Wisdom Teeth

Oral Surgery Post-Op Instructions

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars are the last teeth to develop in the mouth - usually appearing behind the upper and lower second (or 12-year) molars. They are called "wisdom teeth" because they usually appear during a person's mid to late teens or early twenties (which has historically been called the "age of wisdom").By the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth; 16 teeth on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molar teeth are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your Third Molars, also known as "wisdom teeth."

Must wisdom teeth always be removed?

No. In fact, wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly positioned.

Why Should I Remove My Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully.These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and eventually cause an infection or damage to adjacent teeth. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems.

Oral Examination

With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, Dr. Humbert can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there may be present or future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teens.


The wisdom teeth are removed using local anesthesia (novacaine) and I.V. Sedation.

IV Sedation (Twilight Sleep or Conscious Sedation)

I.V. Sedation allows for surgery to be performed in our office with little or no discomfort. Local anesthesia (novocaine) will be used to numb the teeth. I.V. drugs will then help you to relax and have little or no memory of the surgery. This is the most effective method to reduce awareness and anxiety.

*Some material on this page is courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry.