Wisdom teeth are the molars placed furthest back in the mouth. Coming down last between the ages of 17 and 21, many young adults do not have room in their mouths to adequately accommodate this last set of teeth.

Running out of space creates several problems over time. For once, previously straightened teeth could begin to shift. Second, wisdom teeth that grow in at an awkward angle can become impacted, pushing up against the adjacent molar, causing pain, headaches, and potentially damaging the other tooth.

How to Know if You Need an Extraction

Not everyone’s wisdom teeth create dental problems and not everyone who has crooked wisdom teeth necessarily needs them extracted.

Generally, extraction is saved for individuals experiencing challenges related to their impacted wisdom teeth. Common problems include shifting teeth, pain, and dental decay due to difficulties cleaning the impacted tooth.

Wisdom Teeth Removal: Surgery

The first step in preparing for surgery to remove a wisdom tooth (or teeth) is to determine the type of anesthesia necessary for a successful procedure. Your circumstance may require something different than another person.

  • Local Anesthesia
    Used commonly for extractions that are simple and straightforward, local anesthetics are given via injection to the gum. These injections completely numb the pain while leaving you conscious of the procedure. As such, while you will not feel pain, you will feel pressure and movement as your dentist or oral surgeon operates on your mouth.
  • General Anesthesia
    Used in wisdom tooth removals that require more extensive surgery (such as severely impacted teeth), general anesthesia allows you to be unconscious for the entire duration of your procedure. As such, you will not feel any pain, have any recollection of the surgery, and likely have a slightly less painful post-operative experience.
    However, of the available options, this is the most complicated to perform and is used only when absolutely necessary.
  • Sedation
    Sedation is the middle ground between local and general anesthesia as it causes some loss in consciousness but is less invasive than full general anesthetics.

Once you establish the complexity of the procedure and level of sedation required, the wisdom tooth removal continues like any routine extraction.

For an impacted wisdom tooth, your oral surgeon will make an incision into the gum to expose the tooth and begin the extraction process. For non-impacted teeth, extraction can start right away.

After removing the tooth, the area is cleaned of any debris, and stitched when needed. Stitches often help form a blood clot over the extraction site— a necessary element to the health and healing of the region.

Post-Care and Recovery

Like other major extractions, there are various types of post-operative care you can take to promote healing and pain management. The good news, however, is that Wisdom tooth removal is an outpatient procedure. Thus, even if you require more extensive surgery, it’s likely that you will return home the same day.

Anesthetic Recovery

For those who need heavier sedation forms, you will be taken to a recovery room after surgery. For less intense sedation, recovery will likely take place in the same office your tooth is extracted until you feel well enough to move around on your own.

Pain Management

Unless your extraction required alteration of the bone or the removal of several teeth at once, most smaller procedures could be managed with an ice pack and over the counter medications. However, if you need prescription pain medication, it will likely only be for the immediate days following your procedure.


For the first 24 hours after surgery, be as gentle on your mouth as possible. During this early healing period, brushing is not recommended. Instead, gently rinse with warm salt water, careful not to spit the solution out when you are finished. Alternatively, tip your head forward and let the water fall out of your mouth to cause the least strain on the operation site.

While brushing can resume after the first day, be gentle around the extraction. You may continue to rinse with salt water for a week or more after the operation, potentially longer if recommended by your dentist.

Activity and Dietary Recommendations

Doing strenuous activity in the days after surgery is not recommended as this can dislodge the blood clot forming over the extraction site. As such, while normal daily activities can resume after 24 hours, limiting physical strain for at least a week after surgery is recommended. Depending on the extent of your surgery, your oral surgeon may even recommend more time off your feet.

There are also several dietary restrictions to keep in mind while the incision heals. Most importantly, you will want to eat only soft foods for at least the first 24 hours, potentially longer depending on the level of irritation at the extraction site.

Causes for Concern

While wisdom tooth removal is now a routine procedure, it’s important to still know the signs of infection following your operation. Catching these early is your best chance at successfully eradicating the infection before it gets out of hand. Signs include:

  • Pain that is not treated by medication
  • Pain which grows worse over time
  • Foul taste not solved by salt rinses
  • Swelling which grows worse over time
  • Pus or discharge from the extraction site
  • Continued or excessive bleeding
  • Numbness

Visiting Your Dental Office in Mesa, Arizona

While we like to be a source of information for anyone researching on the internet, East Valley Dental Professionals has made its home in Mesa, Arizona. Established in the 1980s, we take great pride in having local clients who receive the best dental care and the best service.

If you are in Arizona, don’t hesitate to give us a call at: 480-838-3033 so you can speak to a professional who can help answer your questions or set up an appointment to get a consultation. We are only one call away from a healthier smile.