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Wisdom Teeth Removal: Everything You Need to Know and Expect

Just the phrase “wisdom teeth removal” is enough to make your mouth hurt, but do you actually know what to expect during and after the procedure? Taking the time to learn more about it can reduce anxiety and help you better prepare for recovery.

Regardless of whether you’re getting some or all of your wisdom teeth removed, the information below will give you an inside look into what you can expect from the extraction procedure and healing process. If you believe you’re ready to have your wisdom teeth removed, or need a professional opinion, contact Issaquah Dental Health today!

Why Do We Even Have Wisdom Teeth?

Thousands of years ago, humans had stronger jaws and our wisdom teeth helped with chewing coarse foods such as raw meats and plants. Given that our ancestors didn’t have access to the great dental care that we have today, they tended to lose teeth which allowed the third set of molars to have enough room to grow.

Our modern day conundrum, with current jaw size and amazing dental care it makes it far less likely for our wisdom teeth to erupt into a functional position. As a result, most people end up having theirs removed.

Preparing for Wisdom Teeth Extraction

It’s never fun to hear that you need to have your wisdom teeth removed. But there are some ways that you can prepare yourself for the procedure. 1. Ask plenty of questions about the procedure – there are no stupid questions so ask any that you can think of such as how many teeth are being removed, what to expect following the procedure, what the recovery will be like for you, how long the procedure will take, will you be under general anesthesia, should you fast before your surgery, is there paperwork to fill out in advance, how much the procedure will cost, etc…

If you are going under general anesthesia then make sure you have someone to drive you home following your appointment.

Make sure you clear any medications you are currently taking with your dentist – both to take prior to the surgery and how soon you can take following the treatment.

Find out if you will be needing to fill any pain medication prescriptions following the appointment.

Before you head into surgery, make sure you’ve prepared a cozy, comfortable, safe recovery area.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Depending on how many teeth you’re having extracted as well as your comfort level with the procedure, there are different types of anesthesia the oral surgeon might administer:

  • Local Anesthesia — Administered near the site of each extraction to numb the surrounding area, meaning you’re awake during the procedure. While you won’t feel pain, you will likely feel pressure and movement.

  • Sedation Anesthesia — Administered through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. During the procedure, you’ll be conscious but won’t feel pain and will have only some memory of the procedure.

  • General Anesthesia — Administered through your nose, as an IV line in your arm, or both. You’ll be completely unconscious during the procedure and won’t remember the surgery.

The extraction procedure itself involves several steps. The oral surgeon will:

  • Create an incision to reveal the tooth and bone for removal

  • Divide the tooth into sections (if necessary) to remove it

  • Remove the tooth and clean the area where it was of any remaining debris

  • Stitch the wound closed (in most cases)

  • Insert gauze over each extraction site to control bleeding and promote clotting

What to Expect After Your Wisdom Teeth Surgery

The recovery process is different for every individual and will also vary depending on the type of anesthesia used. Those who receive sedation or general anesthesia will need more time to recover than those who receive local anesthesia.

Following these recommendations can promote healing after the procedure:

  • Bite on Gauze — To control and reduce bleeding, gently bite on gauze pads and be sure to change them about every 20 minutes or so.

  • Stay Elevated — Prop up the head to reduce bleeding. Laying flat can prolong it.

  • Apply Ice — During the first 24 hours, applying ice to the outside of the cheek for 15 to 20 minutes at a time will help reduce swelling and bruising.

  • Rest — Physical activity can exacerbate bleeding, making it important to rest as much as possible and avoid exercise immediately after the procedure.

  • Eat Soft Foods — Soft foods will be gentle on the areas that were treated, making irritation less likely. Soup, applesauce, and yogurt are great options. Avoid drinking out of a straw, as it can cause the clot to be removed and result in complications.

  • Keep Your Mouth Clean — After 24 hours, brushing teeth is ok. However, it is important to be careful around the extraction sites. Additionally, the mouth should be rinsed with warm salt water every two hours to clean the wounds.

  • Don’t Smoke — For those who smoke, it is important to refrain for at least 24 hours after surgery.

Diminish Fear by Understanding What to Expect

For many, wisdom teeth extraction is frightening and the recovery process can be just as anxiety-inducing. However, by taking the time to understand what happens during and after the procedure, you can ease your concerns and learn how to properly care for yourself and heal as quickly as possible. Contact Issaquah Dental Health today with any questions, or to schedule an appointment!


Wisdom Tooth Extraction. (2013, August 19). Retrieved June 3, 2014

Wisdom Tooth Extraction: What you can expect. (2015, March 31). Retrieved June 3, 2015

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