We’ve all seen those funny videos of patients coming out of their anesthesia after getting their wisdom teeth removed. But why did they have to get them removed? More importantly, how do you know if you need to get them removed?


What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are teeth that grow in behind your molars. Usually, it is four teeth; one in each corner on the top and bottom rows. According to an article from Crest, “Wisdom teeth are believed to be “evolutionary relics,” and were helpful to our distant ancestors who ate diets that consisted of rougher foods like sticks and reed plants. As teeth wore down or fell out, wisdom teeth provided replacements.” Thankfully we have evolved past that and although this is no longer a common occurrence, our “replacement” teeth continue to grow in alongside our molars.


Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Just as the rest of the teeth in your mouth, wisdom teeth can grow in crooked. When they do, they push against the molars in the back of your mouth. Some people may simply not have the space to accompany extra teeth in the back of their mouth comfortably. When your wisdom teeth grow in cramped and unaligned, they become impacted. This pressure and overcrowding causes pain not only against your teeth but also on the nerves and gums. Sometimes the pain is constant and sometimes it may only hurt when chewing. Swelling and bleeding can also occur.

Wisdom teeth take different forms as explained in these bullets, again, from Crest.

  • Full-Bony Impacted: This type of wisdom tooth removal is the most difficult because the wisdom tooth is completely stuck in the jaw.
  • Partial-Bony Impacted: In this case, wisdom tooth removal involves extracting a tooth that is partly stuck in the jaw.
  • Soft-Tissue Impacted: This type of wisdom tooth removal is less complicated because the tooth is just stuck under the gum.
  • Erupted: This type of wisdom tooth removal is the simplest because the tooth has already appeared in the mouth.

Wisdom teeth are also very susceptible to cavities and decay. Many people have difficulty flossing their molars and getting all of the food particles out of them. Leaving food in your teeth to rot is what leads to oral infections.


The Extraction

Since wisdom teeth are not necessarily needed in the mouth, the solution is to remove them. This is where the procedure leading up to the funny YouTube videos come in. When going in to have wisdom teeth extracted, the oral surgeon will place the patient under either local or general anesthesia. They will then go in to cut out and remove the impacted wisdom teeth. Some dentists will take out only the impacted teeth or may just take out all four at once depending. Once the teeth are extracted, the gums are stitched up.

When the patient comes out of anesthesia, they are groggy, disoriented and probably confused by the gauze in their mouth to stop the bleeding. The patient will eventually come out of the disoriented state but the bleeding can continue for a few days following the procedure. Recovery can last anywhere from 5-7 days.

It is important to go back to your dentist for a postoperative visit.