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Wisdom Teeth Surgery: What to Expect

Wisdom teeth are the very last four molars on each side of the upper and lower jaw. They are also the last teeth to come in, usually appearing in patients between the ages of 16-20.  Chances are, the first thing that pops into your head when you hear wisdom teeth is “removal.” Because your wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in, there is little or no room for them. They can be impacted or trapped under the gum by other teeth or bone, or they can also come in at the wrong angle and shift your other teeth.  For most people, their jawbone just does not have room enough for more teeth. Consequently, most people tend to have their wisdom teeth removed.   Your dentist or orthodontist will refer you to a board-certified oral surgeon for extraction.

How are wisdom teeth removed?

With the use of IV anesthesia administered by a board-certified oral surgeon, a patient will be sedated.  However, if a patient prefers to be awake during the procedure, then the surgeon can simply numb the mouth with a local anesthetic.  The tooth extraction will take 30-45 minutes.  In the removal process, gum tissue will be opened up.  Any bone that is covering the tooth will be removed.  The wisdom tooth can then be extracted in whole or in smaller pieces.  Most patients opt to have all four wisdom teeth removed in one surgical procedure.  Following surgery, patients will spend about another hour in a recovery suite prior to heading home.


Typical recovery involves swelling, mild bleeding and discomfort for approximately three days. Your surgeon will write a prescription to help with any pain or swelling.  Ice packs and cold presses will help, too. Applying steamed towels or moist heat packs to the outer jaw can alleviate soreness. Eat only soft foods for the first few days and drink plenty of fluids. Starting on the second day of recovery you can brush your teeth just make sure to avoid the back until it is fully healed.  During the recovery period, your surgeon will recommend that you refrain from strenuous physical activity.


The most common complication of wisdom teeth surgery is the development of very painful dry socket which occurs when the protective blood clot over the site of surgery is lost or dislodged.  To avoid dry socket, do not drink from a straw or smoke.  Sucking is the culprit.  If you develop a dry socket, contact your oral surgeon.  He will pack the site with medicated packing which will alleviate the pain.

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