Usually during a teenager’s junior or senior year in high school they miss a day or two of school to have their wisdom teeth removed. Why can’t these back molars just stay in place? What can a person expect when these teeth are removed? For answers to these and other questions, keep reading! We’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions so you know everything there is to know about wisdom teeth.

Why are they called ‘wisdom’ teeth?

From the moment a baby’s first tooth appears, the mouth goes through endless changes. Baby teeth fall out, permanent teeth replace baby teeth, and sometimes braces are needed. The third molars in the back of the mouth are called wisdom teeth because they usually break through the surface what a child is more mature; usually between ages of 17 and 21.

How many wisdom teeth do people typically have?

Most people have two wisdom teeth on the top and two on the bottom.

Why are wisdom teeth removed?

Dentists take x-rays to see what’s happening below the gum line. Sometimes the dentist will see that the wisdom teeth will crowd other teeth in the mouth and are removed before they can cause further problems. Wisdom teeth break through the surface only partially. This can cause bacteria to get into the gums and infect the gums, resulting in pain and swelling. Wisdom teeth also must be removed if they grow at an angle, instead of straight. Often the wisdom teeth are removed when braces put on the teeth.

What happens when a wisdom tooth is impacted?

Impacted wisdom teeth is the name used to describe back molars that don’t have enough room to develop normally. Impacted wisdom teeth sometimes do not cause pain, but are often removed before they cause other dental problems.

How can I tell if my impacted wisdom tooth is infected?

Impacted wisdom teeth can damage other teeth so call your dentist right away if:

  • Your gums are red, swollen, tender or bleeding
  • Your jaw is swollen or in pain
  • You have difficulty opening your mouth
  • Have an unpleasant taste in your mouth

What can I expect when wisdom teeth are removed?

The entire surgery usually takes less than one hour. Depending upon your situation, you will either receive either: a local anesthesia, a shot of Novocaine in your gum combined with nitrous oxide; IV sedation, medication given through a vein in your arm so you sleep during the procedure, or General anesthesia, medications given through your veins or by breathing a gas, so you will sleep during the surgery. You will need someone to drive you home after the surgery if you have anything other than local anesthesia.

To remove the wisdom teeth, the gums are often cut, which will require stitches. You will leave the office with gauze pads in your mouth.

How long will it take me to recover from having my wisdom teeth removed?

It’s typical to experience some bleeding the first day so you will need to replace the gauze pads periodically. You can expect to be uncomfortable, yet most people can manage the pain with over the counter medications. Putting ice packs on your jaw will help with swelling.

What can I eat and drink after my wisdom teeth are removed?

The first day after surgery, you’ll be told to drink a lot of water but to avoid hot beverages, alcohol and carbonated drinks. It’s important that you do not drink from a straw for at least seven days. Soft foods will be recommended to give the jaw time to heal.

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