Everything You Need to Know About Wisdom Teeth Extraction: Risks, Recovery, and Aftercare

wisdom tooth removal
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear in our mouth. They usually emerge between the ages of 17 and 25.

Some lucky adults have no issues with their wisdom teeth. This is the case if these teeth are well aligned and do not interfere with the surrounding tissue.

However, most of us will need to have them removed. It is estimated that each year, 5 million people in the United States will have at least one wisdom tooth removed.

We will discuss in this article wisdom tooth extraction, what to expect during the procedure, and how to care for your mouth during recovery.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be extracted?

Wisdom teeth can cause a variety of problems, and some people may need to have them removed. The most common reasons are:

  • Impaction: When a wisdom tooth does not have enough room to come out, it can get stuck in the bone. This can lead to many complications, including pain, infection, and damage to neighboring teeth. Studies have shown that 30-60% of people with impacted wisdom teeth, previously asymptomatic, will need to have at least one of them removed within 4-12 years.

  • Saving space for orthodontic treatment: Removing wisdom teeth can free up space in the back of the mouth to correct or prevent overcrowding.

  • Infection: Wisdom teeth can be difficult to clean, making them more prone to infection and decay.

  • Decay: If the wisdom tooth is so severely damaged by decay that it cannot be restored properly, it may need to be extracted to avoid further complications.

The potential risks if a problematic wisdom tooth is left in place:

If an abnormally emerging wisdom tooth is not removed, it can cause multiple issues, such as:

  • Damage to the neighboring tooth: Impacted wisdom teeth may push against the second molar, damaging it with the risk of infection.

  • Gum disease: Partially erupted wisdom teeth can create an opening in the gums, leading to bacteria and food buildup. The soft tissue covering the gums can then become painful, red, and swollen, with a discharge of pus.

  • Cysts or tumors: In rare cases, an impacted wisdom tooth can form a cyst or tumor, which can damage the jawbone or surrounding teeth.

How do you know for sure that a wisdom tooth should be extracted?

Wisdom tooth extraction is not always mandatory. The decision is based on some conditions according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NCIE guidelines).
According to the article, asymptomatic wisdom teeth (which do not cause any problems) should not be extracted. Instead, the procedure should only be limited to teeth associated with dental conditions (such as decay, infection, or fracture).

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a dentist or oral surgeon to determine if you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted:

  • Pain or discomfort in the back of the mouth
  • Swollen or bleeding gums
  • Red or inflamed gums
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • A bad taste or odor in your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Headache or jaw ache
  • Teeth shifting or changing position

Your dentist or oral surgeon will examine your mouth, take X-rays, and evaluate your symptoms to determine if your wisdom teeth need to be removed.

The procedure:

The wisdom teeth extraction procedure involves the following steps:

1. Anesthesia:

First, your dentist will use local anesthesia to numb the area around the wisdom tooth. In some cases, sedation may also be used to help you relax during the procedure.

2. Tooth removal:

Your dentist will use particular instruments to loosen the wisdom tooth from the gums and jawbone. If the tooth is embedded in the bone, incisions in the gum will be necessary to access the tooth. Depending on the depth of impaction, your dentist may also dig into the bone to make the tooth easy to get out. Once the tooth is removed, the surgeon cleans the area and may use stitches to close the incisions.

3. Recovery time:

You can typically go home the same day as your procedure. You will need to rest and avoid strenuous activity for a few days. The surgeon or dentist will give you specific instructions on how to care for your mouth during recovery.

Aftercare and recovery:

After having your wisdom teeth extracted, it's important to take care of your mouth to ensure proper healing. Here are some tips for aftercare and recovery:

  • Pain management: Your surgeon or dentist will likely prescribe pain medication. You have to take them as directed. You can also use ice packs to reduce swelling and pain.

  • Managing swelling and bruising: In addition to using ice packs, you can keep your head elevated, avoid hot foods or drinks, and avoid smoking.

  • What to eat and drink (and what to avoid): You should avoid eating hard, crunchy, or sticky foods for the first few days after your procedure. Stick to soft, warm, and liquid foods, such as yogurt, smoothies, and soup. You should also avoid drinking through a straw, as this can dislodge the blood clot that forms in the socket.

  • When to return to work or school: You may need to take a few days off work or school to rest and recover. Your surgeon or dentist will let you know when it's safe to resume your normal activities.

Potential complications

While wisdom tooth extraction is a common and safe procedure, there are some potential complications that you should be aware of. Here are some of the most common complications and how to avoid them:

  • Dry socket: This is a painful condition that can occur when the blood clot that forms in the socket where the tooth was extracted becomes dislodged or dissolves too soon. To avoid dry socket, avoid smoking or using straws, eat soft foods, and follow your surgeon or dentist's aftercare instructions carefully.

  • Infection: Infections can occur if bacteria enter the socket after the extraction. To reduce the risk of infection, follow your surgeon or dentist's aftercare instructions carefully, including keeping the area clean and avoiding smoking.

  • Nerve damage: In rare cases, the nerves that control sensation in the lips, tongue, and chin can be damaged during wisdom tooth extraction. To minimize the risk of nerve damage, choose an experienced and qualified surgeon or dentist, and inform them if you have any existing nerve-related conditions.


To summarize, wisdom tooth extraction is a common procedure that is often necessary to prevent numerous dental problems. If an abnormally erupting wisdom tooth is left in place, it can lead to infections, pain, swelling, and damage to the surrounding tissues.
Postoperative complications are rare. To prevent them, follow your dentist's instructions and take your medication as directed.
If you think you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted, it is important to see your dentist or oral surgeon to discuss your options and develop a treatment plan that suits you.