Wisdom Teeth 101

Wisdom Teeth 101

What are wisdom teeth? What do they do?

Wisdom teeth are the four molars located at the back of the mouth. If properly formed and aligned, wisdom teeth can be beneficial for breaking down tough or chewy foods. For many people, however, wisdom teeth can become impacted, or buried deep beneath the gums, which can lead to a greater risk of infection and tooth decay, and damage to nearby teeth.  

Wisdom teeth are not necessary for the proper breakdown and function of teeth, but the effects of impacted or improperly aligned wisdom teeth can cause serious problems, which is why many dentists recommend wisdom teeth removal. Your dentist will be able to determine whether your wisdom teeth can be extracted or if they will need to be surgically removed by an oral surgeon. X-rays will need to be taken in order to determine the method in which your wisdom teeth are removed.

At what age do wisdom teeth come in?

For most people, wisdom teeth emerge between the ages of 17 and 25, but for others, wisdom teeth may not erupt until later in life, or they may appear as early as the age of 12 or 13. The age at which your wisdom teeth appear is not nearly as important as whether or not you keep regular dental checkups and cleanings. It’s important to maintain a healthy dental hygiene routine, since problems as a result of wisdom teeth can occur at any age.

Do I have to have my wisdom teeth removed?

If your wisdom teeth are impacted or misaligned, your dentist will recommend extraction or oral surgery to have them removed in order to prevent damage to other teeth as well as the risk of infection. If your wisdom teeth are aligned, but your jaw isn’t large enough for additional teeth, your dentist will also recommend wisdom teeth removal.

How are wisdom teeth removed?

Your dentist will be able to determine whether or not extraction or surgery is the best option for removal of your wisdom teeth. The method of removal is often based on the position of your wisdom teeth. Fully erupted wisdom teeth can often been removed by basic extraction. Teeth that are covered by the gums, or impacted, will need to be removed surgically. 

Extraction vs. Sedation and Surgery

If your dentist recommends having your wisdom teeth extracted, the procedure is less invasive and can be completed in the dentist’s office while you are numb or asleep, depending on your personal preference. You will also be given the option of receiving either general or IV sedation.

If you are required to have oral surgery to remove your wisdom teeth, a surgeon will administer oral or IV sedation. The surgery will take approximately 1 hour, and while you will not be able to drive immediately following the procedure, you will be able to attend work or school and resume normal activities should you so desire.

How painful is wisdom teeth removal?

While wisdom teeth removal requires local or general anaesthesia, your dentist or oral surgeon can prescribe pain medication that will help alleviate any pain or discomfort you may feel following the surgery. Many patients experience mild discomfort to moderate pain that goes away within 2-3 days following the procedure.


It’s recommended that you only consume soft foods and liquids following wisdom teeth removal, as hard and crunchy foods can cause pain and irritation to sensitive gums. Chewy foods can also irritate jaw muscles which may be sore following the procedure, especially if you have a TMJ disorder.

READ MORE: What You Need to Know About TMJ Disorders


We recommend sticking with the following food and drink items for 2-3 days following wisdom teeth removal in order to prevent pain and irritation:

  • Soups
  • Broths
  • Yogurt
  • Ice Cream
  • Gelato
  • Smoothies
  • Hummus
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Applesauce

How long does it take for wisdom teeth to heal?

Depending on how deep your wisdom teeth were located, as well as an individual’s immune system and other factors, including whether or not the person has diabetes, will all affect the healing process, but in general, most individuals will completely heal within 1-2 weeks of wisdom teeth removal.

During the healing process, be sure to practice healthy oral hygiene habits to prevent bacterial infections and other complications, and as always, contact your dentist if you notice any swelling or inflammation at the pain site that does not go away.

Wisdom Teeth Removal - Memphis, TN

If you are concerned about your wisdom teeth or would like to find out if your wisdom teeth have emerged or if they are impacted, schedule a consultation with Memphis Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry.



Posted by Miles Moore at 8:34 AM
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