Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that usually grow in between the late teens and early twenties for most people. In some cases, these last molars can fit perfectly into a person’s mouth when they are properly aligned. However, in many individuals, the wisdom teeth are not properly aligned and may require removal.
Wisdom teeth may be angled either toward or away from the second set of molars, or may even angle outward or inward. Poor alignment of teeth, particularly the wisdom teeth, can cause crowding which will push other teeth out of alignment. Misaligned wisdom teeth can even damage surrounding teeth and also affect the jawbone or nerves.
Wisdom teeth may also become impacted, which means that the tooth or teeth only erupt partially from the gums, and the rest remains embedded in the jawbone and/or soft tissue. Teeth that are impacted can cause problems because the partial opening can allow bacteria to enter the body, which can result in issues such as swelling, pain, jaw stiffness, and other whole-body illnesses associated with bacterial infection.
Impacted teeth are also more susceptible to other issues such as gum disease and tooth decay, because they are harder to keep clean and free of food particles and bacteria, even with regular brushing and flossing.
Wisdom teeth do not always have to cause you pain to cause future problems. The movement of surrounding teeth caused by wisdom teeth is often slow, and may not cause any pain. However, if you or a loved one has had braces or other orthodontic treatment, crowding from wisdom teeth can potentially un-do that work, and result in crooked and misaligned teeth and jaw, as well as wisdom teeth pain.
Wisdom Tooth Removal
Your dentist will review your x-rays and the positioning of your wisdom teeth at your regular checkup visits. He or she may recommend to remove some or all of your wisdom teeth to help alleviate any pain, swelling or infection you may currently have, or to avoid future problems. Additionally, your dentist may recommend removing wisdom teeth earlier rather than later, because future extractions may become more painful or complicated, or even result in a dental emergency, as we age.
Your dentist will determine the position of your wisdom teeth and determine the type of extraction to be performed. In most cases, your 1st Family Dental dentist can remove your wisdom teeth right in the office. Occasionally, however, he or she may refer a patient with a special case to an oral surgeon for an evaluation.
A tooth that has fully erupted through the gum line can usually be removed as easily as any other tooth via a regular extraction. A wisdom tooth that is impacted or is still under the gumline or embedded in the jaw bone may require a surgical extraction, which is a form of oral surgery. A surgical extraction means your dentist will make an incision along your gum line to expose the tooth, and remove any bone that is still covering the tooth to allow it to be removed. Your dental insurance may cover all or a portion of wisdom tooth extractions.
Your dentist may recommend to extract one wisdom tooth at a time, or focus on one half of your mouth at a time. Before the dentist removes the tooth, he or she will numb the surrounding tissue with a local anesthetic. If you or a loved one have experienced dental anxiety in the past, your dentist may utilize Nitrous Oxide, known as laughing gas during the procedure, or may have prescribed an oral sedative to help you relax.
Once the area has been numbed, the dentist will remove the tooth, control any bleeding, and if necessary may use sutures, or stitches, to close the gums. Your dentist may prescribe or recommend over the counter medications to help control any post-procedure pain or swelling.
It is very important for patients to follow the dentist’s post-procedure recovery instructions, which include avoiding smoking, chewing hard or tough foods, and strenuous physical activity for a period of time to allow the gums and jaw to heal.
If Nitrous Oxide or local anesthetic only was used during the extraction, you will be able to drive yourself home if you’d like. If a prescription sedative or anti-anxiety medication was used, you will need to have a friend drive you home. After an extraction, some pain and swelling can be expected for a while. Your dentist will tell you what you might expect, and also let you know when it may be a good idea to call the office to report if you are experiencing any problems beyond what is normally expected, such as bleeding or a dry socket.
Once the healing process is complete, people who have had wisdom tooth extractions can get right back to life as usual, without having to worry about future pain, crowding or even dental emergencies that wisdom teeth can sometimes cause.
If you have questions or concerns about your wisdom teeth or for someone you love, feel free to contact us anytime, or speak with your dentist at your next office visit.