Nine out of 10 people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, making wisdom tooth extraction a common outpatient surgery. It’s normal to have questions before and after wisdom tooth removal, and these frequently asked questions about wisdom teeth are a place to start.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are a person’s third set of molars and the last teeth to develop and appear in the mouth. Wisdom teeth are impacted if they do not have the room to grow in naturally or are unable to fully erupt through the gums. Due to the many complications of impacted wisdom teeth, removal is often recommended.
When Do Wisdom Teeth Come In?
Wisdom teeth earned their name for the time they might commonly erupt into a person’s mouth. Third molars typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 25, once called the “Age of Wisdom.” Even though they may not arrive until patients are in their 20s, wisdom teeth are often identified via X-rays before they erupt.
Why Do People Have Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are an artifact of where humanity has come from. These vestigial teeth are relics of a time when humans had larger jaws and greater need and space for more teeth in their mouth. While third molars still are developing, they now have less space to erupt and be maintained in the mouth.
Does Everyone Have Wisdom Teeth?
No, and not everyone will have a full set of four wisdom teeth either. Recent research has shown that as many as 25 percent of people are missing at least one third molar.
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?
While it is possible for wisdom teeth to erupt problem-free, their placement in an area that is challenging to clean makes it difficult for many patients to maintain proper health of the teeth and associated gum tissue.
Even healthy wisdom teeth require regular, professional cleanings, annual checkups and periodic X-rays. Impacted wisdom teeth may need to be extracted due to periodontal disease (gum infections), damage to adjacent teeth, or if cysts or tumors form.
How Long Does it Take to Remove Wisdom Teeth?
This is an answer that will vary from patient to patient, as everyone’s wisdom teeth are different. In many cases, an uncomplicated extraction of all four third molars can be performed in less than an hour. An outpatient procedure, wisdom tooth removal is typically performed under anesthesia in the OMS’s office.
How Much Does Wisdom Tooth Removal Cost?
The number of teeth extracted and their level of impaction (if any) will affect the cost of wisdom tooth removal as will any insurance coverage. It is essential for patients to reach out to their dental and medical insurance providers to determine if one or both will provide coverage for wisdom tooth extraction.
What Can Be Eaten After Wisdom Teeth Removal
Patients should follow their OMS’s instructions regarding diet and care after wisdom tooth removal. Typically, patients can begin eating soft foods, slowly working their way up to more solid foods while avoiding foods that are hard, spicy or difficult to chew.
It’s smart to plan what to eat after wisdom teeth removal before the procedure and to have those foods on-hand during recovery.
How Long Does it Take for Wisdom Teeth to Heal?
Patients should follow their OMS’s instructions. This can include resting the day of the surgery and avoiding the use of a straw for at least 24 hours. Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least a week after surgery to avoid dislodging a blood clot. Patients also should take care to brush their teeth gently, avoid any vigorous rinsing and avoid smoking during the healing process.
Although full tooth extraction healing can take up to six weeks, many patients are able to resume normal activities the day after surgery and can return to normal life within a week, following their OMS’s instructions.
Can Wisdom Teeth Grow Back?
Wisdom teeth will not grow back after they are removed, but it is possible for a patient to have supernumerary (extra) teeth, also known as hyperdontia. Supernumerary teeth can occur anywhere in the mouth, from incisors to canines to molars. Although the condition is uncommon, patients will often know ahead of time whether they will have to worry about extra wisdom teeth; they should be visible in preliminary dental X-rays.