Wisdom Teeth: Everything You Need to Know
Many people can vividly recall the day they had their wisdom teeth removed. Most of us do it because our dentist tells us that we need the teeth extracted. It’s like a rite of passage.
Below is a breakdown for those of us that didn’t ask the dentist why our teeth needed to be removed.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
These are the last set of molars at the very back of the mouth, and they don’t typically appear until years after the rest of the adult teeth have grown in and made themselves comfortable. Wisdom teeth generally appear above the gum line in the late teens and early twenties.
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
The simple explanation for why we get wisdom teeth is evolution. Anthropologists believe those extra teeth came in handy to break down food that was hard to tear and chew since diets consisted of rougher food which included sticks and reed plants.
Wisdom teeth also provided a “replacement” for any teeth that became worn down by the rough food or fell out. This evolutionary remnant would explain why wisdom teeth still grow in.
Does Everyone Get Wisdom Teeth?
A percentage of the population does not have wisdom teeth grow in. The theory behind the absence is that there is no evolutionary use for these extra teeth anymore.
Common Wisdom Teeth Problems
There generally isn’t enough room in the mouth for wisdom teeth to grow in properly. If a wisdom tooth grows in crooked, it can impact the positioning of the other teeth, leaving them crowded, misaligned, or with nerve damage.
The growth of wisdom teeth can impair the ability to brush properly, which is especially problematic because the area is already an invitation for food and bacteria.
In addition to a risk of infection, friction from wisdom teeth in the upper jaw can cause ulcers from rubbing against the cheek as well as chewing problems.
What Happens If I Have Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
An impacted wisdom tooth isn’t able to break through the gum surface because another tooth is in the way. The roots of the impacted tooth continue to grow and can cause problems for your oral and general health. This impairment can result in discomfort to severe pain.
If the impacted tooth forces its way in spite of the blockage, it can result in gum damage, infection, and injury to the other teeth. If the condition goes untreated, these impacted teeth can introduce cysts (pockets of fluid) and tumors in serious cases.
Symptoms and Signs Your Wisdom Teeth Need to be Removed
When wisdom teeth arrive, they like to make their presence known. When this happens, you may feel pain at the back of your mouth.
As they continue to grow, the pain may become more apparent if the wisdom teeth grow in misaligned, crowd your other teeth, and press on nerves and bone. You may also feel tenderness, redness, and swelling at the back of your mouth.
When your teeth break through the gum line, bacteria can get in through open tissue and can become an infection. For this and other reasons, dentists have been recommending wisdom tooth removal before they have the chance to affect your oral health.
Don’t try to ignore your symptoms and see your dentist right away.
Wisdom Teeth Removal Information: What You Need to Know
The procedure to extract wisdom teeth depends on each case. It varies in complexity depending on the positioning of the tooth, if it has broken through the gum line, and if it has caused any damage.
If the teeth have broken through the gum line, the teeth are extracted more easily, using the same process as any other tooth. It becomes difficult to remove the wisdom teeth if they are embedded in the bone.
Impacted wisdom teeth are removed through an incision on the gum surface. Any bone covering the tooth needs to be removed. Depending on the shape and position of the impacted tooth, the dentist or surgeon may cut the tooth into smaller pieces.
Your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to your mouth, and sedation can be used for patient comfort.
A full recovery from the procedure can take a couple of weeks to a few months. In the recovery phase, be sure to follow the directions by your dentist to avoid ruining stitches.
Your dentist will keep in touch with you throughout the healing process and address any concerns about your progress.
After Surgery Care
Your dentist or surgeon will advise you how to care for your mouth after extraction of your wisdom teeth. Treatment may include medication (take as prescribed), holding warm salty water in your mouth, eating soft foods, not smoking, and avoiding alcohol.
Contact your physician if you feel pain in your mouth. It’s better to take care of your wisdom teeth before they become a big problem to your oral health.