A Parent’s Guide to Wisdom Teeth

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my child need his/her wisdom teeth out?

There are several reasons people may need to have their wisdom teeth extracted. First, most people do not have room to accommodate their wisdom teeth. They can cause crowding or damage to adjacent teeth. Second, wisdom teeth can become infected, form cysts, tumors or other pathology, which can be locally destructive.

Why are wisdom teeth usually removed in teenagers?

The ideal time to remove wisdom teeth is when the roots are 1/3 to 2/3 formed, which occurs during the teenage years. Extracting wisdom teeth before the roots completely form reduces the risk of nerve injuries and perforations into the sinus cavities. There is less chance of damage to adjacent teeth and development of pathological lesions when wisdom teeth are extracted as teens.

What is the downtime after having wisdom teeth removed?

It depends, but teenagers tend to bounce back quicker than adults. Typically, swelling peaks 48-72 hours after surgery, so those first 2-3 days are usually the hardest. As the swelling resolves, people usually start to feel better. A week after surgery, most teenagers are still swollen and sore, but are improving every day. Everyone heals differently; therefore some people bounce back quicker than others.

What should my child eat after surgery?

Start with softer foods that aren’t too hot or too hard. Patients are numb after surgery so you don’t want them to burn their mouth or bite their lip or tongue. Mashed potatoes and applesauce are great foods to start. After feeling returns, advance their diet as tolerated to foods like scrambled eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, grits, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and baked fish.

What do I need to do to care for my child after having his/her wisdom teeth?

Go home and get your child started on the pain medicine as soon as possible. It’s also important to start them on a softer diet, nothing too hot or too hard to eat while they are numb. We do not want them to bite their lip or tongue or burn their mouth. We recommend starting with mashed potatoes and applesauce, those are both easy to eat and provide a good foundation for the medication. Your child will go home with frozen gel packs on their face. Keep those on their face and re-freeze them and use as necessary. Once feeling returns, you can advance your child’s diet as tolerated. Softer foods are preferred initially.

What are “dry sockets” or “air pockets” and how do we prevent them?

You have a void in the bone where the teeth are extracted. The bony cavity is filled with a blood clot. The clot acts as a bandage for the wound. If you lose the blood clot, you have exposed bone, which can be very painful. That is referred to as a dry socket. Do not drink through a straw, spit or smoke. Those are three risk factors patients can avoid to reduce the risk of dry socket. The other main risk factors for dry socket are being over 24 years of age and hormone therapy such as birth control pills.

Should my child use a straw?

No, do not use a straw. We recommend not drinking through a straw for a week. Using a straw can promote a dry socket or bleeding.