What are Wisdom Teeth & Why are They Extracted?
Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are the last set of teeth to erupt in patients’ smiles, and most patients’ third molars emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. These teeth were necessary for our ancient ancestors whose diets consisted of course foods and who had only the most basic methods of oral hygiene. These people frequently lost one or more teeth by this stage in life, but with today’s advanced oral hygiene and preventive dentistry solutions, most people do not experience tooth loss at this early stage. That means many patients do not have adequate space within their jawline to accommodate this set of molars. This lack of space can lead to impaction, the inability of teeth to erupt from the gums. In other cases, teeth may develop and erupt at odd angles that misalign the bite.
Additionally, this crowding and awkward positioning may lead to the shifting of adjacent teeth. Finally, periocoronitis, gum diseased localized around a specific tooth, may occur. This form of gum disease occurs around teeth that are partially impacted. Food, bacteria, plaque, and tartar can get stuck in the crevices of these teeth.
As they are not fully emerged from the gums, these partially impacted teeth are difficult to clean, and foreign substances buildup irritating the surrounding soft tissue leading to periocoronitis which can cause gum tissue swelling, inflammation, infection, and even tooth loss. In the most severe cases of periocoronitis, patients may develop cysts or tumors. This occurs when the excess space between teeth and gums fills with fluid.
Despite all of these potential issues, some wisdom teeth are able to develop and erupt without causing any oral health concerns. We recommend patients have an early examination around the age of 11 or 12. During this assessment, we’ll determine how likely wisdom tooth complications are and make treatment recommendations.
How are Wisdom Teeth Extracted?
In some cases, wisdom teeth erupt fully from the gum line and still need to be removed. In these cases, our doctor is able to “pull” the tooth. By gently rocking the tooth back and forth and cutting away the connective soft tissue, the tooth can be easily removed from the socket. Many wisdom tooth extractions need to be completed surgically. We’ll create an incision in the gums, and carefully remove the tooth. Sometimes, we may need to break the tooth into two or more sections to extract it.
What Happens After my Procedure?
Following the procedure, We will provide you with post-operative care instructions to keep the surgical site free from infection, speed healing, and limit pain and discomfort. If patients have infection in the area surrounding the surgical site prior to extraction, we may need to prescribe an antibiotic at the time of treatment. Each case is different, but some of the most important things to remember when recovering from wisdom tooth extraction or any surgical procedure include:
Do not consume foods or beverages that are excessively hot
Limit your diet to foods and beverages that area cold, soft, and easily digested such as ice cream, milk, juice, soups and broths, and smoothies
Do not use a straw, spit, or gargle for the first 24 hours following oral surgery
If you’re a smoker, please refrain for the first 72 hours after treatment
Do not consume alcohol for at least 48 hours after your surgery or in conjunction with pain killers
Slight bleeding is normal, but if bleeding is not abated by biting down on gauze or using a cold compress contact our team
The most common complication that results from lack of adequate post-operative care is a condition known as dry socket. As an extraction site heals, a blood clot forms protecting the underlying jawbone and sensitive soft tissues, but if this clot is lost or dislodged, these underlying structures are exposed, which can be very painful. Contact us right away if you experience severe pain, are able to see your bone in the vacated socket, or you experience extreme sensitivity to heat and cold.