Though not everyone is born with wisdom teeth, many of us are. Sooner or later, those wisdom teeth can often cause significant oral health complications. For this reason, dentists often recommend having your wisdom teeth removed, typically the best time for wisdom tooth removal is in your mid to late teens.

At Mercer Island Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we have abundant experience with wisdom teeth extraction and seek to support patient comfort, safety, and wellbeing. If your wisdom teeth are causing you problems, or if your dentist has recommended that you have them removed, we invite you to contact our practice in Mercer Island, WA.

Why Wisdom Teeth Removal is Often Needed

When wisdom teeth erupt, they can create a crowding effect, often causing problems for your other adult teeth. This is reason enough to consider having them removed, but there are still other complications that wisdom teeth can bring, such as the increased risk for infection. In some cases, cysts can form around the wisdom teeth, causing further problems with pain, infection, and bone loss. Often, the only way to completely eliminate these problems is by having the wisdom teeth removed.


At What Age Should We Have Our Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Typically the best ages to have wisdom teeth removed are from your mid to late teens. As patients age, there is an increased risk of complications from wisdom teeth and from wisdom teeth removal. However, if you are older than this and still have your wisdom teeth, it is still advisable to have them removed sooner than later. Dr. Streelman recommends that the patients we serve from Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Issaquah be evaluated for wisdom teeth removal, even if they have surpassed the ideal extraction age.


So, Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth in the First Place?

Many patients wonder why we have wisdom teeth to begin with. In earlier stages of human evolution, it is thought that these back molars provided necessary chewing power, helping with the consumption of tough meats and vegetables. With more contemporary diets, plus the advent of forks and other utensils, these extra molars are not as necessary. The human jaw has actually become smaller as a result, but those extra teeth continue to develop. When these large molars grow into an undersized jaw they can become problematic.


Signs Your Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed

Your dentist will let you know if your wisdom teeth are poised to cause problems and advise you to have them extracted. Additionally, be aware of the following warning signs:

  • You experience sensitivity and pain at the back of your mouth.
  • Your gums become inflamed, particularly around the molars.
  • You have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • Fluid-filled sacs or cysts develop in your mouth.
  • You begin to experience stiffness or soreness in your jaw.

Do You Really Have to Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth that start to erupt will often create little flaps in your gums, which immediately become magnets for food particles and bacteria. This, in turn, can increase the risk of infection and decay. In some cases, wisdom teeth that are left in place will lead to the development of little cysts that can actually destroy gums, bone, and other underlying tissue.

These are just a few potentially serious long-term health issues that can emerge as a result of untreated wisdom teeth. To avoid these risks altogether, wisdom teeth extraction is a simple solution.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Explained

In some cases, your wisdom teeth can also become stuck below the gum tissue, where they may begin to grow at odd angles and possibly cause problems. Specifically, their unusual alignment can create bone loss often times resulting in damage to adjacent teeth.

It is also important to note that impacted wisdom teeth are all but impossible to clean with normal brushing and flossing, making them major risk factors for tooth decay and periodontal disease.

For these and other reasons, impacted wisdom teeth are almost always extracted. We are happy to tell you more about the process here at Mercer Island Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

What Do Impacted Wisdom Teeth Look Like?

Curious to know what wisdom teeth look like when they remain submerged below the molars? X-ray and other digital scanning technologies can provide a clear view. Take a look at this image from an actual patient to get a sense of what impacted wisdom teeth might look like under the surface of your gums.

Prevent Future Dental Problems

Some patients come to Dr. Streelman because their wisdom teeth are causing them real pain. What about those whose wisdom teeth do not seem to be troublesome at all? Even if your wisdom teeth seem fine, it is worth having them evaluated and potentially removed, minimizing future threats to your oral health. We invite you to consider the merits of wisdom teeth extraction as a preventative measure against infection, tooth damage, alignment issues, and more.


Should I Have All of My Wisdom Teeth Taken Out at Once?

One of the most common questions we receive from patients is whether it is wise to have all wisdom teeth removed at the same time. As a general guideline, it usually makes sense to have all of your wisdom teeth extracted at once during the same procedure. Not only can this cut down on your total cost, but it also reduces your recovery time, discomfort, and inconvenience.


How Much Does it Cost to Remove My Wisdom Teeth?

Another question we often hear from patients is how much the procedure will cost them. The specific price point may vary from one patient to the next, depending on multiple factors. These factors can include the number of teeth you are having removed, whether or not the teeth are impacted, and the sedation option you choose. The best way to get a more specific estimate is to join Dr. Streelman for a one-on-one consultation. Also, note that we can offer some flexible financing options as needed.

Will My Dental Insurance Cover Wisdom Teeth Removal?

We would always recommend checking with your dental insurance provider to see if wisdom tooth extraction is covered. While different plans can vary, it is not uncommon for a dental insurance policy to cover anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of the cost of wisdom teeth extraction. Again, check your policy for specifics.


What to Expect for Wisdom Teeth Removal

For those who have never had any teeth extracted, it is normal to have some trepidation. One way to feel more confident is to know a little bit more about what the process entails.

Preparing for the Procedure

We will always recommend coming in for a consultation, which allows Dr. Streelman to perform a physical assessment and also take some images of your teeth. Additionally, Dr. Streelman may point out any other oral health concerns that you need to have addressed. Finally, he will walk you through the remaining steps in the process and answer any questions you may have.

Anesthesia Options

To ensure your comfort throughout the process, anesthesia options are available. We will recommend a particular sedation option based on your health, preference, and the nature of your procedure.

IV Sedation

For patients who are having a number of impacted wisdom teeth removed or who simply do not wish to be alert during the process, IV sedation may be the best option. We administer IV sedation in-house as a courtesy to our patients as a way to have your wisdom teeth removed with minimal discomfort.

Local Anesthesia

For patients who are having simpler, more straightforward extractions, local anesthesia may be sufficient for mitigating pain. An added bonus of this is that it can be administered a bit more quickly and without any feelings of grogginess after the procedure. We are pleased to offer localized anesthesia options to our patients.

During the Procedure

Typically, wisdom teeth removal involves an incision along the gums, permitting full access to the underlying tooth and root. In some cases, there may be bone blocking the tooth, in which case that bone will need to be removed. Sometimes wisdom teeth can be removed whole, but in other instances, they may need to be cut into smaller segments and then removed one piece at a time.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

The timeline for your wisdom teeth removal can vary, but in most cases, the process will last under an hour. In fact, if you have a wisdom tooth that has erupted fully, it can usually be taken out in just a few minutes, while removing an impacted wisdom tooth will usually take a little bit longer.

Does Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Taken Out Hurt?

Patients naturally want to know how much pain they can expect during their procedure. We strive to keep our patients as comfortable as possible, and thanks to the sedation options we offer, you should experience little or no pain during the process itself. Following your procedure, you may experience some soreness, which can usually be mediated with over the counter or prescription pain remedies.

Immediately After the Procedure

Once your wisdom teeth have been successfully removed, you will have gauze bandages to cover the incision sites. You can also anticipate a little bit of bleeding, swelling, and tenderness, especially as the sedation begins wearing off. Your surgeon will fill you in on any aftercare instructions you need to follow once you get back home.

How Long are You Loopy After the Procedure?

Some patients are concerned about feeling “out of it” following their procedure. This may or may not occur, depending on the type of sedation we use. If your procedure is done with local anesthesia, you will have no grogginess. If you have IV sedation, you can expect to feel a little bit out of it for a few hours following the procedure.

Have a Ride Home

Because the effects of sedation can be a little bit difficult to predict, and because you may experience either loopiness or some mild discomfort following your surgery, we always advise patients to have a friend or loved one who can drive them home. Contact our practice if you have any additional questions about the post-operative experience.


Recovery from Wisdom Teeth Removal

After you have your wisdom teeth removed, you will need to give your body a little bit of time to rest and recover. Here are a few guidelines for navigating the recovery period.

What is the Wisdom Teeth Removal Recovery Timeline? How Long to Heal?

First things first: How long will the recovery period actually last? For some patients, it may be up to two weeks before you feel fully back to normal. During this recovery period, you may experience some mild pain and swelling of the gums and the inside of the cheek. For most patients, the worst of these symptoms tends to subside within the first 24-48 hours. You should start to feel more and more like your normal self within a few days’ time.

How Long Should I Expect to Be Out of Work or School?

We would recommend allowing at least two or three days to rest and recover. After that, most patients should feel ready to head back to their job or to the classroom. With that said, we might recommend resting for a little while longer if you have a job that involves a lot of strenuous physical activity.

How Long Does the Pain Last After Having My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Some patients experience little or no discomfort following the extraction of their wisdom teeth. For those who do experience pain, it usually goes away within three to seven days. During that time, over-the-counter pain medications are often enough to take the edge off. You can also ask your board-certified oral surgeon about getting a prescription for painkillers.

What Can I Do for Pain Management?

In addition to medications, there are a few other steps you might take to minimize the pain from wisdom teeth removal. Ice packs can work wonders, especially during those first two or three days of recovery. Hold an ice pack to the incision site for 15 minutes at a time, something that can not only ease the pain but also help keep swelling down. Salt water rinses may also prove helpful for mitigating the pain.


Wisdom Teeth Removal and Eating Food

After having your wisdom teeth extracted, you can anticipate some temporary restrictions to your diet. Here is a closer look at our post-op eating guidelines.

How Long After Removal Can I Eat?

After surgery, you will have gauze bandages in place. We recommend leaving them for about an hour, after which you may remove them and grab something to eat. For the first 24 hours, you are better off sticking to soft foods and liquids. Over the course of a week, you can gradually shift back to a more normal diet, according to your personal comfort level.

What Foods Can I Eat After Having My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Sticking with softer foods is an important way to expedite your recovery. Liquids are encouraged, but we would advise against drinking from a straw; the suction may cause some discomfort. Additionally, opt for blander foods as opposed to foods that are excessively hot or spicy. Foods that are too hot may cause inflammation.

List of Soft Foods to Eat After Removal

  • Soups and broths
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Applesauce
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Mashed bananas
  • Mashed potatoes

When Can I Eat Normally After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

There is no hard or fast rule for when you may resume eating normally; it really depends on your own comfort level. As you start to feel more “normal” and your pain and swelling subside, you can begin shifting toward your usual diet. Most patients are eating normally again within a week.

Mercer Island’s Compassionate Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Whether your wisdom teeth are causing you problems, or you simply want to avoid complications down the road, having them removed may be a smart course of action. Mercer Island Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery provides wisdom teeth removal services to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Issaquah. Contact us to schedule an appointment.