Wisdom teeth are a little like termites in your home. For critters you may not even know are there, they can cause a surprising amount of trouble.
If you’ve got a teenager or young adult in your family, we’ll look at their wisdom teeth during regular dental exams in our Plymouth, MI dentist office. If we see signs of trouble using our diagnostic tools like digital X-rays, we may recommend removing them.
To schedule a dental exam or talk to us about wisdom teeth, call Callow Family Dentistry at 734-404-7336.
What Are Wisdom Teeth and Why Are They a Problem?
So what are wisdom teeth, and why are they a problem? Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of molars, located on each side of the upper and lower jaws. Most people get them in their late teens or early 20s.
Because they come in so much later than the other teeth, wisdom teeth are often crowded. This can affect the surrounding teeth, the jawbone, and even the nerves. Sometimes they also do not completely erupt through the gums. If this happens, it can create an opening for bacteria to enter the gums and become infected. Even if wisdom teeth come in normally, their location in the mouth makes them tough to keep clean.
Because of these factors, sometimes it’s best to go ahead and extract them. If you’ve got a young person in your family, it’s a good idea to have us look at their wisdom teeth. The younger they are, the easier it will be to remove the teeth. So if it looks like problems could develop, we may recommend a proactive extraction.
What Happens If a Wisdom Teeth Extraction Is Needed?
Wisdom teeth extraction has a scary reputation. But in many cases removing wisdom teeth isn’t much different from extracting any other teeth. The good news is, Dr. Doug Callow has been a dentist for 36 years and has plenty of experience with tooth extractions. He can remove most wisdom teeth.
If the wisdom teeth are impacted – that is, still partially embedded in the gums or jawbone – Dr. Callow may refer your family member to an oral surgeon. If they aren’t impacted, he’ll go ahead and perform the extraction in our Plymouth, MI dentist office.
We’ll thoroughly numb their mouth with local anesthesia. And we can offer nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), a sedative we administer through a small mask that covers the nose. It gives them a euphoric feeling that relaxes them during the procedure. Afterward, they’ll quickly feel “normal” again and not groggy.
What to Expect After a Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Following the wisdom teeth extraction, you’ll care for your family member much like any other tooth removal would require. Above all, it’s a good idea for them to take it easy for a day or so. The area will be tender, and there will be some bleeding and swelling.
We’ll ask them to gently bite down on a piece of clean, damp gauze over the site to stop the bleeding and encourage clotting. They should keep gentle but firm pressure on the site for at least 45 minutes. If bleeding continues, change to a new piece of gauze.
If bleeding doesn’t seem to be dissipating, you can try substituting a damp tea bag for the gauze. Use black tea, the kind typically used to prepare iced tea. The tannic acid in the tea will encourage blood clots to form.
Brushing and Flossing After the Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Your family member shouldn’t brush or floss teeth for 24 hours after the wisdom teeth extraction. It’s a good idea to avoid spitting and rinsing, as well. After the first day, they can resume these activities, avoiding the site of the extraction. Don’t use mouth rinses with alcohol. Rinse with warm salt water, and avoid overly vigorous rinsing.
Other Post-Extraction Tips
Here are some other tips to minimize pain and encourage healing:
- Use ice packs to reduce swelling. If swelling continues longer than 24 hours, switch to warm towels instead of ice.
- If we give a prescription for pain relief medication, take the meds as directed. If not, we’ll likely recommend an over-the-counter product like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Don’t touch or poke the extraction site, with a finger or the tongue.
- Avoid causing changes in air pressure. So no smoking or drinking through a straw. Avoid blowing the nose.
- Drink plenty of water.
- No solid foods for the first 24 hours or so. After that, stick to cool, soft foods for a few days. Yogurt, scrambled eggs, milkshakes, pudding, and soup (if not too hot) are all good options.
If anything seems amiss during their recovery, call us at 734-404-7336. After-hours calls are routed directly to Dr. Callow, who monitors calls. He’ll advise you on what to do.