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Wisdom Teeth Extraction and Oral Surgery

Wisdom Teeth ExtractionIt is common for people to need wisdom teeth extraction at some point in time. The back molars are the last teeth to come in and more often than not, they need to be removed either by having them pulled or through oral surgery. There are several reasons for this including not having enough room in your mouth or the tooth becoming impacted.

A general dentist will conduct an examination to determine if your tooth can be pulled. If it has already broken through the surface and is growing in straight, this is a viable option. The procedure is typically done with local anesthesia with minimal recovery time.

Typically, they don’t grow in straight and break through the surface like they should. In this case the general dentist will refer a patient to an oral surgeon for a wisdom teeth extraction. This procedure is more complicated and needs to be done by a specialist. Having it performed by a general dentist could lead to unnecessary pain and swelling.

How the Process Works

In your initial consultation, the oral surgeon will examine your teeth and gums to determine how impacted the tooth is and the best way to proceed. The day of the surgery you will be given anesthesia to help with the pain. The exact amount should be determined after discussing your pain tolerance and any potential anxiety with your surgeon.

The surgeon starts the wisdom teeth extraction by cutting open your gum and lifting up the flap. Underneath there may be bone that has to be cut away and removed in order to reach the tooth. The tooth is attached to ligaments and bone, both of which need to be cut away in order to pull out the tooth. If it is severely impacted or won’t loosen up with wiggling, it will need to be broken into several pieces and removed one section at a time.

Once the tooth is completely removed the surgeon and their staff will clean the entire area prior to laying the gum down and using stitches. If they are necessary, dissolvable ones will typically be used so that they don’t need to be removed at a later date. Gauze is placed initially to help stop the bleeding until the body forms a natural blood clot.

After the bleeding has stopped and the anesthesia is worn away a patient is released to go home and recover. Someone else needs to drive as the effects of anesthesia can linger. It may take several weeks to fully recover from the procedure and during that time patients should eat soft foods that don’t require chewing. Things like applesauce, Jello, yogurt, ice cream, and popsicles are ideal. Warm soup is also a good way to get nutrients but be careful not to drink it when it is too hot as your teeth and gums may be sensitive during this time frame. You may also need to come back in for a follow up appointment to make sure that everything is healing properly.


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headshot of dr eric vanek d.d.s

Dr. Eric Vanek, d.d.s

Eric has been a practicing dental surgeon for over 20 years and is the owner of Vanek Dentistry, a family dental practice in Costa Mesa, CA.

Published April 26, 2016. Updated December 15, 2023