Wisdom Teeth

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

View Cosmetic Dentistry: Before and After Slideshow Pictures

What if the wisdom teeth hurt and they cannot be extracted right away?

If there is swelling, infection, difficulty swallowing or breathing, fever, or intense pain, priority needs to be given to getting the wisdom teeth out as soon as possible. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help keep an infection from getting worse or spreading for a very short while. Warm saltwater rinse or antibacterial mouth rinse and OTC painkillers can be used as short-term remedies for tooth pain until more definitive treatment can be obtained.

How is wisdom tooth extraction performed?

Once it has been determined that a wisdom tooth is problematic, extraction by an oral surgeon or qualified general dentist is usually indicated. Local anesthesia is administered to ensure the tooth can be pulled out without any discomfort. Many people will choose conscious sedation (being put into a sleepy state where pain signals are blocked) so they have little or no memory of having the wisdom teeth extracted. A minor surgery is then performed where the tissue and bone around the wisdom tooth are removed so that the tooth can be cleanly extracted from the socket. Several stitches may be needed to close the surgical site and promote healing of the overlying tissue.

What is the recovery like after wisdom teeth extraction?

The initial recovery and healing from wisdom tooth extraction usually occurs over about three to five days. It is normal to have slight bleeding (oozing) from the site considering the surgical procedure performed. The minor bleeding (oozing) after extraction should start to ease after the first 24 hours. Pain medication is often prescribed to help with any postoperative symptoms and discomfort. Usually, Tylenol, an ice pack and a mild narcotic is enough to provide pain relief. Some patients may be prescribed antibiotics. The patient will be asked to eat soft foods for a few days and avoid spicy foods, tobacco and alcohol use, and excessive exercise. The best remedies for pain following extraction are rest and giving the area time to heal. Adhering to the postoperative instructions of the surgeon is important to minimize any complications. Complete healing of the gums may take three to four weeks.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/2/2016
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