Wisdom teeth are the last adult teeth to erupt into the mouth, generally emerging between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one. They are the third set of molars and are in pairs: two each on the top and bottom arch of teeth. While some patients don’t have wisdom teeth, most do. Many of those who do have them don’t have enough room for those teeth to erupt fully, causing them to be wedged under the back of another tooth, impacted in the gum.
Impacted wisdom teeth are very difficult to clean, and can negatively affect the surrounding teeth. They are highly vulnerable to disease and decay and may lead to tooth pain and damage to adjacent teeth. For these and other reasons, a dentist may recommend that the teeth be extracted through oral surgery as soon as necessary to prevent any problems.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is typically an outpatient procedure done in an oral surgeon’s office. A healthy patient can proceed with a typical surgery, but if any infection is detected, the surgery can’t move forward until the infection is cleared up through the use of a full course of antibiotics. Once the surgery is moving forward, the surgeon’s team will administer some form of anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the tooth or to possibly sedate the patient through IV sedation dentistry.
After the anesthesia has fully taken effect, the surgeon makes an incision to open the gum and to remove any bone that is blocking the tooth from extraction. The tissue connecting the bone to the tooth will be separated and the tooth will be removed. In some cases, the surgeon will have to break the tooth into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove. After thoroughly cleaning the area and removing any remaining debris, the incision will be closed, stitched and packed with sterile cotton gauze to staunch any bleeding.
The surgeon will provide aftercare instructions. Patients should follow these instructions to the letter in order to ensure the best and fastest healing of the surgical site.
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If you didn’t have your wisdom teeth out as a young person, you may be wondering about having them out as an adult. Your dentist may have recommended that you prevent future infections, cysts or pain in the jaw due to wisdom teeth that are growing under other teeth – known as impacted teeth. Even a type of tumor has been linked to impacted wisdom teeth.
Impacted teeth result when the wisdom tooth grows up under an existing tooth. Sometimes, adults have wisdom teeth that come in completely straight behind back molars. In rare cases, one or more of these teeth don’t grow at all. An x-ray can reveal the presence of the teeth. Impacted teeth cause problems with existing teeth and must come out.
Because the roots of wisdom teeth typically fully develop near the age of 24, removing them after this time can be more complicated. Roots can entwine with facial nerves, making extraction problematic. It’s recommended that adults receive a CT scan of their jaw, showing the clear positioning of facial nerves and roots, something not shown by x-rays. If the roots of the lower wisdom teeth aren’t touching or wrapped around the alveolar nerve, extraction is still possible.
Adults with wisdom teeth are at higher risk for gum disease. Gum disease has been linked to an increase of pregnancy complication and other health issues. Previously believed only to affect patients in their late 30s, this gum disease is now being shown to affect much younger patients, especially young pregnant women. Growing evidence is also connecting gum disease to inflammation due to chronic infections in the body, leading to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Talk to your dentist today to see if you should have your wisdom teeth removed. Be honest about any symptoms you’re having, such as pain or pressure, and let the professional evaluate your specific situation.
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Your “third molars”, which are the molars in the very back that are the last to erupt, usually start to appear during the late teen years. They may not emerge for everyone, but when they do show up they are often problematic. Most people’s jaws don’t have room for them, and sometimes they are impacted and unable to erupt at all. Here are some common symptoms that you can watch for so you’ll know when your wisdom teeth might be the culprit.
The main thing many people notice is pain as their wisdom teeth develop. These teeth in the far back of your mouth, often two upper and two lower teeth, are very unpredictable. Sometimes they erupt sideways or crooked, causing your other teeth to become misaligned or overcrowded. If your wisdom teeth erupt, you might see them poking through your gums and creating an area of tenderness, inflammation, and redness. It can be painful to eat and brush your teeth. When wisdom teeth pain is very bothersome, dentists usually recommend removing them.
You may be one of the lucky people who don’t experience wisdom tooth pain. However, there are a host of other symptoms associated with these teeth. Some of these include:
Lymph gland swelling
Problems chewing and brushing
Cysts around impacted wisdom teeth
Any of the above symptoms warrant a visit to your dentist. Even if wisdom teeth aren’t the cause, you should find out what’s behind these problems. If your dentist determines that your wisdom teeth are impacted, you will be advised to have them surgically removed usually by an experienced oral surgeon. Wisdom teeth extraction is a common procedure, so you shouldn’t hesitate to follow your dentist’s recommendation to take care of any problems with these teeth. Once you have recovered from this surgery, you will be glad the symptoms are gone and you no longer have to worry about your wisdom teeth.
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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.
Brush carefully: 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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