So your dentist told you it’s time to get your wisdom teeth taken out, and referred you to an oral surgeon to perform the extraction surgery. It’s inevitable for most of us; wisdom tooth extractions are probably the most common oral surgery performed in the country each day.
What do you need to know about getting your wisdom teeth removed? Good question. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. We’re wisdom teeth removal doctors treating patients in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton. Hallmarks of our care for wisdom tooth procedures are gentle care, sedation dentistry, and leading-edge technology for complications like impacted teeth or problematic wisdom tooth roots. We’re also one of the area’s most affordable option for your wisdom tooth surgery, due to our unique billing methods and close interaction with your insurance.
Here’s everything you need to know about wisdom teeth removal: what to expect, how much it might cost, and how to ensure a better recovery.
But First – What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are your third set of molars — the last permanent teeth to erupt, for most people. These teeth are wide and flat because they’re meant for grinding tough and/or fibrous foods. Most people grow 4 wisdom teeth — two on the top and two on the bottom, behind the first and second sets of molars. Some people have less, some have more (a condition known as supernumerary wisdom teeth), and some lucky folks don’t have any wisdom teeth at all.
For most people, wisdom teeth start to grow beneath the gum line as early as 12 years old. But they don’t tend to emerge until you are 17 to 25 years old. In the US, about 85% of people with wisdom teeth will need to have them removed, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
The interesting story behind wisdom teeth is that they’re a lot like the human appendix – we used to need them, but modes of life and generational changes in the bodies of people from industrialized cultures have rendered them useless and sometimes dangerous.
For nearly 200,000 years, and still today all over the world, people needed their wisdom teeth to help process hard and fibrous foods – like salted meats and plant stalks. Because of this, people’s lower jaws were larger because they work hard from early in life. This leads to balanced jaws (no overbite or underbite) and ample room for wisdom teeth to erupt without disturbing the rest of your teeth.
In places where soft foods began to be mass-produced – think baby foods and Twinkies – children’s jaws don’t grow as much, leading to overbites, which the majority of people have now, and creating a cramped environment for this third set of molars. In the US, wisdom teeth simply don’t serve a purpose anymore.
Why Do We Need Our Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Because many of us don’t have room for these hefty molars, when your wisdom teeth do try to come in, they often cause a host of problems, which is why extraction is now such a common oral surgery. It’s important to note that we don’t recommend taking your wisdom teeth out just because; some teens barely notice them come in; they erupt just fine and never cause an issue. This is something your dentist and oral surgeon can often tell by monitoring your wisdom teeth’s development via x-rays.
A wisdom teeth removal dentist will generally recommend wisdom teeth removal if your wisdom teeth:
- Grow in sideways or another undesirable position (often tilted forward). Wisdom teeth that come in crooked can push your other teeth around, increasing risk of cavities, infection, jaw misalignments and tooth loss.
- Only partially erupt. Because they’re so far back there, partially-erupted wisdom teeth, if not removed, are a risk for cavity, abscess and infection because they’re hard to reach and stuck near the gum line.
- Cause your jaw to hurt. Jaw pain caused by wisdom teeth is a sign that they’ll cause long-term problems to your oral health. Also, who wants to live in pain all the time?
- Consistently get tooth decay or infection. This is a common problem with erupted wisdom teeth because they’re so hard to reach in your daily dental care habits.
- Don’t have room to erupt. If these teeth have no room to erupt, they’ll either get stuck in the jaw, come in anyway and mess with the rest of your teeth, or stay somewhere in between, where they can develop abscesses and lead to jaw infection.
- Are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are a risk for under-the-gum infections. Sometimes, wisdom tooth roots also get “tangled” with the jaw, which carries the same risks.
Wisdom tooth extractions are an extremely common, everyday procedure oral surgeons like us practice. Even if you’ve got an issue like impaction, or need a dental bone graft done along with the wisdom tooth surgery – don’t worry. Getting through a wisdom tooth removal easily is all about knowing what to expect, properly caring for yourself after the procedure, and, of course, having a great oral surgeon who specializes in wisdom tooth removal.
Preparing for Your Wisdom Teeth Removal
If your dentist recommended a wisdom tooth extraction, they’ve likely already done the necessary x-rays. We work with your dentist to get those x-rays and start to make a personalized plan for your wisdom tooth removal procedure. The process of excising wisdom teeth is a bit different for everyone, because your mouth is unique to you.
Before your surgery, we’ll have you come into our office so we can explain the procedure and answer any questions you might have. We’ll ask you about any medications you take and discuss your health history. We’ll also go over anesthesia options with you, so you’ll know exactly what to expect on the day of the surgery. Our oral surgeon, Dr. Puckett, will go over everything with you again, answer any more lingering questions you might have, and then we’ll schedule an appointment for your wisdom teeth removal.
Some tips for preparing for your extraction procedure that keep you safe and set you up for a simple and short recovery period:
- If you smoke, stop as soon as you know you’ll need your wisdom teeth out. Smoking reduces your body’s ability to heal and can lead to dry socket and gum damage. (This is a good opportunity to quit for good!)
- Don’t eat after 12am the night before your surgery. It’s dangerous to have food in your stomache when anesthesia is administered.
- Stock up on all the right mushy foods and smoothies – you’ll need to stay away from hard foods for a few days after your wisdom teeth are excised.
- Prep the house: comfy clothes, blankets and pillows on the couch, your favorite comfort shows queued up on the TV.
- Women should not wear makeup, jewelry or nail polish, and should pull their hair back.
- Plan with a family member or friend to drive you to and from the procedure, then get you all set up on the couch once you get home.
What to Expect from a Wisdom Tooth Extraction
The actual procedure doesn’t take long — about 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how many wisdom teeth are being removed and if any are impacted. You’ll be able to choose between a number of different options for sedation dentistry, including:
- General anesthesia
- Oral sedation
- IV sedation
Once you’re properly sedated, our oral surgeon performing your wisdom tooth removal will use dental surgical tools to cut your gums to remove the wisdom teeth. Next, we’ll stitch everything back together. Soft tissues in your mouth heal the fastest of most anything in your body, so once we’ve extracted your wisdom teeth and sewed the gums back together, you’re already on your way to healing. In a few days, you’ll be thinking, “What surgery?”
Recovering from Having Your Wisdom Teeth Taken Out
The surgery for wisdom tooth removal itself isn’t painful – you’ll be numb or asleep during the entire process. The uncomfortable part comes later – after you’ve woken up and begin to recover.
The actual pain you feel depends on how extensive the surgery was, your own pain threshold, and how much you use the pain medication is prescribed by your wisdom teeth removal doctor. Naturally, more complicated procedures like problematic wisdom tooth roots, impaction or infection have a more difficult recovery. That’s not to say it’s awful – it’s just uncomfortable for a few days after the surgery.
We recommend not waiting until you are in pain to take prescribed pain medication. Since the medication is administered orally, there can be some time for it to take effect (up to an hour). If you don’t take it until you are in considerable pain, it will be a little while until you are comfortable again. Plan ahead and take the medication before you are in serious discomfort.
Even though we prescribe each patient pain medications post-surgery, it’s important to remember not to take them “just because.” If your wisdom tooth extraction went really well and your recovery isn’t very painful, you might not need them at all. Pain medication is useful for sure, but should be used with caution, and should always be taken exactly how the surgeon who performed your wisdom tooth removal recommends on the prescription.
How Much Does Removing Wisdom Teeth Cost?
The cost for wisdom teeth removal can vary, but it generally around $75-$200 per tooth — or $225-$600 per tooth if they’re impacted. Your insurance company will likely cover a considerable portion of the cost because it’s such a common procedure, and leaving them in would only cause you problems with your oral health.
So, wisdom teeth removal is often cheap, or at least affordable, if you have dental insurance. Regardless, we don’t use the standard billing procedures of most oral surgery practices, which results in significant savings for our patients – and not just for wisdom tooth extractions, but for dental implant surgery and other tooth extraction and replacement procedures as well. We also offer several payment options for all our oral surgery services; so don’t let the price seem daunting – our patients’ oral health is our highest priority.