Are They Essential or Extra?
By the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth—16 on the top and 16 on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine, and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molars are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing. The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. So, naturally, it can be painful when 32 teeth try to squeeze into a mouth meant for 28. These four other teeth are your third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.” Most people will develop four wisdom teeth, but some may have more or less.
When and Why Should My Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
A tooth becomes impacted when there is a lack of space in the dental arch, causing the tooth to grow on an angle toward the other molars and their roots. This impaction can cause pain, lead to infection, or cause other pathologic conditions. The wisdom tooth may also crowd or damage the adjacent molar and its roots, or it could damage the jawbone and its nerves. When the wisdom tooth is growing toward adjacent teeth, it can trap plaque and debris, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay. Wisdom teeth typically cause problems as the patient ages. Dr. Cherry recommends that children in their mid-teen years receive an evaluation by a dentist, orthodontist, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon to determine the location and condition of wisdom teeth. Early intervention to remove wisdom teeth can prevent future discomfort, promote rapid healing, and pave the way for a healthy smile. Wisdom tooth removal also aids in orthodontic treatment by creating space in which permanent teeth can emerge or be moved into their ideal arrangement.
What’s Involved in Removing My Wisdom Teeth?
The ease of the wisdom teeth removal depends on the position of the tooth and root development. During your consultation visit, we will take X-rays that will reveal the position of the tooth, its length, and shape.
A wisdom tooth that has fully cut through the gum can be extracted much like any other tooth. A wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums and pushed into the jawbone will require an incision into the gums and removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth. In this case, the tooth will be extracted in smaller portions to minimize the amount of bone that is removed.
In most cases, the removal of wisdom teeth is performed under intravenous sedation. The anesthesia options as well as the surgical risks (i.e. sensory nerve damage, sinus complications) will be discussed with you during your consultation appointment.
What Can I Expect After an Extraction?
In order to prevent infection following your extraction, it is very important to keep the area clean. For the first 24 hours following the surgery, you should avoid cleaning the teeth adjacent to the extraction site, refrain from smoking or rinsing your mouth vigorously. You may experience discomfort following an extraction.
Upon discharge, you will receive a postoperative kit which contains a prescription for pain medications, possibly antibiotics, extra gauze, and if supplied, a syringe that can be used on the fourth day after surgery to clean the lower extraction sites.