All about wisdom teeth!
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be an asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned, but more often, they are misaligned and require removal.
How Do I Know if I Have Wisdom Teeth?
Ask your dentist about the positioning of your wisdom teeth. Your dentist may refer you to get an OPG X-ray to evaluate for the presence and alignment of your wisdom teeth. Your dentist may also decide to send you to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.
Your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend that your wisdom teeth be extracted even before problems develop. The extraction is recommended to avoid a more painful or more complicated extraction that might have to be done a few years later. Removal is more straight forward in young people when the wisdom teeth roots are not yet fully developed, and the bone is less dense. In older people, recovery and healing time tend to be longer.
Why Take Them Out?
Some wisdom teeth do not come through fully (partly erupt) and get stuck (or impacted), This often leaves a flap of gum over your tooth which can cause bacteria to build up leading to infections. Other wisdom teeth grow too long (over erupt) which can cause issues with the bite.A wisdom tooth may need to be removed for several reasons such as:
• tooth decay
• repeated or severe infections
• to make space to move other teeth
• to prevent damage to the soft tissues and neighboring teeth.
Symptoms of wisdom teeth infection
Signs of gum infection caused by a wisdom tooth include:
• red, inflamed gum near the wisdom tooth
• pus coming from the gum
• swollen and sore lymph nodes underneath the jaw
• difficulty opening the mouth and swallowing
• bad breath.
Treatment for a wisdom teeth infection
Infections caused by wisdom teeth can be treated:
• by improving oral hygiene in the area
• by having the area cleaned by a dentist
• sometimes, by the prescription of antibiotics.
However, the infection may keep coming back if problem teeth are not removed. People who have other health problems, especially people with lower immunity, may have complications from these infections.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
If wisdom teeth do need to be taken out, most commonly a local anaesthetic will be used so that you won’t feel pain, you will only feel the pressure. Sometimes, if the wisdom teeth are deeply impacted (blocked from coming through), or for other medical reasons, a general anaesthetic will be offered.
The relative ease at which your dentist or oral surgeon can extract your wisdom teeth depends on the position and stage of development that the wisdom teeth are at. Your dentist will be able to give you an idea of what to expect during your pre-extraction consultation. A wisdom tooth, when fully erupted through the gum can be extracted similar to any other tooth. However, a wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums and embedded in the jawbone will require an incision into the gums and then removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth. Often, for a tooth in this situation, the tooth will be extracted in small sections rather than in one piece to minimize the amount of bone that needs to be removed to get the tooth out. Because wisdom teeth are large, the hole where the tooth was may be stitched to help it heal. It is completely normal for your jaw and gum to be sore, swollen and bleed for a few days after having a wisdom tooth out.
One possible complication of wisdom teeth removal is a dry socket (alveolar osteitis) when the area where the tooth came from doesn’t heal properly. Bad breath and severe pain from the socket are the main signs. A dry socket can be successfully treated by your oral health professional.
Care after surgery for removal of wisdom teeth
Your oral health professional will talk with you about how to care for your mouth after having a wisdom tooth taken out. Some general suggestions include:
• Take pain-relieving medication if needed (and on advice from your oral health professional).
• Hold salty water in your mouth. Do this after meals and no earlier than 24 hours after surgery.
• Eat soft, easy-to-chew foods for the next few days.
• Don’t smoke for 48 hours after the surgery.
• Avoid alcohol.