What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars some people develop around the age of 17-21. Biologists believe that earlier humans may have needed these four additional back teeth to replace teeth lost to trauma or decay or to chew coarse diets, but the softer diets, better health, and improved dental care of modern times have made wisdom teeth virtually unnecessary. Nearly 30% of people will never develop them at all, while between 20-25% develop only a partial set.
If they do come in, however, wisdom teeth can be a big pain. Because they come in so late, after the mouth and jaw are nearly fully developed, wisdom teeth often have very little room to erupt properly, coming in crooked or remaining completely or partially impacted in the gums, posing a serious risk of bigger health concerns in the future. This is why, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, nearly 85% of people who develop wisdom teeth need to have them removed.
Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Wisdom teeth need to be removed if they do not erupt properly or completely, and most do not. This means they do not break all the way through the jaw and gums, or, if they do, they are crooked or misaligned, causing other problems. Impacted or improperly erupted wisdom teeth need to be removed to prevent complications like damage to adjacent teeth, infection, or damage to the bone and gum tissue.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?
In general, most people who develop wisdom teeth will need to have them removed. Because they come in so late, the very last teeth to develop when the jaw and mouth are almost fully formed, they have little room to erupt properly and often come in crooked or only partially. However, if you develop wisdom teeth and they do not pose a risk to tooth decay or gum disease or cause pain, and they erupt completely in an upright and functional position, you may not need to have them removed. Only a dental professional can evaluate your wisdom teeth and determine if they need to be extracted.
What happens if I don’t get them removed?
If wisdom teeth erupt only partially or not at all, remaining impacted in the jaw, they can begin to develop cysts that damage the bone and gum tissue, cause alignment issues to or damage adjacent teeth, and cause bacterial infections that could lead to bone loss around the roots.
However, your wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they:
- Erupt completely and in a functional position
- Do not cause you any pain
- Do not increase your risk of tooth decay or gum disease
How do I know if I’m getting wisdom teeth?
Not everyone develops wisdom teeth. Routine exams and dental x-rays can help your dentist determine if you have any developing below the jaw, so you can know whether or not to expect them. If you do have wisdom teeth come in, they will often be accompanied by an unpleasant taste in your mouth; swelling or pain in the jaw; difficulty opening your mouth; and swelling, bleeding, or tender gums.
When is removing wisdom teeth necessary?
Removing wisdom teeth is necessary if your dentist confirms you have or are at risk of developing complications like infection, gum disease, tooth decay, pain, cysts, or tumors. You may also need to have them removed if they will likely cause damage to adjacent teeth.
Regular dental checkups, exams, and x-rays can help your dentist determine if you are developing wisdom teeth in the first place, then monitor their progress. This allows them to evaluate several factors important to deciding whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed. Your dentist will look at:
- The possibility of the wisdom teeth forming cyst(s) that could damage the roots of nearby teeth and even the jawbone
- The proximity of the wisdom teeth to important nerves in your face and jaw, which could cause complications for later extraction if the tooth’s root becomes entangled with the nerves
- If your jaw is big enough to accommodate these extra teeth.
- The possibility of pericoronitis, or, the inflammation of the gums around the partially erupted crown of a tooth
- Tooth decay, or even infections, stemming from food and bacteria hiding in the nooks and crannies of a partially erupted tooth
What is wisdom teeth removal like?
Wisdom teeth removal is an outpatient surgery performed at the dentist’s office or another surgical facility by a dentist or oral surgeon. While you will go home the same day your teeth are removed—the average procedure can last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes—you most likely will have received some type of sedation or anesthesia and will need to have someone drive you home.
A dental exam and x-rays will determine what type of extraction your wisdom teeth need: simple or surgical. If the tooth is fully erupted and easily removed, you may only require a simple extraction, during which you’ll receive a local anesthetic and a mild sedative before the tooth is loosened and extracted.
If your wisdom teeth are completely or partially impacted—trapped beneath the gum—you will need a surgical extraction. During a surgical extraction, an incision is made in the gum to remove the tooth. If necessary, the tooth will be cut into pieces to keep the incision site as small as possible.
Before the dentist or oral surgeon begins, you will be sedated via laughing gas (nitrous oxide), intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia, depending on the extent of the surgery needed and if you have any anxiety. (If you were prescribed an oral sedative, you would take it before arriving at your appointment and ensure someone drives you there.) You may be awake and relaxed, drifting in and out of consciousness, or, if under general anesthesia, completely asleep.
Then a local numbing anesthetic will be applied to your wisdom teeth and the surrounding tissues. The dentist or surgeon will begin removing the gum tissue to loosen and remove the teeth, either in sections or whole, if possible. Once the teeth are removed from the gum, the hole may be stitched up to assist with healing.
When the procedure is complete, you may be moved to a recovery room or you may recover in the dentist’s chair as the sedation wears off.
Are you put to sleep for wisdom teeth removal?
You are not always put to sleep for wisdom teeth removal. While you will be administered some type of sedation, general anesthesia—which puts you to sleep—may only be recommended if you are having multiple wisdom teeth removed at the same time, if it is a very complex removal, or if you have severe anxiety about the procedure.
For all other situations, you will only be mildly sedated. In addition to a local anesthetic and numbing agent will be injected into the gums, you may receive a sedative to help you relax, such as an oral sedative like Valium; an intravenous sedative administered via an injection; or “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide that you breathe in and may make you feel lightheaded, disoriented, or numb, but will not put you to sleep.
What is recovery like after wisdom teeth removal?
While you won’t feel any pain during the procedure, your gums will be numb immediately after and you may still feel some effects of the anesthesia, such as dizziness, shivering, grogginess, or nausea. You will be monitored as you recover and the sedation wears off, whether in the dentist chair or a separate recovery room. You’ll be released when you can stand on your own, but you will need someone to help you out and drive you home because it will take several hours for the sedation to fully wear off.
Over the next three to four days, as your gums heal, you will notice some bleeding, soreness, and swelling, and you may also experience some pain near the injection site or in the jaw or tooth. These symptoms usually subside over the course of a week, but it will take several months for the wound in your mouth to completely heal. Your dentist or surgeon will give you instructions on how to manage your pain and the recovery process, including pain medication and limitations to your activity and diet.
You can usually resume most normal light activities the day after the surgery. However, you should avoid anything that could dislodge any stitches or the blood clot that is forming to protect the hole in your gum, like strenuous exercise, spitting, smoking, and drinking from a straw.
What is the aftercare for wisdom teeth removal?
After your wisdom teeth are removed, a blood clot will begin to form in the hole that remains in your gum. This blood clot helps protect and heal the bone and nerves, and it is important that this clot stays in place until the gums have fully healed, which may take several weeks. If it becomes dislodged, you may develop a dry socket, a painful condition that occurs when the incision site doesn’t heal properly and the nerves and the bones of the jaw remain exposed.
To prevent this—and to help the blood clot form correctly and stay in place—the holes in your gums will be packed with gauze during your procedure and may have been stitched close. You will also be given special instructions on how to limit your activity and any changes to your diet you should make while your gums heal. This includes eating very soft foods for the first 24 hours after your procedure and avoiding spicy or hot foods or beverages, brushing your teeth, or spitting. You should also avoid alcohol, smoking, and caffeine, as well as using a straw, as this can increase your risk of developing a dry socket.
You also need to keep your mouth clean to prevent infections. You can care for your wound by rinsing with salt water and letting the water fall out of your mouth (not spitting) and cleaning the wound with gauze. If you have any stitches, your dentist or surgeon will let you know if you need to come back to have them removed or if they will dissolve on their own.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will give you instructions on when and how to take medications to manage your pain—either prescription or over-the-counter painkillers—and signs to be aware that you may be developing a dry socket or have dislodged the blood clot. If this happens, you will need to return to your dentist or oral surgeon to have it cleaned and repacked.
How much does it cost to remove wisdom teeth?
How much your wisdom teeth removal will cost depends on several variables including:
- How many wisdom teeth need to be extracted
- If there are any complications, such as fully formed roots
- If any of the teeth are impacted and to what extent
- What kind of extraction (simple or surgical) is required
- What type of anesthesia will be used to sedate you
In general, the procedure can cost anywhere from $200 to $800.
Is the removal of your wisdom teeth medical or dental?
Although it is often performed by an oral surgeon—especially in cases of impacted teeth or complex removals—and requires some sort of sedation, wisdom teeth extraction is considered a dental procedure. Wisdom teeth removal can also be performed by general dentists or other registered specialists trained in jaw and mouth surgery.
What happens if wisdom teeth never come in?
Just because your wisdom teeth don’t “come in”—or fully erupt—does not mean you won’t have a problem. Impacted wisdom teeth are teeth that never fully break through the jaw and gum, and if they aren’t removed, they can cause problems with alignment, damage to adjacent teeth, damage to the tissues and bone of the jaw, and substantial pain.
However, if you are in the more than 30% of people who never develop wisdom teeth in the first place, don’t worry; wisdom teeth are not necessary for healthy oral function.
Does health insurance cover wisdom teeth removal?
When it comes to insurance, be sure you discuss your procedure with your dental professional and your insurance provider. Some important questions to ask are:
- Is this elective or medically necessary? If your wisdom teeth are impacted and pose a risk to your health, your wisdom teeth procedure may be considered medically necessary with a large part of the cost covered by your health insurance company, even though it is a dental procedure. This is because failing to correct the problem can lead to serious health complications later.
- What is included in the cost? Does it include consultation and x-rays? How many teeth are being extracted?
- What would my insurance cover? If your health insurance will not cover it, you can explore dental insurance options, since some plans may cover some or all of the cost. However, most plans have an annual cap of $1,000 to $1,500, so it may not make sense for you to use dental insurance.
- What kind of anesthesia will your dentist or surgeon use? Most health insurance plans will not pay for elective general anesthesia, so if you want to be fully sedated but your dentist or oral surgeon doesn’t recommend it, you may have to pay for it out of pocket.
- Who will be performing your procedure? Treatment from an oral surgeon can be up to a third more expensive than treatment from a general dentist.
Paying for wisdom teeth extraction can seem daunting, but the procedure is often necessary to help preserve your or your child’s oral health, so taking care of them early is a long-term investment. If you are concerned that cost may be a deterrent to removing your or your child’s wisdom teeth, speak candidly with your dentist or oral surgeon. Many dental offices offer different options for making wisdom teeth extraction more affordable, such as discounts for having all four removed at once or flexible payment plans.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction at Dental Depot Arizona
At Dental Depot DFW, your family’s dental health is our number one priority, and we’re committed to providing the comprehensive, personalized care you need for a lifetime of healthy teeth. From routine cleanings and exams to wisdom teeth removal, we’re here to make sure you receive the quality and affordable dental care you deserve with the professionalism and service you expect for all your dental needs at every stage of life. No matter which of our 4 locations you visit, you can be confident you’ll receive the same quality and continuity of care, thanks to state-of-the-art facilities and a team of dental professionals that includes skilled dentists and dental hygienists, prosthodontists, orthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
Don’t wait to have your or your child’s wisdom teeth evaluated. At Dental Depot Arizona, our convenient scheduling, flexible payment options, and kind, experienced staff help take the stress out of dealing with wisdom teeth. Find the location nearest you or schedule an appointment.