What to Share with Your Patients about Wisdom Teeth Removal: An Interview with Dr. Jeffery White
As we approach Thanksgiving and winter break, many high school students and their parents are considering wisdom teeth removal. Most people will grow between two and six wisdom teeth as they approach adolescence. These may or may not break the surface of the gum tissue, but are clearly visible using X-rays. Often times, wisdom teeth will put pressure or even damage the surrounding back molars, become impacted in the jaw bone or even cause infection. Thus, their removal is recommended almost universally by dental care providers for future comfort and health.
Dr. Jeffery White, an oral surgeon with more than 30 years of experience, was recently interviewed about the details of this procedure and the benefits of consulting with an oral surgeon to create an optimal treatment plan.
Q: “When is the best time for one to get their wisdom teeth removed?”
A: “Generally, it is best for teenagers to have them removed before they graduate from high school. As soon as they graduate, they often either move away for college or get a job and then it’s more complicated to find available time. Also, when you’re taking pain relievers after the surgery, it’s a lot harder to concentrate on homework or a term paper. A lot of kids will come in during school breaks, like the upcoming Thanksgiving or winter break, because it allows them the time they need to just relax and recover.”
Q: “Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?”
A: “The biggest reason would be for preventative purposes. Removal is helpful in preventing future infection that can occur if the teeth don’t come to the surface or grow into surrounding teeth. The secondary reason is to remove the wisdom teeth before orthodontic treatment to ensure there is enough room in the patient’s mouth for a straight and attractive smile.”
Q: “Why should you go to a specialist to have your wisdom teeth removed?”
A: “Probably the biggest reason is that a specialist is wholly focused on this kind of procedure. This is all I do and I have spent years training in oral surgery specifically. Additionally, a specialist is certified to administer general anesthesia and IV sedation. Oral surgeons have a license to provide anesthesia. Therefore, patients are in a lot more comfort during advanced surgeries like this.”
Q: “At what age do most people get their wisdom teeth removed?”
A: “There’s a pretty good range depending on their unique situation. It can start as early as 13 or 14 if the teeth need to be removed for orthodontic reasons. I would say the general range is between 16 and 17. And then of course if infection occurs, we will want to act as soon as we can.”
Q: “How long does the wisdom teeth removal procedure typically take?”
A: “On the day of surgery, most patients are in the office for an hour and a half to two hours. As for the actual removal itself, it takes from 45 minutes to an hour to remove impacted teeth."
Q: “What other activities/procedures take place in that timeframe?”
A: “The extra time is used for putting the patient to sleep, allowing them to wake up in the recovery room and talking to them about how to care for the surgical site in the next few weeks. Again, it is beneficial to consult a specialist for these surgeries as they can administer general sedation, leading to a much more relaxing and comfortable experience overall.”
Q: “What is the recovery process like following the wisdom teeth removal procedure?”
A: “If the wisdom teeth are not deeply impacted, recovery could be as little as one or two days. The average patient may take three or four days. A difficult surgery's recovery time could take closer to five or seven days.”
Q: “During that time, is there anything specific that you recommend to those patients to help them stay comfortable and healthy?”
A: “The normal post-surgical instructions would be to use ice packs to reduce swelling, eat a soft diet and do salt water rinses to keep the area clean. Also, get some rest and relaxation. We usually have patients watching lots of movies to take their focus off the surgery.”