Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that emerge, usually during your late teens to early twenties. For some people the wisdom teeth emerge through the gums and have enough room to grow in naturally. For others, these teeth often cause problems as they are trying to protrude through the gums.
When a wisdom tooth only emerges partially, a flap of skin called an operculum may form over the tooth. This can make the tooth hard to clean, and pieces of food may be caught under the skin. This also makes it easy for an infection called pericoronitis to develop. It will usually go away on its own, but it causes swelling and pain in the area.
The gum tissue around the tooth is cut open to reveal the tooth. The tooth is then loosened by gripping it tightly and wiggling it back and forth until it can be lifted out of the gums. Sometimes a tooth may be impacted so tightly that it cannot be simply lifted out of the gums. In cases like this, the tooth will be broken up into pieces first before being removed. Depending on the incision and extraction site, sutures may be needed to close the area. Soluble sutures are the best option, which will dissolve on their own.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure that requires some post-operative care to reduce the chance of infection or other complications. Here are some guidelines:
- Immediately after surgery, a gauze pad will be placed over the extraction site, which should not be removed for at least 45 minutes, and then discarded after that.
- Refrain from drinking from a straw or rinsing the mouth to ensure that you do not dislodge the blood clot that has formed. Limit your activities that day.
- You can resume your regular activities the following day. Take the pain medication as prescribed to reduce the amount of discomfort you feel after the local anesthetic wears off.
- As with any oral surgery, refrain from drinking through a straw or smoking as doing so creates suction and may delay healing or cause dry sockets.
For more information on the tooth extraction process (including pulling wisdom teeth), visit our “Extraction” page.