Wisdom teeth have great potential to cause a variety of problems.
- So why do we even have them?
- What is their function?
- Is it safe to have those teeth removed?
Below are our most frequently asked questions regarding wisdom teeth and teeth removals
WHY ARE THEY CALLED ‘WISDOM’ TEETH?
Dentists started calling them ‘teeth of wisdom’ to the public in the late 1600’s. They chose the name because this set of molars don’t grow in until we are about 17-24 years old–old enough to be a bit ‘wiser’ than our earlier, more formative years.
The rest of our teeth, both primary and permanent, form while we’re growing in the womb. Wisdom teeth are actually the only teeth that don’t develop until after birth.
WHY DO WE HAVE WISDOM TEETH TO BEGIN WITH?
Wisdom teeth are an evolutionary vestige from our primitive ancestors. They needed the extra set of molars to help chew their hunter-gatherer diet of tree bark, raw meat, nuts, roots and leaves.
Once ancient humans became less nomadic and started to use cooking and meal preparation techniques, the food they ate became softer and easier to chew. Over time, this eliminated the need for the 3rd set of molars. Better meal preparation techniques, along with the consumption of cooked instead of raw meat, the size of the human brain increased dramatically. Our modern jaws simply don’t have room for that 3rd set of molars any longer.
Most adults have between 1 and 4 wisdom teeth growing in the back of their mouths. A lucky 35% of Americans do not have wisdom teeth at all.
WILL I BE AWAKE DURING THE SURGERY? WILL IT HURT?
One of the biggest concerns we hear is anxiety due the recovery from the surgery. People worry about the degree of pain the will experience and how long will it take for to recover from this common procedure.
Depending on your level of comfort and the type of impaction, an oral surgeon will administer either a local or general anesthetic. Local anesthetic just numbs the mouth area, but you’ll be awake during the entire procedure. General anesthesia can render you unconscious for the procedure or just put you under mild sedation. Either way, you may be too drowsy to drive from the procedure. You will want to make sure you have someone available to drive to and from the office.
HOW LONG DOES WISDOM TEETH SURGEY TAKE?
Most wisdom teeth removal procedures take up to 90 minutes, depending on how many teeth you need pulled.
HOW MUCH RECOVERY TIME WILL I NEED?
Expect about 2 to 3 days of mild discomfort and swelling of cheeks. Your post-operative healing time will vary, typically ranging from a couple of days to a week. Oral surgeons will typically give you a doctor’s note for any activities they recommend you miss during this downtime.
HOW MUCH DOES WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL COST? HOW MUCH DOES INSURANCE PAY?
The price of wisdom tooth removal usually comes down to money, insurance and financing.
A simple wisdom tooth extraction using a local anesthetic costs $75 to $200. The cost is usually between $300 to $800 for removal of all four wisdom teeth using a local anesthetic. In comparison, removal of an impacted tooth can cost between $225 to $600 a tooth. The higher price is due to the complexity of the procedure. Patients who opt for general anesthesia should expect to add another $250 to $800 to the total price tag for the procedure.
Dental insurance may cover up to half of a wisdom tooth removal when the removal is considered medically necessary. Some dental plans cap what they’ll pay annually for all dental care at $1,000 to $1,500. The best way to know is by checking with your insurer to better understand what coverage they will provide.
IF I’M HAVING 1 WISDOM TOOTH PULLED, SHOULD THEY PULL ALL OF THEM?
Ultimately that is your decision.
Most patients prefer the convenience of undergoing the procedure to remove all of their wisdom teeth at the same time. This way, there is only one anesthetic cost and they do not have to endure multiple surgery days and multiple recoveries. It’s also a good idea to check with your insurance to see what they cover for medically necessary procedures versus elective or preventativ surgery of non-impacted teeth.
The recovery time is about the same for people who have a single wisdom tooth removed as when they are all pulled at the same time. Make sure you visit an oral surgeon for a consultation first. Follow their advice to limit post-op discomfort and speed recovery times.
IS WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL SURGERY RISKY?
Wisdom tooth removal surgery is very safe and routine. Oral surgeons typically perform this same procedure all day, every day. It is one of the most common procedures in dentistry, and oral surgeons are usually the best suited for these procedures. Complications may occur with any surgery, but wisdom tooth removal is relatively simple.
Possible tooth extraction complications can include temporary or permanent nerve damage. Dry socket is also a risk factor that occurs when the blot clot that forms in the vacated space becomes dislodged for some reason. This can leave the bone and nerves exposed.
Make sure the oral surgeon explains all the risks and complications before you consent to having a wisdom tooth (or wisdom teeth) removed. Always be informed about who your doctor is and what kind of experience and specialties they have.
DO I HAVE TO HAVE MY WISDOM TEETH REMOVED?
Not everyone has to have their wisdom teeth removed. The key is to find out early. If you have your wisdom teeth removed before the root is fully developed, there will be fewer chances for complications and a faster recovery from the procedure. If they do need to be removed but you wait too long, the wisdom teeth can become impacted. Impaction can lead to cracked teeth and severe pain. The additional complexity of removing an impacted teeth can also cause the surgery to cost more. Schedule an appointment with one of our oral surgeons to find out if you need to have yours removed.