Evolution has rendered wisdom teeth useless, and a high percentage of these unnecessary molars eventually require removal. When a wisdom tooth, otherwise known as a third molar, cannot erupt into proper alignment, it is called impacted. Oral surgery to extract impacted wisdom teeth may be considered if you have the following problems:
- Mouth pain and bite problems caused by damage to surrounding teeth created from crowding caused by the extra molars.
- Jaw and nerve damage caused by cysts that form around the impacted wisdom teeth.
- Sinus pain, pressure and congestion resulting from problems with wisdom teeth.
- Inflamed and infected gum tissue created because the area around impacted wisdom teeth is difficult to clean properly.
- Cavities which develop due to infected gums that allow pockets to form between gums, allowing bacteria to grow.
- Alignment issues that alter the effects of braces, bridges, crowns and partial dentures due the crowding created by impacted wisdom teeth.
To diagnose impacted wisdom teeth, your dental professional will look for signs of infection or swollen gums. Your dentist will also inquire about your regular oral hygiene habits. The diagnosis of impacted wisdom teeth can be confirmed with dental x-rays, which may also reveal damage to the other teeth or jawbone.
When making a decision with your dentist about wisdom tooth extraction, it’s important to consider your age. Typically third molars erupt between the ages of 16 and 25 years. Younger patients experience considerably fewer complications with oral surgery for wisdom tooth extraction than older adults.
If your dental professional recommends removal due to the diagnosis of an impacted wisdom tooth, ask for a referral to a qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon to ensure a successful and complication-free oral surgery.
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Surgery to remove wisdom teeth is one of the most common procedures that oral surgeons and dentists perform. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions afterwards for the best chances of quick and complete recovery. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself after wisdom tooth extraction.
Watch your diet:
Your dentist will give you a list of suggested foods you can it after surgery, and ones to avoid. Stick with soft or liquid foods for the first couple of days, and do not eat hard or sharp foods like chips. Avoid carbonated drinks, hot beverages, and spicy foods because they can irritate your surgery site. After the first few days, begin introducing your regular diet as is comfortable.
Take your medications:
You will likely receive a prescription for painkillers to help relieve discomfort, as well as reduce swelling. This in turn can lower your risk for infection too. Take your medication as prescribed by your dentist for the optimum results. If your extraction is simple, prescription medication may not be required. You can take over-the-counter medications if your dentist agrees and you follow the directions on the label. Do not take aspirin, however, because it can thin your blood and increase bleeding at your extraction site.
Instead of brushing with your toothbrush, gently wipe the site with clean, wet gauze. Rigorous brushing can hurt the healing process, and you should even avoid rinsing your mouth for at least 24 hours after surgery. On the second day, you can rinse your mouth gently with salty water. Do not spit forcefully, which can dislodge the blood clot on your extraction site. Also, do not rinse with mouthwash that contains any alcohol.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco:
Drinking alcohol may thin your blood, prevent clotting, and delay healing. Smoking can have similar effects, as well as dislodge the clot when you inhale on a cigarette. For the best chances of healing, avoid these products for at least 24 hours after wisdom tooth extraction.
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Wisdom teeth got their name because they are the final teeth to develop, usually in the late teens to early twenties, at a time when a person becomes fully mature or “wise.” Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars in the very back of the mouth. Most people have four total (two upper and two lower), but others never develop them at all. Wisdom teeth can be a valuable chewing aid, but often they are poorly aligned or don’t develop properly.
How do I know if I have them?:
Unless you start to feel them breaking through, you may not know whether you have wisdom teeth or not. Ask your dentist to examine you to see if these teeth are healthy and properly positioned. An x-ray may be required, and your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon to be evaluated further.
Do wisdom teeth hurt?:
You don’t always feel anything with your wisdom teeth, but sometimes they are very bothersome. You may experience pain when they erupt in awkward positions, especially if the teeth rub against your mouth. Other problems include stiffness in the area, infected swelling of the gums, tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth crowding.
Why remove them?:
Your dentist or oral surgeon might suggest that your wisdom teeth be extracted. They can often predict if your wisdom teeth may crowd or damage other teeth, your jawbone, or nerves. Sometimes removal is appropriate before problems arise, in an effort to avoid more complicated or painful extractions later. Removal is usually simpler and less risky in young people. If your wisdom teeth are not extracted, it’s important for your dentist to continue monitoring them because problems may develop later.
What does impacted mean?:
Wisdom teeth may be impacted, which means they are enclosed in the soft tissue or jawbone or they only partially erupt through the gum. Impacted wisdom teeth are almost always removed to avoid risks of infection, tooth decay, and gum disease.
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It is estimated that ten million impacted wisdom teeth are removed every year. This means that you or someone you know has probably experienced this type of oral surgery. Even so, the thought of wisdom tooth extraction strikes fear and apprehension in many people. Knowing more about why it’s necessary and the procedure itself may alleviate your concerns.
Wisdom teeth are the furthest teeth in the back of your mouth, and come in later than all of your other teeth. Sometimes they don’t erupt at all, becoming stuck or impacted in your gums. Even if they do come in naturally, they may not fit in your mouth properly with the rest of your teeth.
There are some common issues that necessitate the removal of wisdom teeth. These include:
- Impaction – impacted teeth may grow sideways and even damage your jawbone.
- Infection – teeth that partially erupt can cause openings in your gums that allow bacteria inside, causing sometimes serious infections.
- Tumors and cysts – complications like tumors and cysts can develop around impacted wisdom teeth, sometimes damaging to the gums and jaw.
- Pressure – impacted teeth can pressure the surrounding teeth, causing abnormal growth, tooth decay, and orthodontic problems.
The best way to avoid these types of issues is to have your wisdom teeth surgically removed. Many dentists recommend removing them even before you’re experiencing problems, so that you avoid problems later. Your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon. After a consultation and examination including X-rays, a treatment plan will be determined.
Wisdom tooth extraction is an outpatient procedure in the surgeon’s office, using some level of anesthesia. Sometimes only local anesthesia is required, while some cases benefit from deeper levels of anesthesia for your comfort and health. Afterwards, you will experience some discomfort and should follow the doctor’s advice for care. Ice, pain medications, a soft diet, and rest are advised. A follow-up visit will be scheduled to monitor your healing. Typically, you will be back to normal in a few days and won’t have to worry about your wisdom teeth again.
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If your teen is scheduled to have wisdom teeth extraction surgery, you might be feeling stressed-out about the procedure and how you can best prepare for what’s to come. Surgery can be frightening. As the adult, it’s your role to get the information you need and to educate and calm your teen so that you both have a feeling of confidence and safety during all steps of the oral surgery.
Don’t mislead your teen about the procedure or recovery time. Talk about the reasons the wisdom teeth need to be extracted; be honest about the issues. Talk about the oral surgeon and his or her qualifications and why this particular surgeon was chosen. Help give your teen a sense of trust in the surgeon, to help calm his or her nerves.
Listen to everything your child has to say regarding the surgery. Validate all your child’s feelings and statements and offer any guidance you can from your own life’s experiences. Be open to allowing a conversation between the surgeon and your teen. Your oral surgeon has experience in dealing with fearful patients and can often remedy fearful thoughts and feelings more efficiently than a parent.
Reassure your child that you won’t be far away during or after the procedure. Even though your teen may be already in college, surgical procedures can be frightening and you might be surprised at how much your teen may lean on you, emotionally and physically during this time.
Answer any of your child’s questions honestly. Go over any parts of the surgery that are confusing to your teen. This knowledge can restore a sense of control to the patient, and allow the patient to feel prepared to recover.
Your teen’s oral maxillofacial surgeon wants your teen to be comfortable during the surgery. Sedation dentistry options may be offered as early as the night before, so that the patient can be well-rested and calm for the procedure.
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A wisdom tooth is often extracted to correct an existing dental problem or to prevent the possibility of problems that may arise in the future. Some problems associated with wisdom teeth are:
- Your jaw may be too small to accommodate the eruption of your wisdom teeth, leading them to become impacted (stuck in the jaw, often under the edge of an adjacent tooth) and unable to erupt through your gums.
- Your wisdom teeth may partially erupt, leaving a flap of soft gum tissue to grow over the tooth. Food, bacteria and germs can get trapped underneath this gum flap, leading to swelling, redness and pain, which are signs of infection.
- Impacted teeth can lead to a more serious problem, such as acute infection, damage to the surrounding teeth, damage to the bone or the development of a cyst.
- Wisdom teeth can present at an awkward angle, coming in with the top of the tooth facing sideways, forward or backward.
Removing your wisdom teeth can be a good method to prevent:
- crowding at the back of the mouth
- an impacted wisdom tooth stuck in the jaw and never erupting
- painful gums or infection caused by a flap of gum skin
- gum disease or tooth decay in the individual wisdom tooth or in the surrounding teeth and gums
You may want to have your wisdom teeth removed when you are younger because:
- The younger you are, the less developed your wisdom teeth roots are, and the less dense your jawbone, allowing for an easier extraction of the tooth.
- The majority of problems with wisdom teeth begin between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.
- If you have a medical condition that is known to worsen with time, you may choose to have your wisdom teeth out early, while you are in your best health, to facilitate maximum healing.
Wisdom teeth extraction is rarely harmful, but there are risks associated with any surgery. Talk to your dentist today about any concerns you have regarding wisdom tooth extraction.
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