Wisdom Teeth

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of permanent molars located on the upper and lower arches of your jaw, and look very similar to your other molars.

The name for these third set of molars originated because wisdom teeth erupt at a later age where men and women become young adults and have (supposedly) gained ‘wisdom’. Almost everyone will grow 4 wisdom teeth; 2 on the top arch and 2 on the bottom arch. However, there are a small number of people who are born without wisdom teeth or who are born with only some wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth begin to erupt around the late teens (16 to 18 years of age) and usually fully develop by the age of 25.As a general rule, most dental professionals recommend removing your problem wisdom teeth before the age of 25. This is because the roots of your wisdom teeth have not yet completely grown, the surrounding jaw bone is softer and there is a lesser chance that nerves and other teeth will be damaged during the extraction. In most cases, wisdom teeth removed at a younger age will also result in a quicker healing time with less discomfort.

Why do wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Wisdom teeth can be beneficial to your oral health when they are healthy and properly aligned. However, many people do not have jaws that are large enough to accommodate these last set of molars. This can cause wisdom teeth to become misaligned with the rest of your teeth, partially erupted or impacted,potentially causing serious oral health issues:

  • Misaligned wisdom teeth grow in awkward positions (e.g. horizontally, angled inward or outward) that can cause crowding of your other teeth on the same arch, damage to your adjacent teeth or even damage to your jawbone and nerves.
  • Partially erupted wisdom teethonly partially break through your gums and can allow bacteria to enter around the tooth, causing infection, swelling and jaw pain.
  • Impacted wisdom teeth remain entrapped in your soft tissues and/or jaw bone and cannot properly break through your gums, causing trauma to the surrounding teeth and jaw bone.
  • Fully erupted & aligned wisdom teeth have fully broken through the gum line and are properly aligned with your other teeth on the same arch. However, fully erupted wisdom teeth are more prone to tooth decay as keeping these teeth clean can be quite difficult because they are hard to reach.

Symptoms of wisdom teeth problems

Not all problem wisdom teeth will display noticeable symptoms. However, if you have a problem wisdom tooth or teeth, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Crowding of your other teeth
  • Movement of previously straight teeth
  • Difficulty brushing, flossing and cleaning your teeth
  • A feeling of overall tightness along your jaw and across your teeth
  • Improper fit of oral appliances, such as mouthguards or removable braces
  • Pain or stiffness in your jaw near where your wisdom teeth are growing
  • Swelling, pain, redness and/or abscess present around your wisdom tooth, indicating that an infection may be present
  • Pain or irritation originating from your cheek, tongue or top or bottom of your mouth from a misaligned wisdom tooth growing at an angle and poking the soft tissues of your mouth
  • Presence of tooth decay or gingivitis on or around your wisdom tooth and surrounding teeth

Not sure if you need your wisdom teeth removed? Contact us to reserve your complimentary consultation.*

*Includes a 15 minute consultation with a general dentist (excluding x-rays) where applicable. Fees may apply with a specialist.

What to expect during your wisdom tooth removal

At Altima, our friendly and caring dental teams will strive to make you as comfortable and relaxed as possible during your wisdom teeth extraction. They will explain the process as they go and let you know what they going to do before they do it.

Depending on the complexity of the wisdom tooth extraction and your comfort level, you may be presented with several different options for anaesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia involves one or more injections near the site of each extraction, along with a numbing cream applied to your gums. You will be awake during the tooth extraction. You’ll likely feel some pressure and movement, but you shouldn’t typically feel pain during the procedure.
  • Sedation anesthesia involves an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, along with a numbing cream applied to your gums. You should not feel any pain during the procedure and will have limited memory of the extraction.
  • General anesthesia involves medication administered by a Specialist (such as an Anaesthesiologist) that puts you in a deep sleep. You will be unaware of the procedure and have no memory of it upon waking.2

Read more about Altima’s custom sedation dentistry options for wisdom tooth removal here.

What to expect after your wisdom tooth removal

Immediately following your wisdom teeth procedure, you may still be drowsy for a few hours from the dental sedation. It is important for you to arrange for a reliable friend or family member to drive you home (or accompany you all the way to your home) for your safety after your wisdom teeth removal.

You may also experience mild to moderate discomfort, bleeding and swelling in the areas where your wisdom teeth were removed. It is common for mild to moderate pain and swelling to persist for a few days after your surgery. But not to worry – your dental care provider will prescribe you analgesics (pain medications) to help relieve discomfort for a more comfortable recovery.

It is recommended that you take a few days off of school or work to provide you with enough time to properly recover and heal.

To help speed the healing process, follow these helpful tips after your wisdom teeth removal:

  • Change your gauze pads as needed and remove gauze pads from your mouth once all bleeding has stopped
  • Try to prop your head up with a few pillows when resting,so that you are not lying down flat
  • Apply a soft cold compress or ice pack to the outside of your cheek to help decrease the swelling
  • Try to get as much rest as possible for the first 24 hours
  • Avoid smoking and drinking through straws for at least 48 hours. This can loosen blood clots that have formed where your wisdom teeth have been removed and delay the healing process
  • Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours as it can irritate the surgical sites
  • Stick to eating only soft foods and liquids for the first few days such as soup broths, puddings, Jell-O, scrambled eggs, finely mashed potatoes, milkshakes and applesauce. As your mouth begins to heal, slowly add solid foods to your diet
  • Avoid rinsing your mouth for the first 24 hours. Only after the first day, begin rinsing your mouth gently with a warm salt water solution about every 3-4 hours (especially after meals) to help alleviate any pain or swelling and to keep the surgical sites clean
  • Keep your tongue and fingers away from touching the areas where your wisdom teeth were removed
  • Continue to brush your teeth twice per day, but do so very carefully and gently

Call your dentist immediately if you experience unusual symptoms after your wisdom teeth removal such as severe pain, vomiting and/or persistent bleeding 24 hours after your extraction.

What is dry socket?

Dry socket, also called “alveolar osteitis”, is a complication that can occur after the extraction of a permanent tooth. When the blood clot that forms over a healing tooth extraction site has been loosened or removed before the site has fully healed, the underlying bone and nerve tissues become exposed. This results in severe pain at the tooth extraction site and a dry socket.Dry socket usually occurs 2 to 3 days after a tooth extraction and must be treated by a dentist or oral surgeon to heal properly.

To help prevent dry socket and other complications after your wisdom teeth removal, please adhere to the following:

  • Do not vigorously “swish” or “gargle” liquids in your mouth for the first 24 hours
  • Do not smoke tobacco for at least 48 hours
  • Do not drink through a straw for at least one week
  • Do not consume alcoholic, caffeinated or hot beverages for the first 24 hours
  • Do not engage in rigorous exercise or sports for at least one week
  • Do not eat hard, chewy, spicy or hot (temperature) foods

Follow-up care with your Altima dentist

Approximately one week after your wisdom teeth removal, you can expect to attend a follow-up appointment at your dental centre,where your dentist will examine your mouth to ensure everything is healing properly.During this time, let your dentist know of any other symptoms or concerns you may be experiencing.

Approximately one week after your wisdom teeth removal, you should be eating and drinking normally and should no longer require the use of analgesics (pain medications).

Is it time to remove your wisdom teeth? Contact us for your complimentary dental consultation* today.

*Includes a 15 minute consultation with a general dentist (excluding x-rays) where applicable. Fees may apply with a specialist.

1Rabin, Roni (2011).Wisdom of Having That Tooth Removed.The New York Times.Retrieved from

2Carr, Alan (2015).Wisdom Tooth Extraction.Mayo Clinic.Retrieved from

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