Technically considered to be our third set of molars, wisdom teeth emerge typically between the ages of 17 and 25 years old. Our ancestors from long ago understandably had a very different diet then we do today with harder textures. This often caused molars and other teeth to wear down and sometimes come out. The wisdom teeth most adults get today were the teeth that would take the place of the ones that got worn down and knocked out of our ancestors’ mouths.
Because of our softer diets of today and technological improvements in dental hygiene, these third molars really have no practical purpose, and we don’t need them. In fact, for more of the population then not, they can actually become a problem that requires dental surgery.
There are three prominent reasons that you would need to have your wisdom teeth removed:
Lack of Space to Grow: The most obvious reason that they would need to be removed is that your mouth has no room for them. When there is not enough room for the emerging wisdom teeth to grow in, you run the risk of the wisdom teeth damaging your other teeth as well as ruining any previous expensive orthodontic treatment.
Wisdom Teeth Growing Incorrectly: The next problem that warrants removal of your wisdom teeth is if they grow in incorrectly or in the wrong direction. These teeth can emerge into the wrong position in the mouth, making flossing impossible and giving a nice comfy home for cavity-inducing bacteria to grow. When wisdom teeth grow into the jaw at certain angles, they also have the potential to alter the alignment of your jaw, often making it difficult for your jaw to close properly. Even more problematic then wisdom teeth growing in incorrectly is when wisdom teeth only emerge partially or become partially impacted. Often times, wisdom teeth will not have enough room to grow in completely, so they grow in until they cannot anymore. The reason why this is troubling is that the partially grown-in tooth provides the perfect opportunity for a bacterial infection to set up in the gums and form their own colony in the sac around the tooth. Because properly cleaning around this sac is next to impossible, an infection will ensue. Oral infections like this are dangerous because if they are not addressed, they can actually move into the blood and cause a serious condition called sepsis.
Infections of the wisdom teeth are also extremely painful, cause bad breath, and can cause swelling in your jaw, neck, and face, as well as creating the need for a more painful and complicated extraction. Infected wisdom tooth extraction can also have a longer healing process and more downtime after the procedure. In addition, extra care will be needed with certain foods and a longer round of antibiotics will have to be taken after wisdom teeth removal where an infection is present.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth Removal: The third important reason patients need to have their wisdom teeth removed is when they are impacted and unable to erupt through the gums.
The problem with an impacted wisdom tooth, aside from the pain and discomfort it causes, is that fluid can collect around the tooth forming a cyst. This cyst can grow and cause damage to the jaw bone structure and function as well as damage to nerves in the mouth, but the bigger concern surrounding wisdom tooth cysts is the risk of it growing into a tumor. However, tumor formation from impacted wisdom teeth is a fairly uncommon occurrence, because most patients experience so much discomfort before the teeth get to this stage and will have them removed as a result of that pain.
Many patients tend to wait to get their wisdom teeth extracted until the pain and discomfort they are causing outweighs the anxiety they have about the procedure and recovery. Usually, a form of general sedation is used depending on the degree of the wisdom tooth eruption. A stronger form of sedation is given for removal of impacted wisdom teeth and may need to be done with an oral surgeon.
Removing fully impacted wisdom teeth is more surgical in nature than the process for removing partially impacted or fully grown in wisdom teeth.
No matter the method used for general sedation, localized anesthesia is always administered to the areas around the wisdom teeth that are being removed. Once that is finished, the dentist or oral surgeon then uses one or a number of methods to remove the wisdom teeth. Depending on a patient’s specific case, you may or may not need stitches to close up the site where the tooth or teeth were extracted from.
Recovery for wisdom tooth extraction is usually 2 to 3 days, depending on the complexity of the case and any complications that may have risen during the procedure. Bleeding can happen for up to 24 hours following the procedure. Biting down on gauze and keeping pressure on the areas bleeding will help the clot to form.
Swelling around the mouth, jaw, neck and face is normal, and can be brought down by using a cold compress such as an ice pack. It takes anywhere between 7 to 10 days for the swelling to disappear completely. Stiff feelings in the face, jaw and neck are normal for up to 10 days post procedure.
Pain management after the procedure or surgery is determined based on the case at hand and can consist of prescription pain medication and or over the counter medication. Often times you will be instructed to take a round of antibiotics after the procedure to help ward off any sprouting infections. It is important to give us a call post procedure if the pain is unbearable or lasts longer then 5 days after the procedure.
It is imperative to look out for signs of a condition called dry socket. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot that is supposed to form in the hole where the tooth was either does not form at all, only partially forms, or does form but has been dislodged. Often times with dry socket you will be able to see the white bone in the socket where the tooth used to reside. The blood clot in the socket is important because it keeps food and other debris from getting lodged in the socket and causing an infection during the healing process.
Many people are nervous about dental procedures in general, and oral surgery such as wisdom teeth extractions in particular. At Tri City Dental Care, we have built our business around putting people at ease — which can mean soft music, customized massage chairs, calming aromatherapy and more. We do our very best to ensure that your wisdom tooth extraction is as easy and low-stress as possible, with a shorter recovery time. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!