Wisdom teeth, so-called because they are the last teeth to emerge after childhood, usually erupt from ages 16 to 18, when people are considered “wiser” or more mature.
Located at the very back of the jaw, wisdom teeth are also referred to as the “third molars.” Dentists often advise the removal of wisdom teeth when they are impacted, or emerge sideways. Impacted wisdom teeth can be painful, cause infection, or crowd the mouth and shift surrounding teeth. Cysts can sometimes form around impacted wisdom teeth, putting bone at risk. Wisdom teeth may also only partially erupt, irritating gums and making proper cleaning difficult.
Wisdom teeth removal is a common oral surgery performed by dentists or oral surgeons. Patients are given local anesthesia or general anesthesia (sedation) prior to extraction. After extraction, the gum may bleed for several hours. Facial swelling and pain are common for the first 24 hours but manageable with ice packs and pain relievers.
The recovery period for wisdom teeth removal is normally five to seven days, although normal activity can usually be resumed within 12 to 24 hours. Patients are advised to stick to a soft diet for the first 36 hours and to avoid drinking alcohol or smoking. Sipping through a straw is also not advised as it could play havoc with stitches.