Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure to remove one or more wisdom teeth — the four permanent adult teeth located at the back corners of your mouth on the top and bottom.
If a wisdom tooth doesn't have room to grow (impacted wisdom tooth), resulting in pain, infection or other dental problems, you'll likely need to have it pulled. Wisdom tooth extraction may be done by a dentist or an oral surgeon.
To prevent potential future problems, some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if impacted teeth aren't currently causing problems.
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to appear (erupt) in the mouth. These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth. For others, wisdom teeth erupt normally — just as their other molars did — and cause no problems.
Many people develop impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don't have enough room to erupt into the mouth or develop normally. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially or not at all.
An impacted wisdom tooth may:
You'll likely need your impacted wisdom tooth pulled if it results in problems such as:
Dental specialists disagree about the value of extracting impacted wisdom teeth that aren't causing problems (asymptomatic).
It's difficult to predict future problems with impacted wisdom teeth. However, here's the rationale for preventive extraction:
Wisdom teeth are the last of your teeth to appear (erupt) in the mouth. Sometimes a wisdom tooth becomes stuck below the surface of your gums (impacted), and grows at an odd angle, possibly causing complications.
Most wisdom tooth extractions don't result in long-term complications. However, removal of impacted wisdom teeth occasionally requires a surgical approach that involves making an incision in the gum tissue and removing bone. Rarely, complications can include:
Your dentist may perform the procedure in the office. However, if your tooth is deeply impacted or if the extraction requires an in-depth surgical approach, your dentist may suggest you see an oral surgeon. In addition to making the area numb with local anesthetic, your surgeon may suggest sedation to allow you to be more comfortable during the procedure.
Questions you may want to ask your dentist or oral surgeon include:
A wisdom tooth extraction is almost always performed as an outpatient procedure. This means that you go home the same day.
You'll receive instructions from the hospital or dental clinic staff on what to do before the surgery and the day of your scheduled surgery. Ask these questions:
Your dentist or oral surgeon may use one of three types of anesthesia, depending on the expected complexity of the wisdom tooth extraction and your comfort level. Options include:
During wisdom tooth extraction, your dentist or oral surgeon:
If you receive sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia, you're taken to a recovery room after the procedure. If you have local anesthesia, your brief recovery time is likely in the dental chair.
As you heal from your surgery, follow your dentist's instructions on:
Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, which could indicate an infection, nerve damage or other serious complication:
You probably won't need a follow-up appointment after a wisdom tooth extraction if:
If complications develop, contact your dentist or oral surgeon to discuss treatment options.