What Are Wisdom Teeth?

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 4/12/2022 in General

rendering of wisdom tooth under the gum pushing into another tooth

So your friend got her wisdom teeth removed yesterday. Are you smarter than her now? Not exactly. About five million Americans get their wisdom teeth removed every year. It’s a common procedure that can have wide-ranging benefits to your overall oral health. Learn what wisdom teeth are, where they get their name, and what happens during a wisdom tooth extraction.    

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

During your adolescent and early adult years, your wisdom teeth, aka third molars, will start to come in. They are two sets of teeth. Two teeth at the top of your mouth and two teeth at the bottom. Because they’re the last set of teeth to come in during the age range you mature and gain wisdom, they've been dubbed ‘wisdom teeth.’ Fortunately, removing your wisdom teeth does not affect your intelligence in any way.

When Do You Need to Get Wisdom Teeth Removed? 

For most people, the only thing they know about wisdom teeth is after the procedure you get to eat ice cream for every meal. Despite how common the procedure is, most people don’t know why and when wisdom teeth need to be removed. Here are the four top reasons for wisdom teeth removal (ice cream cravings not included).


The most obvious reason for extraction is experiencing pain where the wisdom teeth grow. Many people start experiencing jaw or gum pain at the back of their mouth. Pain can be due to not having enough room for a tooth to come in, or a wisdom tooth growing under the gum. Consult your dentist to see if the cause of pain is wisdom tooth growth. They can confirm if the tooth is putting painful pressure on surrounding teeth and causing damage.     

Damage to Surrounding Teeth

Sometimes a wisdom tooth grows at the wrong angle which affects the surrounding teeth. If a wisdom tooth grows too close to another tooth, it can cause crowding which leads to harmful teeth shifting, breaking, or even painful pressure. In some cases, an emergency extraction is required to prevent further damage. Consult your dentist for the best course of action. 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Not only can a wisdom tooth grow at the wrong angle, but it may also be unable to grow at all. Some wisdom teeth get stuck under the gum or are only able to partially break through the gum. These are known as impacted teeth. If you have a small mouth or jaw, there’s a chance your wisdom teeth may not have enough room to grow correctly. If this is the case, a wisdom tooth extraction is a suitable decision.


Because wisdom teeth are so far back in the mouth, it may be hard for your toothbrush or floss to reach them. This can cause food particles to be left behind in your wisdom teeth resulting in tooth decay and cavities. To avoid further tooth decay, it’s best to get your wisdom teeth removed. It will give you more room to brush, floss, and care for the surrounding teeth.  

Wisdom Teeth Removal Procedure 

Wisdom teeth extraction is typically a simple 45-60 minute surgical procedure. The team at Kimball & Beecher will refer you to a trusted oral surgeon to handle the removal. Depending on the location of your wisdom tooth extraction, the oral surgeon may administer anesthesia to put you to sleep. Some patients can and prefer to stay awake during the procedure. 

Regardless of whether you’re conscious or sleeping, the extraction area is numbed. You will not feel any pain during surgery. Before scheduling the procedure, your surgeon will discuss appropriate sedation and anesthesia options.

During the wisdom teeth removal procedure, the oral surgeon will:

  1. Administer IV sedation or anesthesia depending on their recommendation and your preferences.
  2. Numb the wisdom teeth and surrounding area in the mouth.
  3. For impacted wisdom teeth in gums: Incisions will be made in gums and teeth will be removed.
  4. For regular wisdom teeth: They are loosened and removed. The dry socket (the empty space in the gum where your wisdom tooth used to be) is stitched to stop bacteria from entering and creating an infection.

Recovering from Wisdom Tooth Surgery 

After wisdom tooth surgery, you may feel groggy. Be sure to have a friend or family member drive you home. The dentist or oral surgeon will provide detailed after-surgery care instructions. This includes eating only soft foods (yes ice cream) and drinking liquids without a straw. Most patients take a week off from work to recover at a leisurely pace. 

Wisdom Teeth Services at Kimball & Beecher

Are your wisdom teeth causing you pain or doing damage to your surrounding teeth? Contact your local Kimball & Beecher dental office to schedule an appointment and discuss your treatment options. If extraction is needed, we’ll connect you with a skilled oral surgeon to handle the procedure.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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