By Kate Ranta on Feb 17, 2020 @ 11:00 AM
Ever wondered why wisdom teeth are called wisdom teeth? They’re called that because they normally come in between ages 17-21—when young people are old enough to have gained some “wisdom” in life. Some teens and young adults get lucky and have no difficulties when these teeth come in. But sometimes the teeth come in impacted, meaning they have no room to grow.
Impacted isn’t always bad. I still have all four of my impacted teeth, and my dentist tole me they’re high up enough in my jaw that they can stay in. That is, unless they do become a problem.
Why they might need to be removed
Your teen may need his or her impacted wisdom tooth/teeth pulled if he or she is experiencing:
- Damage to a nearby tooth
- A cyst around the wisdom tooth develops
- Surrounding bone is damaged
- Complications with braces or other orthodontic procedures
What to expect during the procedure
You can help your teen’s nerves prior to the procedure by giving them a heads up on what to expect. Explain that the dentist or oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia. The type used will depend on how complex the removal will be. The dentist will use one of the following:
- Local anesthesia. This involves injections near the wisdom teeth. Teens who’ve never had local anesthesia before may be nervous. You can reassure them that the gums will be numbed before the injection is given. They’ll be awake during the procedure, but shouldn’t feel pain—some pressure and movement but not pain.
- Sedation. This type of anesthesia will put them to sleep during the procedure, so they won’t feel any pain. They’ll also get local anesthesia to numb the gums. The anesthesia is given through an I.V.
- General. For more complicated removals, they may be given general anesthesia. This is medication that’s inhaled through the nose, and also puts them to sleep. The surgical team will monitor your teen throughout the procedure.
The steps the dentist or oral surgeon takes during the procedure can very depending on the complexity of the extraction, but the basic steps are::
- 1: The dentist or surgeon makes a cut into the gum to expose the tooth and bone
- 2: They break the tooth up if it's easier to remove in pieces
- 3: They take out the tooth
- 4: They clean the area of any chips from the tooth or bone
- 5: They then stitch the incision to encourage healing
- 6: Finally, they put gauze over the site to control bleeding
What to expect after the procedure
Wisdom tooth removal is outpatient, so you’ll be able to take your teen home afterwards. He or she will need plenty of rest the day of the procedure. After that, normal activities can resume, but nothing strenuous. Drink lots of water - and no straws! The sucking action can pull the blood clot out of the socket (gross, I know). Eat only soft foods for the first day, then introduce semi-soft when your teen can tolerate it.
You can expect some blood, swelling and bruising. But, here are some warning signs of complications that you and your teen should be aware of:
- Swelling that worsens a few days after
- Severe pain that doesn’t go away with pain medications
- Pus oozing from the socket
If complications do develop, call the dentist or oral surgeon. He or she will determine what to do. In the meantime, he or she should get lots of rest and TLC! For some pointers on how to get the most out of your next dental check-up, check out the Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Dentist below!