Wisdom Teeth Removal: What Teens Should Expect

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on March 21, 2024
3 min read

Wisdom teeth show up on your dental X-rays when you're in your mid-teens. You may begin to feel this third set of molars as they push against your back gums.

Wisdom teeth sometimes cause pain, swelling, cavities, or gum disease. When they have to come out it’s usually because:

  • They’re impacted. Because they sit so far back in your mouth, wisdom teeth can get trapped in your jawbone or gums. This can be painful.
  • They come in at the wrong angle. They may press against your other teeth.
  • Your mouth isn’t big enough. Your jaw has no room for an extra set of molars.
  • You have cavities or gum disease. You may not be able to reach your wisdom teeth with your toothbrush or dental floss.

Many people have their wisdom teeth removed between the ages of 17 and 25. Often, they go to a special dentist called an oral surgeon, who removes the teeth in their office.

Wisdom teeth removal is usually an easy, short process. Your mouth should heal in a few days, but recovery time may vary. 

You’ll meet with an oral surgeon to talk about the removal. You can bring a parent or other caregiver with you to go over the procedure and after-care. Use this time to:

  • Discuss any health problems you have.
  • List medications you’re taking.
  • Ask questions.
  • Talk about anesthesia, drugs that numb you for the surgery.

Your surgery should take 45 minutes or less.

Your doctor will use one of these types of anesthesia so you don’t feel anything during the surgery:

Local: Your doctor will numb your mouth with a shot of lidocaine in your gums.You may also breathe nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to relax or even doze during surgery. You should feel alert again shortly afterward.

IV sedation: The doctor will numb your mouth and also give you drugs through a vein in your arm to make you drowsy. You might sleep the whole time.

General: You’ll either get drugs through a vein or breathe gas in through a mask. You’ll sleep through the whole surgery -- and maybe even for an hour or more afterward.

If the surgeon has to cut your gums or bone to pull the teeth out, they’ll close the wound with a few stitches. These dissolve after a few days. They may also stuff gauze pads in your mouth to soak up some of the blood.

Plan time off from work, camp, or school to have your surgery. You’ll want to take it easy the rest of the day. If you have general anesthesia or pain drugs, you'll need get a ride home. 

Most people have little to no pain afterward. It may take a few days to feel back to normal.

As you leave the office, your doctor will give you a list of instructions to follow. These tips will help you heal quickly, have less pain or swelling, and fight infection.


  • Use an ice pack on your face to curb swelling or skin color changes during the first 3 daysafter surgery.
  • Use moist heat on your face for a sore jaw after day 3.
  • Eat soft foods like pasta, rice, or soup. If you have a smoothie don't use fruit that has seeds.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Brush your teeth starting the second day. Avoid brushing any blood clots.
  • Take the drugs your doctor prescribes to ease your pain or swelling.
  • Call your doctor if you have a fever, or if your pain or swelling doesn’t improve.


  • Don’t drink through a straw. Sucking may loosen blood clots that help your mouth heal.
  • Don’t rinse your mouth too harshly. Your doctor may suggest rinsing gently with saltwater but wait until the day after your surgery to do this.
  • Don’t eat hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that may scratch your wounds.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can slow your healing and greatly icrease your chances of developing a dry socket.