at the same time. It is also usually available as an option for people who wish to be fully sedated or who have severe anxiety regarding the procedure.
For simple extractions—with a tooth that is fully erupted and can be easily removed—only a local anesthetic and numbing agent injected into the gums may be necessary. If the teeth are impacted at all, however, you will need minor surgery to remove them. In addition to the local anesthetic, your oral surgeon or dentist may also recommend a sedative to help you relax, such as intravenous sedatives administered via an injection; oral sedatives like Valium; or nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as “laughing gas,” which relaxes you and may make you feel numb, lightheaded, or disoriented but will not put you to sleep.
Several factors determine whether or not you are put to sleep for wisdom teeth extraction, such as how many teeth you are having removed, whether or not the teeth are impacted and how, and if you have any anxiety about the procedure.
What is recovery like after wisdom teeth removal?
Because it is an outpatient procedure, you may recover in the dentist chair where you received the surgery or in a separate recovery room, which a dental assistant will assist you with after the procedure and where you can be monitored as the sedation wears off. While you won’t feel any pain during the procedure, your gums will be numb immediately after. You may also feel some effects of the anesthesia, such as grogginess, shivering, nausea, or dizziness. In the next few days, you will notice some bleeding, soreness, and swelling, and you may also experience some pain near the injection site or in the jaw or tooth. Your dentist or surgeon will give you instructions on how to manage your pain and the recovery process, including pain medication.
Recovery can last from two or three days to an entire week, but the wound in your mouth will take several months to completely heal. You can usually resume most normal activities the day after the surgery. However, you should avoid anything that could dislodge any stitches or the blood clot that is forming to protect the hole in your gum, like strenuous exercise, spitting, smoking, and drinking from a straw.
What is the aftercare for wisdom teeth removal?
After your procedure, the holes in your gums will be packed with gauze and may have been stitched close. This is to help the blood clot that will form there to protect and heal the bone and nerves. It is important that this clot and any stitches stay in place until the gums have fully healed, which may take several weeks.
Special care is also necessary to minimize the risk of developing a dry socket, a painful condition that results when the incision site does not heal properly, exposing the nerves and bones of the jaw. This includes eating very soft foods for the first 24 hours after your procedure and avoiding spicy or hot foods or beverages, brushing your teeth, or spitting. You should also avoid alcohol, smoking, and caffeine, as well as using a straw, as this can increase your risk of developing a dry socket. You also need to keep your mouth clean to prevent infections. You can care for your wound by rinsing with saltwater and letting the water fall out of your mouth (not spitting) and cleaning the wound with gauze.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will give you instructions on when and how to take medications to manage your pain—either prescription or over-the-counter painkillers—what limitations you have, and things to look out for regarding signs you may be developing a dry socket or have dislodged the blood clot. If stitches were required, your dentist or surgeon will let you know if they will dissolve on their own or if you will need to return to have them removed.
How much does it cost to remove wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth extraction procedures can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 or more, depending on several variables including how many teeth are being extracted, if the tooth or teeth are impacted and how, what kind of extraction will be needed, what type of anesthesia is required, and if there are any additional complications, such as fully formed roots.
Is the removal of your wisdom teeth medical or dental?
Wisdom teeth extraction is a dental procedure. Though it is most often performed by an oral surgeon, especially in situations of impacted teeth or other complex removals, wisdom teeth removal can be performed by other registered specialists trained in jaw and mouth surgery or general dentists.
What happens if wisdom teeth never come in?
Wisdom teeth are not necessary for healthy oral function, so if you are in the more than 30% of people who never develop them, you don’t have any cause for concern. However, wisdom teeth that do develop and never erupt—or “come in”—are a problem. Impacted wisdom teeth are teeth that never fully break through the jaw and gum and can cause serious health complications down the road including infection, damage to other teeth, pain, and damage to the bones and tissues of the jaw.
Does health insurance cover wisdom teeth removal?
Although wisdom teeth removal is considered a dental procedure, health insurance companies may cover some of the procedure if it is deemed medically necessary, such as if the wisdom teeth are impacted and pose a risk to your health. This is because failure to treat the condition could lead to other health problems like nerve damage, infection, cysts, and bone damage.
If your wisdom teeth are not impacted, however, your health insurance is unlikely to pay for it, but be sure to check with your provider if there are any other benefits they may offer concerning the procedure.
Some dental insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost of wisdom teeth removal, but most plans have an annual cap of $1,000 to $1,500. Be sure to discuss your procedure with your dentist or oral surgeon as well as your insurance provider about whether it is elective or medically necessary, what is included in the cost, and what may be covered by your insurance.
It is important to note that most insurance companies will not pay for elective general anesthetic, so if you wish to be fully sedated but your dentist or oral surgeon does not recommend it, you will be paying for it out of pocket. Additionally, treatment from an oral surgeon may cost up to a third more than treatment from a general dentist.
With that said, cost should not be a deterrent to treatment for either your child or yourself—impacted or improperly erupted wisdom teeth can cause serious health complications down the road, and taking care of them early is an investment in long-term oral health. If you are worried about how you will pay for wisdom teeth removal, be candid with your dentist or oral surgeon. Many dental offices offer discounts for having all four removed at once, flexible payment plans, or other methods of making wisdom teeth extraction more affordable.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction at Dental Depot DFW
At Dental Depot DFW, we are committed to caring for the oral health of your entire family, at every stage of life. From routine cleanings and exams to wisdom teeth removal, we’re here to make sure you receive the quality and affordable dental care you deserve with the professionalism and service you expect. Thanks to a comprehensive team of dental professionals that includes skilled dentists and dental hygienists, prosthodontists, orthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, as well as state-of-the-art facilities at each of our four DFW area locations, you can be confident you’ll receive the same quality and continuity of care for no matter when or where you need it.
It’s never too late to have your or your child’s wisdom teeth evaluated. Dental Depot DFW takes the stress out of wisdom teeth extraction with convenient scheduling, flexible payment options, and a kind, experienced staff. To find the location nearest you or to schedule an appointment, visit here.