Wisdom teeth, or third molars, generally form during the mid- to late-teen years. They usually do not have room to come in fully, and they become impacted or blocked by other teeth . Because of their tendency to cause infections, pain, crowding, or damage to other teeth, they are generally removed. As an Oral Surgeon, Dr Scott Bulloch has specialty training in anesthesia for your comfort and safety.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?
No, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. Wisdom teeth that erupt (or come in) completely and are functional and healthy do not need to be removed. Impacted wisdom teeth (those that are blocked from coming in), however, are associated with many significant problems, and should be removed. They often cause recurrent infections, as well as crowding or damage to other teeth. They can develop cysts around them and in rare cases even tumors. Wisdom teeth that are partially or mostly erupted, but cannot be adequately cleaned below the gum tissue should also be removed. Several long term studies have shown that because wisdom teeth are more difficult to clean, they are more prone to gum disease which often spreads to the other teeth. These studies show that people who keep their wisdom teeth are much more likely to develop gum disease than those who have them removed.
What is the best age to have wisdom teeth removed?
Mid- to late-teens (age 14 to 18) is the best time to have wisdom teeth removed. At this age, the roots have generally not finished forming, and the teeth can be removed with much lower risk and better healing. As the roots finish forming, the bone also becomes denser. This makes the procedure considerably more difficult and leads to significantly delayed healing. Also, the roots often form close to or around the feeling nerve to the lower lip which may pose a risk of temporary and (rarely) permanent numbness to the lip. It is best not to wait for the wisdom teeth to erupt into the mouth before removing them. As they erupt, they become contaminated with bacteria from the mouth and become inflamed. This leads to a higher incidence of infection and a more painful and delayed healing course. It is easiest to remove all of the wisdom teeth at one time before they become inflamed or infected.
What can I expect for recovery?
When wisdom teeth are removed in the mid- to late-teens, the recovery is generally uneventful. Although recovery varies from person to person, most patients feel normal in five to seven days. Any discomfort is usually well controlled with medications. Swelling also varies greatly; however, medicine given intravenously during surgery will generally minimize it. Patients should avoid strenuous activity (enough to raise the blood pressure) for three to five days in order to facilitate healing and minimize swelling. Most patients are able to eat normal soft foods a few hours after the surgery. They should avoid anything hard or crunchy, especially popcorn and peanuts, until healing is complete. The healing course is significantly lengthened for older patients if the wisdom teeth are impacted.
Can I go to sleep to have my wisdom teeth removed?
YES! Usually the best way to have the wisdom teeth removed is to go to sleep for it. This makes the procedure much more comfortable, and because of medications given during the surgery such as long acting pain medications and medications to block swelling, the post operative experience is also better. Dr Bulloch can often remove simple wisdom teeth under a local anesthetic; however, when bone is involved, it is much better to go to sleep. The risks of anesthesia are extremely low (lower than riding in a car), and the benefits are great.
Why should I go to an oral surgeon to have my wisdom teeth removed?
Oral Surgeon Dr. Bulloch has extra training in wisdom teeth removal and the safe use of anesthesia to make the experience as pleasant and safe as possible. Most oral surgeons have gone to at least four additional years of residency training after completing dental school. Dr. Bulloch also completed an extra year of anesthesia training. This extensive training makes the oral surgeon the most highly skilled and qualified to remove your wisdom teeth. This provides the lowest risk, the best healing, and the most enjoyable experience available. Oral surgeons are the only dental practitioners with the training and license for level four anesthesia (which means you are asleep). Dentists who do IV anesthesia do not have the training or the license to put patients to sleep. Level 3 anesthesia, practiced by some dentists, requires very little training, and only allows the patient to be relaxed while still awake. This is called conscious sedation.
Is it more expensive to go to an oral surgeon?
In many cases it isn’t. In most cases, the fees charged by an oral surgeon are very close to those charged by a general dentist and follow the same insurance trends for the area. There are those “wisdom teeth doctors” who are general dentists advertising wisdom teeth at one price for all patients. This one-size-fits-all approach charges patients with simple wisdom teeth more than would be customary and charges complex patients less. If your wisdom teeth are simple, do you want to subsidize the treatments of more complex patients, and if you are a patient with complex needs would you really want your surgery performed by someone with no specialized training anyway?