Having wisdom teeth can literally be a pain. Many people have them removed in their teens, but not all of us have the procedure done at that time in our lives. Delaying wisdom teeth removal until your adult years isn’t unusual, though. Here are a few things to consider if you want to have your wisdom teeth removed later in life.
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth In Adults?
Wisdom teeth can cause several dental health problems in adults. The most obvious issue is pain. In most people, the mouth is simply not big enough to contain the wisdom teeth. This causes wisdom teeth to be impacted, press against other teeth, or grow in at an angle. This irregular growth can press on nerves in the mouth and cause intense pain.
Adult wisdom teeth can also be prone to infection. Due to their position in the back of the mouth, they are harder to brush and floss properly. Removing the wisdom teeth not only helps prevent those teeth from becoming infected – it also makes the rest of the teeth in your mouth easier to clean.
The truth is that very few people don’t need to have their wisdom teeth removed. Removing these molars is usually easier in younger people because the tooth root is less developed. But, if you are older and are having issues caused by your wisdom teeth, you shouldn’t let your age deter you from having the procedure done.
How To Prepare For Adult Wisdom Teeth Removal
Removing wisdom teeth is a common dental procedure, but it still requires preparation. Before you undergo treatment, make sure you take the following steps:
- Discuss your medical history and any health problems with your dentist.
- Be sure to mention any prescriptions you’re currently taking.
- Discuss anesthesia options with your dentist. Common options include:
- Local – the mildest form of anesthetic, this only numbs the area where surgery is performed. You will be awake during the procedure and should be able to recover quickly and transport yourself home.
- IV sedation – this is when anesthetic is administered via an intravenous drip. You will be conscious during the procedure but might not be fully aware. This stronger anesthetic has a more lasting effect, so you will be groggy for some time after the wisdom teeth removal.
- General anesthetic – this option involves the patient being put under sedation and being unconscious during the procedure. This is certainly the most painless way to have the procedure done but requires the extra expense of an anesthesiologist to administer the sedation.
- Schedule a ride home. Unless you are having local anesthetic used, you will be groggy after the procedure. This makes it unsafe to drive home, so make sure you have a friend or family member available to help you get home.
- Plan for time off work. You will need some recovery time after the procedure, so make sure you have requested a day or two off work before you have your wisdom teeth removed.
What To Expect During A Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure
Here’s what you can expect during an adult wisdom tooth removal procedure:
- Anesthesia will be administered to you based on your dentist’s recommendation.
- An incision is made in the gums to expose tooth and bone to be removed.
- Part of your jawbone will be removed to access the tooth roots.
- The wisdom tooth is removed.
- The tooth socket is cleaned to prevent infection and promote healing.
- The wound is stitched closed.
- Gauze is placed in the mouth to control bleeding and help a blood clot form.
The total procedure should take about an hour to complete, then you may need some time to recover in the dentist’s chair or a special recovery room.
After your wisdom tooth removal, you will experience swelling and discomfort for about 3 days. Your stitches should dissolve on their own after a few days. Your pain should go away after 3 days, but it will take your mouth a few weeks to completely heal.
You can take these steps to speed up the healing process:
- Use ice packs to reduce swelling
- Gently open and close your mouth periodically to exercise your jaw
- Avoid exercise and strenuous activity. This can cause your wounds to reopen.
- Don’t eat any solid foods for the first 24 hours following your procedure.
- Eat soft foods that don’t require chewing, and drink plenty of fluids.
- Don’t use a straw to drink fluids – the sucking motion can reopen wounds.
- Don’t brush until 2-3 days after the surgery. Avoid brushing any blood clots that have formed – these are necessary for the healing process.
Call your dentist if your pain or swelling persists for 5 or more days. In rare instances, a “dry socket” may form. This happens when a blood clot falls out of the extraction area before the wound is completely healed. Dry sockets are very painful due to the exposed nerves in the area. If you experience a dry socket, contact your dentist immediately so they can help you alleviate the pain.
There’s nothing to fear about having your wisdom teeth removed as an adult. While the procedure is a little more complicated than when it is done for younger people, it is by no means impossible. Work with your dentist to come up with a treatment plan, perform the appropriate pre- and post-operation preparation, and take good care of your mouth after the removal is done. After your wisdom teeth are removed, you can enjoy the relief and oral health benefits that the procedure provides.