Wisdom tooth removal is a common dental procedure that many individuals undergo at some point in their lives. These third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, often cause various dental issues, severe pain and discomfort.
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the reasons behind wisdom tooth extraction, when it becomes necessary, and the process involved in removing them.
Understanding Wisdom Teeth
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of teeth to develop in the human mouth. They typically emerge as young adults in their late teens or early twenties, although the timing can vary for each individual.
Wisdom teeth were remnants of our evolutionary past when our ancestors’ diets consisted of coarse foods that required more extensive chewing. In modern times, however, wisdom teeth often pose more problems than benefits due to changes in jaw size and the evolution of our diet.
The Anatomy of wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth share the same anatomical structure as other molars in the mouth. They consist of the crown, which is the visible part above the gum line, and the roots that extend below the gum line and anchor the tooth in the jawbone.
In most cases, wisdom teeth have three roots, although variations can occur. The crown of a wisdom tooth is larger and more complex compared to the other molars, making it more challenging to clean and maintain proper oral hygiene.
How many wisdom teeth do we have?
Typically, humans have four wisdom teeth, one in each corner of the mouth—two in the upper jaw (known as the maxillary third molars) and two in the lower jaw (known as the mandibular third molars).
However, it’s important to note that not everyone develops all four wisdom teeth, and some individuals may even have additional or fewer wisdom teeth. Variations in the number of wisdom teeth can be influenced by genetics, evolution, and individual differences in jaw size.
Dental professionals will monitor the development and eruption of these teeth to determine if their removal is necessary.
Why Wisdom Teeth Removal is Necessary
Impacted wisdom teeth: Definition and types
Impacted wisdom teeth refer to the condition where these third molars do not have enough space for emerging or developing properly in the mouth. Due to limited space, they may grow at an angle, partially erupt, or remain completely trapped within the jawbone.
There are different types of impacted wisdom teeth, including mesial impaction (angled towards the front of the mouth), distal impaction (angled towards the back of the mouth), vertical impaction (fully or partially submerged in the jawbone), and horizontal impaction (lying horizontally within the jawbone).
Symptoms and signs of impacted wisdom teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth often do not cause noticeable symptoms initially, making regular dental check-ups crucial for early detection. However, as they continue to develop, certain signs and symptoms may indicate their presence.
These include pain or tenderness in the back of the mouth, swelling or redness around the gums, difficulty opening the mouth, unpleasant taste or odour, jaw stiffness, headache, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur periodically or persistently.
Risks and complications associated with impacted wisdom teeth
Leaving impacted wisdom teeth untreated can lead to various risks and complications. One common problem is the increased risk of infection. Partially erupted wisdom teeth can create a pocket between the gum and tooth, providing a breeding ground for bacteria and leading to gum infection (pericoronitis) or tooth decay.
Impacted wisdom teeth can also cause crowding and misalignment of the existing teeth, potentially requiring orthodontic treatment to correct the issues. Additionally, cysts or tumours can develop around impacted wisdom teeth, which can cause damage to adjacent teeth, jawbone, and nerves.
Dental problems caused by wisdom teeth
If you don’t get wisdom teeth removed, that need to be removed; it can contribute to several dental problems. One of the most common issues is the overcrowding of teeth. As wisdom teeth try to erupt in an already crowded dental arch, they can push against the neighbouring teeth, causing them to shift and become misaligned. This can lead to malocclusion (improper bite) and the need for orthodontic treatment.
Wisdom teeth can also cause damage to adjacent teeth by applying pressure or leading to the development of tooth decay or gum disease due to their hard-to-reach position. Furthermore, the partial eruption of wisdom teeth can create flaps of gum tissue that trap food debris, bacteria, and plaque, increasing the risk of gum infection and inflammation.
Preparing for the procedure: X-rays and oral examination
Before undergoing a wisdom tooth extraction, a comprehensive oral examination is conducted by a dentist or oral surgeon. This examination may involve taking X-rays or other dental imaging to assess the position, size, and development of the wisdom teeth.
X-rays provide valuable information about the teeth’s proximity to nerves, sinuses, and other structures, aiding in the planning and execution of the extraction procedure. These preparatory steps help the dental professional understand the complexity of the case and develop a personalised treatment plan.
Surgical steps involved in removing wisdom teeth
The surgical removal of wisdom teeth involves several steps to ensure a successful extraction. First, the dentist or oral surgeon administers anaesthesia to numb the area and provide pain relief during the procedure. Sedation options, such as local anaesthesia, IV sedation, or general anaesthesia, may be available depending on the complexity of the extraction and the patient’s preferences.
Once the area is numbed and the patient is comfortable, the dental professional creates an incision in the gum tissue to access the wisdom tooth and bone. The tooth may be sectioned into smaller pieces for easier removal. After the tooth is extracted, the incision is carefully closed using stitches, and gauze is placed to control bleeding.
Length of the surgery
The duration of the wisdom tooth extraction surgery varies depending on factors such as the number of teeth being removed, their position and complexity, and the patient’s individual circumstances.
On average, the procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However, more complex cases may require a longer surgical time. It’s important to note that the time mentioned represents the duration of the surgical procedure itself and does not include the time for anaesthesia administration and post-operative recovery.
Immediate aftercare instructions
Following wisdom tooth extraction, immediate aftercare instructions are provided to promote healing and minimise complications. Patients are advised to bite down gently on the gauze pads placed over the extraction sites to control bleeding.
It is crucial to avoid rinsing the mouth or using a straw for the first 24 hours to prevent dislodging the blood clot that forms in the extraction site.
Swelling can be managed by applying ice packs to the outside of the face in the affected area. Pain medication and antibiotics, if prescribed, should be taken as directed by the dental professional.
Diet and eating restrictions
During the initial recovery period, it’s essential to follow specific dietary guidelines to promote healing and prevent complications. Soft and easy-to-chew foods are recommended, as chewing on the extraction site can disrupt healing.
Patients should avoid hot, spicy, or hard foods that may irritate the surgical sites. It is also advisable to avoid drinking through a straw, as the suction can dislodge the blood clot and lead to a dry socket.
Oral hygiene during recovery
Maintaining proper oral hygiene during the recovery period is crucial for preventing infection and promoting healing. However, it’s important to be gentle and avoid brushing the surgical area for the first 24 hours.
After the initial day, gentle rinsing with warm salt water can help keep the extraction sites clean. It’s important to follow the dentist’s instructions regarding brushing, flossing, and the use of mouthwash to ensure proper healing.
Follow-up appointments and monitoring progress
After wisdom tooth extraction, follow-up appointments are scheduled to monitor the healing process and ensure there are no complications.
The dental professional will assess the extraction sites, remove stitches if necessary, and provide further guidance on oral care. These appointments are crucial for monitoring progress and addressing any concerns that may arise during the recovery period.
Potential Complications and Risks
While wisdom tooth extraction is generally a safe procedure, there are potential complications and risks involved. Common complications include dry socket, which occurs when the blood clot in the extraction site dislodges or dissolves, exposing the underlying bone and nerves.
Infection, swelling, prolonged bleeding, and nerve damage are other possible complications. However, these complications are relatively rare, and following proper aftercare instructions and seeking prompt dental care can help minimise the risks.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to recover from a wisdom tooth extraction?
The recovery time after wisdom tooth extraction can vary from person to person. On average, it takes about one to two weeks to recover fully. However, some individuals may experience a shorter or longer recovery period depending on factors such as the complexity of the extraction, their overall health, and how well they follow the aftercare instructions.
Is wisdom teeth removal always necessary?
Wisdom teeth removal is not always necessary. Some individuals have enough space in their mouth to accommodate the wisdom teeth without causing problems. However, regular monitoring and dental check-ups are essential to identify any potential issues and determine if extraction is necessary.
Can wisdom teeth grow back?
No, once wisdom teeth are extracted, they do not grow back. Once the tooth is removed, it is permanently gone.
However, in rare cases, individuals may have additional wisdom teeth developed beyond the usual four. Regular dental examinations can help detect and address such situations.
Can I drive home after the procedure?
If you receive local anaesthesia for the procedure, you may be able to drive yourself home. However, if IV sedation or general anaesthesia is used, you will need a responsible adult to accompany you and drive you home, as the effects of these sedation methods can impair your ability to drive.
Deciding against extraction: Potential risks and benefits
While wisdom tooth extraction is often recommended, there may be instances where the dentist or oral surgeon suggests an alternative approach or advises against extraction.
Factors such as the overall oral health of the patient, the position of the wisdom teeth, and potential risks and benefits are carefully considered in such cases. It’s important to have an open and honest discussion with the dental professional to understand the potential risks and benefits of deciding against extraction and to explore alternative treatment options if available.
Visit your dentist to see if wisdom tooth removal is the right option for you!
Removing wisdom teeth is often recommended to prevent various dental issues and alleviate discomfort. By understanding the reasons behind wisdom tooth extraction, when it becomes necessary, and the process involved, you can make informed decisions about your oral health.
If you have concerns about your wisdom teeth, consult with our dentists in East Lond at Chrysanth Dental Care, They can guide you through the best course of action for your specific situation.
Remember, early intervention can help prevent complications and promote a healthy smile!
Find Chrysanth Dental Care here:
493 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9BU