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The Wisdom Tooth Removal Process

An illustration of an impacted wisdom tooth.

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, can often require surgical intervention when they become impacted or cause misalignment of other teeth.

Wisdom teeth typically develop and erupt in our late teens and early 20s. For many patients, their development is painful and can lead to serious complications if not removed. Signs that your wisdom teeth are coming in may include pain in the back teeth or gums, or jaw pain. Dr. Dustin J. Hopkin can perform a wisdom tooth removal at his Salt Lake City, UT, oral surgery practice to alleviate discomfort and prevent potential oral health problems from developing.  

What are Wisdom Teeth?

Our third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, typically begin to erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. They erupt at the very back of the mouth, behind the existing molars. Their eruption can often cause painful, inflamed gums or cause the misalignment of adjacent teeth. In some cases, wisdom teeth may become impacted. This means that the tooth cannot erupt through the gums because they are misaligned or are growing at an angle. 

When is Wisdom Tooth Removal Needed?

For some patients, the wisdom teeth never erupt and never cause any pain. This doesn't ensure that they won't cause problems.  For some lucky few,  they may never need to have these molars removed. Unfortunately, for a majority of patients, wisdom teeth develop at odd angles, leading to impaction or teeth that only partially erupt. Not only can this be quite painful, but it can lead to other complications.

For many patients, the development of wisdom teeth is painful and can lead to serious complications if not removed.

Because our mouths are typically too small to accommodate these extra teeth, when they come in, they can cause existing teeth to shift out of alignment. This shift can cause discomfort and can also require orthodontic treatment to correct.  Partially erupted wisdom teeth create pockets of gum tissue that bacteria can cultivate and debris can get into, causing oral hygiene difficulty, breath odor, periodontal infection and even abcesses.  Other potential risks of not removing wisdom teeth include cyst and tumor formation. To avoid these complications, most surgeons recommend removing the wisdom teeth before they begin to cause problems.

What to Expect during Surgery and Recovery


To verify that the wisdom teeth have come in and require removal, Dr. Hopkin will review radiographs of your teeth and gums. These images will help him determine if any of the teeth are impacted. In some cases, patients may only need to have one or two teeth removed, while others require extraction of all four wisdom teeth. Typically when multiple teeth must be removed, general anesthesia is used to ensure your comfort during the procedure.  Dr. Hopkin will discuss your sedation options with you and proceed with the one that is best suited for your circumstances.

To remove the wisdom teeth, Dr. Hopkin will create incisions at the back of the mouth. If any of the teeth are impacted, he will also remove the interfering bone. In many cases, wisdom teeth must be broken into pieces before extraction is possible. After all the teeth are removed, Dr. Hopkin will close the incisions with dissolvable sutures.  These procedures are typically completed in 15-30 minutes.


Most patients need at least three days to recover from surgery. Pain, swelling, and bruising are common side effects that many patients experience in the first few days following surgery. Dr. Hopkin can prescribe pain medication to help minimize your discomfort. Ice packs can also be used to help minimize swelling. You should consume only soft foods that are not too hot or too cold for the first couple of days. While we recommend smoothies or milkshakes, you should not drink them through a straw, as these can inhibit clotting and cause dry sockets.

Contact Hopkin Oral Surgery

To learn more about the wisdom tooth removal process or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hopkin, call Hopkin Oral Surgery at (801) 277-3942 or contact our office online today. Dr. Hopkin can help determine if your wisdom teeth are causing other oral problems and require extraction. 

Salt Lake City Office

Open Today 8:00am-4:00pm All hours

1377 E 3900 S Ste 104
Salt Lake City, UT 84124

Directions (801) 277-3942

"I don't fear many things in life, but I can honestly say going to the dentist is one of them! But the experience Dr. Hopkin's office provided me made it not so scary. I would recommend them without hesitation to anyone!"

Layne Northrop, from a Google + Review

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