The average person has 32 teeth (16 on the top and 16 on the bottom) by age 18. Ideally, your mouth is made to comfortably hold 28 teeth. The final four teeth to erupt are the third molars, also called wisdom teeth.
If these teeth come in properly and don’t cause any problems, you can leave them in place. Unfortunately, wisdom teeth typically produce crowding and increase your risk for tooth decay. Your dentist will usually recommend extraction if the teeth grow in sideways, only partially erupt through the gums, or never break through the gums at all.
To confirm that your wisdom teeth should be taken out, your dentist will order X-rays and perform an examination of your mouth. Depending on the level of difficulty involved in the removal, your dentist may perform the procedure, or the doctor may refer you to an oral surgeon, a dentist with specialized training in surgeries of the mouth and face.
Most dentists like to remove wisdom teeth at the youngest appropriate age because the procedure is better tolerated then and the recovery is less difficult. In most cases, the actual removal is performed as an outpatient procedure. Your dentist will probably use oral or IV sedation, with or without nitrous oxide, to keep you comfortable during treatment.
After the surgery, you will need to rest for several days. Take medication as directed and consume soft foods at first. Avoid drinking through a straw, spitting, or smoking so that you don’t dislodge the clots that need to form as part of the healing process. Follow your dentist’s instructions completely so that you don’t hinder your recovery.