Wisdom Tooth Extraction in Adulthood: What to Expect

Wisdom Tooth Extraction in Adulthood: What to Expect

About 85% of people end up needing their wisdom teeth pulled at some point in their life, and that typically happens in their late teens or early 20s. But occasionally, this third set of molars remains asymptomatic for years, then becomes problematic later in life. 

When this happens, you want an experienced oral surgeon like Dr. Oscar Muñiz and his team at Oral Facial Surgery Specialists at The Woodlands. As a dual-degree oral and maxillofacial surgeon, he’s one of Texas’ leading specialists and the one to trust if you’re facing wisdom tooth extraction as an adult. 

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the problem with wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear in your mouth, and they don’t show up until your late teens or early 20s. For some people, these new arrivals cause no problems at all, and they simply take their place at the end of the line.

But for the majority of folks, these molars are troublemakers. Here’s what can go wrong:


Before the eruption of wisdom teeth, you had 28 adult teeth all working well with one another. But when the wisdom teeth came along, you suddenly had 32 teeth jockeying for a spot in your already crowded mouth. If there’s not enough room, extraction is the best way to restore the space.

Impaction and misalignment

If your jaw is too small to accommodate the new molars, they may become impacted, unable to fully emerge. Or they may grow in crooked and cause a domino effect of angled, misaligned teeth. Removing the wisdom teeth allows your other teeth to stay straight and function optimally.

Infection and pain

In many cases, wisdom teeth only erupt partially, which leaves an open space in the gums where food and bacteria get trapped. It doesn’t take long for an infection called pericoronitis, which is extremely painful, to set in. Extraction prevents the infection from progressing. 

Another common infection may occur in the sac adjacent to the wisdom tooth. As the infection develops, the sac becomes filled with fluid, forming a cyst that has the potential to damage tooth roots and bone.

Why wisdom teeth are removed earlier in life

The reason we typically recommend wisdom tooth extraction in younger people is that the procedure is easier when the roots have not yet finished forming. It’s preferable to remove the tooth before it anchors firmly into place, because it results in less trauma and shorter recovery time.

You missed the window — now what?

If your wisdom teeth didn’t start misbehaving until later in life, and you missed the window of easier removal, don’t worry — it’s not too late.

We have extensive experience extracting teeth in people of all ages. And if you’re experiencing pain, inflammation, tender or bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, or a foul taste in your mouth, these may be signs you need to come see us for a wisdom tooth evaluation.

If you need an extraction (or two, or three, or four), the procedure for removal is the same as for younger people: anesthesia, about an hour-long process while you sleep, sutures, gauze to control bleeding, antibiotics and pain meds, and post-op instructions. 

The main difference between getting your wisdom teeth pulled when you’re younger compared to when you’re an older adult is that it may take you longer to fully recover. The 18-21 crowd typically bounces back after about 3-4 days, but you might feel the effects for up to a week. 

Another difference is that the older you get, the higher the chance that you have a medical condition that may affect the success of your wisdom tooth extraction. Tell us about your health history, any current conditions, and all medications and supplements you’re taking. 

If your wisdom teeth have started causing trouble, don’t let your age deter you from getting the treatment you need to salvage your oral health. Call us for an appointment or request one online today.

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