When the words ‘wisdom teeth’ are mentioned, the most common thought is about having them removed. Why is this? Wisdom teeth are also referred to as third molars. This set of molars will start to come through in late adolesence or early adulthood, if they develop at all. As humans have evolved, there is less room in the mouth for these teeth to come in normally, although there are people who are able to keep them. You may not even know you have wisdom teeth developing until a dental visit shows them on an x-ray.
For those who do not have the room for the teeth to come in properly, they either come through the skin partially, or grow in sideways – this is called impaction. You may or may not feel pain from impaction; it depends on how the tooth is coming in. Sideways growing teeth can push on your other permanent molars and cause quite a bit of pain. Another common issue is infection or abscesses. Sometimes, only one or two teeth may come in, with the tooth then coming in direct contact with the opposite gum. This is why most dentists will recommend that you have your wisdom teeth removed, even if you aren’t having any complications with them currently.
The best time for removal is in your late teens or early twenties. The older you get, the more difficult the wisdom teeth become to remove. This is due to the roots of the teeth hardening as the teeth mature, making removal more difficult with more complications likely. Some of these complications can include permanent nerve damage and problems during the healing process (dry socket). Dry socket is where the healing starts normally, then a blood clot does not form. This leads to a lot of pain, which can encompass the entire side of your face. Your dentist can give you the best advice on a recovery program to avoid healing complications.
Wisdom tooth removal is more than a simple tooth pull, especially when the teeth are impacted. The procedure is often done under general anesthesia. The gum is opened up and the tooth is removed in sections. Sometimes bone will have to be removed as well, depending on the severity of the problem.
Recovery will take several days to a week, depending on any complications or your age at the time of removal. Expect to feel pain in the extraction area and you will likely be prescribed pain medication. You will also experience significant facial swelling. This will make it difficult to open your mouth completely, so eating and speaking will be hindered for several days. A liquid or soft food diet is recommended for about 7 days, then you will be able to introduce other foods as the healing progresses. Stitches will be required and your dentist may opt for either those that need removal, or dissolving stitches.
At your next dental appointment for you or your teenagers, ask to have an x-ray done to see if there are wisdom teeth coming in. Then you can discuss with your dentist the best treatment options for you or your children. Remember, the earlier the removal, the faster the recovery and the lower the risk of complications.