Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. This generally occurs between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life that has been called the "Age of Wisdom."
Anthropologists note that the rough diet of early humans resulted in the excessive wear of their teeth. Normal drifting of the teeth to compensate for this wear ensured that space was available for most wisdom teeth to erupt by adolescence. The modern diet, which is much softer, and the popularity of orthodontic tooth straightening procedures produce a fuller dental arch, which quite commonly doesn't leave room for the wisdom teeth to erupt, thereby setting the stage for problems when the final four molars enter the mouth.
What is an Impacted Tooth?
A tooth becomes impacted when there is a lack of space in the dental arch and its growth and eruption are prevented by overlying gum, bone or another tooth. When a wisdom tooth is blocked from erupting or coming into the mouth normally, it is termed "impacted".
A tooth may be only partially impacted, meaning it grows in crooked and breaks through the gum only partially, or it may fail to break through at all and thus remains totally impacted. Serious problems can develop from partially impacted teeth, such as pain, infection, and crowding of, or damage to, adjacent teeth.
Besides serving no useful function, the impacted teeth will often cause damage because they cannot be cleaned properly and can collect food debris, bacteria and plaque around them. This can result in tooth decay, gum disease, infection and abscess of not only the wisdom teeth, but of the molars next door and of the surrounding gum tissue. The molars in front of the wisdom teeth are sometimes lost because of cavities and gum disease caused by the inability to clean the wisdom teeth properly.
Many problems with wisdom teeth can occur with few or no symptoms, so there can be damage without your knowing it. It is important to know that as wisdom teeth develop, their roots become longer and the jawbone more dense. Thus, as a person grows older, it becomes more difficult to remove wisdom teeth and complications can become more severe. In addition, as people age there is an increased chance of the symptoms mentioned above. For these reasons, we may recommend the removal of wisdom teeth even if they are not yet causing obvious problems, particularly for young adults.
Impacted wisdom teeth often grow at an awkward angle making their removal more difficult. As a person grows older the tooth becomes longer and the jawbone denser. Partially or fully impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to pose serious problems in older individuals.
Why are they called Wisdom Teeth?
The last teeth to develop and erupt into the jaws are called the third molars. Third molars usually erupt in the late teen years, which coincides with passage into adulthood and is referred to by some as the age of wisdom; hence "wisdom teeth". Unfortunately, the wisdom teeth are now usually trying to erupt into a jaw that is too small.
What Problems Can Wisdom Teeth Cause?
The tendency for wisdom teeth to become "impacted" or unable to move into their proper position is the cause of most problems. Impacted wisdom teeth grow in any way they can, such as sideways or at an angle. Some may partially break through the gum surface, while others remain trapped beneath the gum and bone, leading to a host of potential complications:
How do you keep my mouth open during surgery when I’m asleep?
A small rubber cushion is placed between your teeth before you go to sleep, and this holds your mouth open.
What is a "dry socket "?
Dry socket is a term that refers to a healing complication that used to be seen somewhat frequently, but is rarely a problem today. With current techniques we have all but eliminated "dry sockets", although we encourage you to call us if you experience anything postoperatively that is not improving day by day or just doesn’t feel right.
When can I go back to work or school?
Every individual has a different healing response to surgery, but on average there is not much disruption of one’s activities, and generally not for more than a few days. We frequently see people back at work or school on the day following surgery, even when all four wisdom teeth have been removed.
When can I brush my teeth after surgery?
Teeth can be brushed immediately, being careful to avoid the surgical areas for the first day or so.
When will my stitches dissolve?
Unless you are told otherwise, your stitches will dissolve after about a week.
When can I take the gauze out that I was biting on when I left your office?
The gauze may be removedafter one hour; to be replaced with new gauze if significant bleeding continues, or if it feels better to have gauze in place. If the bleeding is not tapering off within a few hours of surgery, you should call our office. A small amount of blood on your pillow on the night following surgery is nothing to be alarmed about of there is no active bleeding.
When should I start the prescription mouth rinse?
The prescription mouth rinse should be used for the first time before you go to bed on the night following surgery. Rinse very gently, because your blood clots are still somewhat fragile.
If I’m a smoker, how long should I wait to smoke after surgery?
Smoking is harmful to the healing process and makes numerous complications more likely. Smoking in the first two weeks is especially harmful.