Wisdom Teeth FAQs Washington

Answers to Common Questions About Wisdom Teeth in Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way & Woodinville WA

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What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of molars, which typically erupt between the ages of 15 and 20.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

The current consensus is that our ancestors required an extra set of molars for chewing large amounts of plant matter. However, most people don’t have room for them and must have them removed.

When should I have my wisdom teeth removed?

Although the best time for removal of wisdom teeth is about 16 years old, there is a wide age range for patients who require wisdom teeth removal. Determining when to remove the wisdom teeth is based off of three factors:

  1. Age of Patient: The younger the better. Younger patients typically have less chances of wisdom teeth complications. It is recommended to have your wisdom teeth removed sooner than later if your dentist or our doctors have indicated that conditions are not optimal for keeping your wisdom teeth.
  2. Root Formation: If your wisdom teeth’s roots have about 1/3rd of formation, this is a good time to consider getting your teeth removed. If you have over 2/3rds root formation on your wisdom teeth, there is an increased chance of complications with wisdom teeth removal.
  3. Position of the Tooth: Another important factor in determining when to remove your wisdom teeth is where the wisdom teeth are positioned relative to other anatomical structures such as the sinuses and adjacent teeth. If the wisdom tooth cannot attain a healthy position then problems can occur such as cavities, infections, or complications with roots.

Why should I see an oral surgeon for wisdom tooth removal?

When wisdom need to be removed, it’s because there is not enough room in the jaw for them to take their correct positions. They get stuck in the jaw—a condition referred to as “impacted”—and very often are in odd positions. They could be leaning into the adjacent tooth or be lodged sideways in the bone of the jaw. Removing one of these teeth requires cutting into the gum and sometimes removing bone around the tooth. The tooth may need to be cut into pieces to remove it more easily. Depending on how the tooth was positioned, stitches may be placed in the gum tissue to keep the incision closed. Removing wisdom teeth is best done by a surgical specialist who can successfully deal with any situation found as the tooth is being removed.

Should wisdom teeth be removed even if they are not causing any problems?

Wisdom teeth, sometimes referred to as third molars, can cause serious problems such as crowding and shifting other teeth, changing your bite, and contributing to loss of jawbone tissue. Wisdom teeth that are only partly erupted often trap food, causing decay and gum disease. Swelling and jaw pain are some of the most common early symptoms. The longer your wisdom teeth remain in your mouth, the more likely they are to cause harm, and the more difficult they are to remove. Because wisdom teeth erupt at different rates, a lot of damage can be done before you even begin to notice symptoms. We recommend calling us at the first sign of symptoms.

What can I expect to pay for the removal of wisdom teeth?

Each patient’s needs are different. When you come in, our team will determine the specifics of your case and will estimate the cost for your treatment. Each case requires different individual surgical needs and the difficulty of removal of each tooth may vary. We will contact your insurance prior to your appointment in order to provide an estimate for your out-of-pocket cost for your treatment.

I don’t like dentists, is there anything you can do to make this easier on me?

We do our best to help you through this sometimes scary process by providing friendly staff in a comfortable setting. Our team can also use multiple anesthesia techniques including preoperative anti-anxiety medicines (similar to valium).

I had my wisdom teeth removed this morning and I’m still bleeding. What should I do?

Believe it or not, some bleeding after tooth extractions is beneficial – good blood flow usually means good healing. The purpose of the gauze that you were given is to apply firm, consistent pressure to the extraction sites for 45-60 minutes at a time. If you have gauze in your mouth and you are not biting down firmly, the gauze is doing no good. Likewise, taking the gauze in and out every five minutes to look at it just tends to stir up more bleeding. Often, when patients are removing their gauze after surgery, they are surprised at how wet and red the gauze appears and this is often perceived as excessive bleeding. Most of the time, the gauze is saturated with saliva with a few drops of blood that give it the appearance of a lot of bleeding when it really isn’t. If you run out of gauze, most pharmacies sell it or you can bite on tea bags; the tannic acid in tea helps in clot formation. If your mouth is rapidly filling up with blood and the above measures are not helping to slow down the bleeding, call our office for assistance. Also, it is not unusual to notice small episodes of bleeding for several days after having teeth removed; simply bite on gauze again in the area of bleeding if you experience bleeding in the days after your surgery.

I had my wisdom teeth removed yesterday and the pain medicine isn’t helping my pain. What should I do?

The best regimen for acute pain control after wisdom tooth removal is a combination of non-narcotic and narcotic pain medication. If you have no kidney or liver problems, the best combination is 600mg of Motrin or Ibuprofen every six hours used in combination with the prescribed narcotic medication every six hours. If you put each medication on a separate schedule, you can take the Ibuprofen, then three hours later take the narcotic, three hours later take the Ibuprofen, etc. Alternating between these medications every three hours allows you to maximize your pain control, minimize unwanted side effects of the medication (nausea), and prevent overdose of either medication. If you have medical problems, please consult with your surgeon or medical doctor before starting a regimen like this. Also, make sure you are well hydrated if you are taking Ibuprofen or Motrin for longer than 24 hours. Please contact our office if you have been on this pain control regimen for longer than 3 days.

What is a “Dry Socket” and how do I know if I have one?

The term “dry socket” refers to a condition called alveolar osteitis, or a premature breakdown of the blood clot present in an extraction site. Smoking, poor oral hygiene, and over-excursion in the post-operative period can contribute to this condition, but sometimes there is no obvious cause. Typically, “dry socket” presents itself 3-5 days after the surgery with increased pain, foul odor and taste, and bad breath. This condition is very easily treatable and requires that we wash out the socket and place a medication dressing, which provides pain relief usually within an hour after placement. These medicated dressings typically are replaced every 2-3 days in our office until the condition subsides in one to two weeks. If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with “dry socket,” the best solution is to call our office when it opens in the morning at 7:30 am so we can arrange to have you seen that day for treatment.

For more information about Wisdom Teeth or to schedule a consultation with Drs. Guo or Christie, call our office in Bellevue, WA at Bellevue Office Phone Number 425-453-6975.