THE REAL REASONS FOR WISDOM TEETH REMOVAL
WHY HUMANS HAVE WISDOM TEETH AND WHY WE OFTEN PULL THEM
It’s a rite of passage to finally hear the dentist say, “Well, it looks like your wisdom teeth are coming in.” Not everyone needs wisdom teeth extraction, but most will need at least one extracted in their lifetime. Whether they’re just coming in or an old one has suddenly begun to ache, it’s always better to take care of them before big problems can brew.
WHAT IS A WISDOM TOOTH?
Wisdom teeth are an unnecessary set of third molars at the very back of the upper and lower jaw. Coming in between the ages of 17 and 25, they’re the last teeth to join the party. In fact, they don’t begin forming in your jaw until you’re 10 years old. Records show that we’ve been calling them “teeth of wisdom” since the 17th century. Linguists believe they got their name because they erupt at the cusp of adulthood, “the age of wisdom.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean these teeth are any smarter than the rest. In fact, it’s quite the opposite in most cases!
WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE EXTRA TEETH?
Wisdom teeth are probably the byproduct of our early ancestors’ diet. Having a third set of molars came in handy when we had to chew tough roots, nuts, meats and leaves for meals. Now that our diet has softened, our wisdom teeth are just ghosts of a bygone era. Although growing all four extra teeth is most common, some people end up with partially formed teeth, only a few or even no wisdom teeth.
DO WISDOM TEETH HAVE TO BE REMOVED?
It’s possible for wisdom teeth to come in without complication, but the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports at least 90% of people end up with at least one impacted wisdom tooth.
HEALTH REASONS FOR WISDOM TOOTH REMOVAL INCLUDE:
- Not enough space: Cramped wisdom teeth can make surrounding teeth to shift, causing complications to the bite and health of other teeth.
- Full or partial impaction: Some wisdom teeth never seem to come up above the gum line. This is called impaction, and impacted teeth can become uncomfortable and infected at any time.
- Wrong angle: Wisdom teeth can come in crooked or even completely sideways, pressing against other teeth.
- Cavities: Wisdom teeth are often hard to reach with a toothbrush or could be partially covered by gum. It’s better to pull the tooth once a cavity forms than try to fill it as another cavity is likely to form.
At Desert Valley Oral Surgery, we assure you that we assess each tooth individually. When your case is reviewed by your oral surgeon, you may discover that not all of your wisdom teeth need to be removed.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THIS DENTAL EXTRACTION?
Wisdom teeth extraction is one of the most common procedures performed by oral surgeons. Teeth that have fully erupted can often be pulled just like any other tooth. The area is numbed, and the tooth is worked out of the jaw with a special tool.
Impacted wisdom or other teeth that should be removed before they come in or similar situations may require more in-depth surgery. These procedures are usually done under light anesthesia. General anesthesia might be administered for anxious patients or for severe issues. This is one of the big reasons that you come to an oral surgeon rather than your dentist for this delicate dental procedure.
HOW LONG DOES RECOVERY TAKE? HOW CAN I SPEED IT UP?
Post-surgical recovery can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. For timely, more comfortable healing, it’s important to follow all post-operative instructions to the letter. Following rinsing instructions and avoiding dry socket, where the blood clot dislodges from the extraction site, are particularly important when you have a wisdom tooth removed. As you can imagine, this becomes more important if you have two, three or all four teeth removed at once.
MAKE SURE THAT YOU:
- Avoid using straws, vigorously swishing liquid in your mouth, or doing other sucking motions around your mouth.
- Stick to liquids for the first 24 hours and a soft foods diet for the first four to five days.
- Avoid vigorous brushing around the surgical area.
- Resist the urge to feel out the extraction site with your tongue.
- Don’t use any rinses for the first 24 hours after bleeding stops. After that, try warm salt water rinses to keep the area clean and reduce discomfort. To rinse without swishing, gently tilt your head and push the liquid around in your mouth with your tongue.
DOES IT HURT?
As with any surgery, you can expect some swelling, pain and discomfort. You’ll be given appropriate pain killers and antibiotics to help minimize discomfort and prevent infection. Blood may ooze from the surgical site for the first 24 hours. If you’re having trouble stemming the bleeding immediately after surgery, put a cool, wet tea bag over the area and bite down hard for at least an hour. With the right care, the tissue will begin to grow back, forming a protective layer over the site.
Using ice packs and sleeping with your head elevated can help with pain. For most people, the pain will peak within the first 72 hours after surgery. If you experience these symptoms — excessive pain, bleeding, fever or signs of infection — it’s important to call your surgeon.
Millions of people undergo wisdom teeth extraction each year. If you or your child needs to join the crowd, give us a call to schedule an appointment.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IMPACTED TEETH
If you need more information about the problems with a wisdom tooth, there will find both good information and faulty information if you just do a general search. We recommend sticking to well-researched sources that can explain accurately what a third molar is and why it may be bad for your health. Remember there are no products that can magically cure dental issues.
The Mayo Clinic, which focuses on physical health issues, does have a very good article on impacted wisdom teeth. An impacted tooth doesn’t always hurt. Instead it gives off other clues that are warning you that something is wrong. Obviously regular trips to your dentist should be enough to catch those clues. When it comes to wisdom tooth removal, some of the clues this is needed in adults include:
- Gum problems around the tooth: red, swollen, tender and/or bleeding
- Jaw problems: pain and/or swelling, difficulty opening your mouth.
- Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
Obviously these clues could be caused by other problems. This is why it is so vital to see your dentist and have your oral health checked every six months. Even if you don’t need wisdom teeth removal, you’ll find out what it is happening and why.
Another good source is the American Dental Association. The ADA has an excellent website called MouthHealthy with tips about the health of our teeth and what we need to worry about in different stages of life. It explains why tooth removal is sometimes necessary and some of the more extreme signs of tooth distress:
- Advanced tooth decay in a wisdom tooth and/or neighboring tooth
- Pain and Infection
Wisdom tooth removal is discussed on other medical sites such as MedicineNet. As they explain in their article on wisdom tooth removal, one unfortunate problem is periocoronditis. This tends to occur with adults who still have their lower wisdom teeth. It becomes impacted during its slow entrance into the mouth. This leads to many of the wisdom teeth symptoms already mentioned. Swelling in the jaw, jaw tightness, and swollen lymph nodes indicate problems that may be beyond a dentist scope. Fortunately, removal is a relatively simple procedure, despite the fact it is technically surgery.
However your dentist can recognize these problems, address the pain, and send you to an oral surgeon for the proper procedure that will relieve the problem. That’s just how important tooth removal really is. In fact, it’s just another reason that our oral well-being is vital to our overall health.
With wisdom teeth in adults, you can have your wisdom teeth effectively removed in the same sort of day surgery that is used for teens. This type of removal is different because the roots have formed and the tooth is above the gum.
As explained by the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, oral surgeons such as Dr. Hansen have completed four years of dental study and gone on to four to six years of medical study and residency. That’s why an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is uniquely qualified for wisdom teeth removal.
In some cases, our adult patients comes to us to remove their wisdom teeth even if there isn’t a severe problem. They want to know that they won’t experience those severe symptoms in the future, and they know the best way to ensure that is to have their extra teeth removed now.
If you want to read more about these topics, we encourage you to stick to these sources. Your mouth health depends on staying vigilant about all dental problems, seeing your dentist regularly, and, in some cases, allowing an oral surgeon to address your wisdom tooth issues. Please call us to schedule an appointment for yourself or your teen.