Choosing the Right Time for Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Local teen weighs in on his experince and provides advice to peers

As our kids head back to high school or even off to college, Florida Craniofacial Institute, leading Bay Area Oral Maxillofacial and Pediatric Craniofacial Surgery experts, provides tips and advice on those pesky wisdom teeth that may be emerging.

Fifteen-year-old Matthew Turner, one of Hillsborough High School’s newest freshmen, and his family first met Dr. Pat Ricalde through a traumatic dentistry experience when his older brother Clayton was injured playing football.

“We were really impressed with how Dr. Ricalde went above and beyond for Clayton – coming into the ER on a holiday weekend and saving his teeth – that we definitely wanted to go with Florida Craniofacial Institute when it came to our wisdom teeth removal,” shares Turner.

Since Matt is the youngest of five, the Turner family had already had wisdom teeth extractions for a few of the older children at other practices, but was not satisfied.

“What made Dr. Ricalde different is that she was very upfront and explained everything to me. She made me feel 100 percent comfortable. I felt good about going to FCI because Dr. Ricalde has much more experience doing surgical procedures in her office all the time,” says Turner.

“I wanted to get my wisdom teeth removed because I had braces and didn’t want to ruin all that work and I didn’t want to wait because it can cause more pain later on. My orthodontist initially recommended removing the wisdom teeth and communicated with Dr. Ricalde directly. It was all an easy process.”

Also called third molars, wisdom teeth develop in the majority of the adult population and are the last teeth to erupt, normally appearing in the late teens or early twenties. The time of life when the wisdom teeth erupt has often been called the “Age of Wisdom.” However, they are not helping teens like Matt Turner ace their next test and often negatively impact other teeth or cause painful symptoms in the mouth and head because of the way they are positioned.

In fact, our modern diet and lifestyle produce a fuller dental arch, which often does not leave room for the wisdom teeth and causes dental issues. In these circumstances, the long-term remedy that a dentist recommends is usually wisdom tooth extraction.

“The most important thing I tell parents and patients is to find a surgeon you are comfortable with, who is experienced and has training that has prepared him or her for this specialized procedure,” says Pat Ricalde, MD, DDS, FACS, founder of the Florida Craniofacial Institute in Tampa. “If you feel good about the person performing the procedure and well informed, you’re more likely to feel at ease throughout the process.”

Tips to Ease Extraction 

• After surgery continue to bite normally and apply some pressure to the gauze pad periodically.

• Change gauze pads when needed to maintain mouth comfort.

• Instead of lying flat, try to prop up to promote healing. Use pillows.

• Use an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for the first 24 hours. Then for the following few days, try a warm, moist washcloth.

• Take it easy, even if you are feeling better right away. Physical activity may increase bleeding.

• Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding or thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.

• But, using a straw to sip can actually cause harm due to the suction produced, so they are best avoided.

• Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to reduce swelling and relieve pain. • Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.

• Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.

Turner says, “Recovery was exactly what I thought it would be and it was pretty simple. There was some soreness, but pain medicine helped and I drank lots of smoothies.”

Matthew’s advice to his friends is to get the surgery done soon and to use ice packs. He says, “Now I am back to playing soccer and hope to do track this year and continue playing piano.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment at the Florida Craniofacial Institute, please contact Dr. Pat Ricalde at (813) 870-6000, or visit

About Florida Craniofacial Institute:
Pat Ricalde, DDS, MD, FACS founded the Florida Craniofacial Institute with a focus on craniofacial trauma and reconstructive surgery, the management of congenital craniofacial anomalies, orthognathic and other jaw surgery, head/neck pathology, dentoalveolar surgery, dental implants, and bone grafting. As the Founder and Director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Team at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ricalde is dedicated to providing quality care to patients, especially to those with special needs here in the Tampa Bay area. Dr. Ricalde spends a great deal of time educating other surgeons and physicians by giving lectures, publishing articles and book chapters, as well as working internationally to treat underserved children.