What are wisdom teeth?


Wisdom teeth or third molars, are the last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth. They come in between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life that has been called the "Age of Wisdom."

Wisdom teeth may not need to be extracted if they grow in completely and are functional, painless, cavity-free, disease-free and in a hygienic environment with healthy gum tissue. They do, however, require regular, professional cleaning, annual check-ups and periodic X-rays to monitor for any changes.


Why take them out?

When a tooth doesn't fully grow in, it's "impacted"–usually unable to break through the gums because there isn't enough room. 90% of people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.

An impacted wisdom tooth can damage neighbouring teeth or become infected. Because it's in an area that’s hard to clean, it can also invite bacteria that lead to gum disease. Oral bacteria can also travel through your bloodstream and lead to infections and illnesses that affect your heart, kidneys and other organs. In some cases, a cyst or tumour can form around the base of the impacted tooth, which can lead to more serious problems as it hollows out the jaw and damages surrounding nerves, teeth and other parts of your mouth and face.


Before Surgery

You’ll meet with your dentist to talk about the process. At this appointment, make sure you:

  • Talk about any health problems you have.

  • List any drugs you take on a regular basis.

  • Ask any questions you have about the surgery.

  • Discuss what type of anaesthesia you’ll have. You can either be numb or asleep during your surgery.

  • Plan time off from work or school to have your surgery and rest afterward at home. Set up child care, pet care, or a ride home if needed.


During Surgery

Your surgery should take 45 minutes or less. You’ll get one of these types of anaesthesia so you don’t feel pain during the removal:

  • Local: Your dentist will numb your mouth with a shot of Novocaine in your gums. You may also breathe nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to relax or even doze during surgery. You should feel alert again shortly afterward.

  • IV sedation: The surgeon will numb your mouth and also give you drugs through a vein in your arm to make you drowsy. You might sleep during the whole procedure.

  • General: You’ll either get drugs through a vein or breathe gas in through a mask. You’ll be asleep the whole time and might not wake up for an hour or so after the surgery.

Your dentist may have to cut your gums or bone to get the teeth out. If so, he'll stitch the wounds shut so they heal quickly. These stitches usually dissolve after a few days. He may also stuff gauze pads in your mouth to soak up some of the blood.


After Surgery

Everyone responds differently to anaesthesia. If you had a local anaesthetic and feel alert, you might be able to drive home to begin your recovery. You might even be able to go back to work or do your normal activities. If you had general anaesthesia or still feel drowsy, you’ll need someone to drive you home.

Most people have little to no pain after surgery. You'll likely have swelling and mild discomfort for 3 or so days. Your mouth may need a few weeks to completely heal.

Follow your dentist instructions for a quicker recovery. Here are some tips for the first 3 days after surgery:





Do use an ice pack on your face to curb swelling or skin colour changes.

Do use moist heat for a sore jaw.

Do gently open and close your mouth to exercise your jaw.

Do eat soft foods like pasta, rice, or soup.

Do drink plenty of fluids.

Do brush your teeth starting the second day

Do take the drugs your dentist prescribes to ease pain or swelling.

Do call your dentist if you have a fever, or if your pain or swelling doesn’t improve.

Don’t drink through a straw. Sucking may loosen blood clots that help your mouth heal.

Don’t brush against any blood clots.

Don’t rinse your mouth too harshly. Your dentist may suggest rinsing gently with saltwater.

Don’t eat hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may scratch your wounds.

Don’t smoke. Smoking can slow your healing.