Most people know a handful of things about wisdom teeth: we normally only think of them when they need to be removed, and when they are taken out your jaw swells up like a chipmunk’s pouches, and afterwards you get to eat ice cream. However, there is more to them that that:
- Wisdom teeth are technically called third molars. Third molars normally come through the gums around the age of 17-2, a time that was once referred to as the “age of wisdom”.
- Most have to be removed. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, an estimated 85% of wisdom teeth eventually need to be removed.
- 35% of us are born without wisdom teeth.
- Studies are being conducted to prevent their growth. Wisdom teeth are the only teeth not formed in the womb. Because most people opt to have surgery to remove their wisdom teeth, researchers are searching for ways to prevent their growth altogether.
- 90% of people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.
- Diet may be responsible for impacted wisdom teeth. Early humans had more wear on their teeth due to a tough diet. Wisdom teeth were able to emerge because there was more space.
Why Extract Wisdom Teeth?
A wisdom tooth is extracted to prevent future problems or correct an existing issue. Some of the problems that can occur when wisdom teeth come in are:
- Your wisdom teeth may break partway through your gums, causing a flap of gum tissue to cover them. Food and germs can get trapped under the flap and cause your gums to become red, swollen, and painful.
- Your jaw may not be large enough for them and they can be unable to break through the gums. This is called an impaction.
- Impacted teeth can cause very serious problems, including infection, damage to other teeth and bone, or cysts.
- One or more of your wisdom teeth may come in at an awkward angle, with the top of the tooth facing forward, backward, or to either side.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction Treats
- Crowded back teeth.
- Gum disease and tooth decay in the wisdom tooth, which may be harder to clean than other teeth.
- Red, swollen, and painful gums caused by a flap of skin around a wisdom tooth that has only partially come in.
- A wisdom tooth becoming stuck in the jaw (impacted) and never breaking through the gums.
The Wisdom Tooth Removal Procedure
Step 1: You may be asked for an X-ray of the entire mouth or the area in which you are experiencing pain.
Step 2: The dentist will decide if a surgery is required. In some cases, such as if infection is present in the tooth or area, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics and postpone the extraction.
Step 3: Depending on the severity of your case and how many teeth must be removed, your dentist will decide on whether to inject a local or a general anaesthesia. If general anaesthesia is required you will be asked keep your stomach empty for at least 12 hours before the surgery. Nitrous oxide or intravenous sedatives are commonly given.
Step 4: The tissue surrounding the wisdom tooth is opened.
Step 5: The tissue that connects the tooth and the bone is separated and the tooth is gently removed. The tooth may be reduced to pieces if that makes the extraction easy.
Step 6: The depression caused by extraction is covered and stitched. In most cases dissolvable threads are used in the stitching process.
Step 7: A small gauzed cotton swab is placed on the operated area to stop bleeding.
Step 8: Your doctor will give you instructions on how to protect the area of the newly removed tooth (e.g. no hot food/drinks, abstain from alcoholic beverages, keep head elevated during sleep).
How Long Does the Extraction Process Take?
If the surgery involves removal of fully erupted wisdom tooth in the upper jaw, it should take around 35 min depending on the case.
In case of an impacted tooth it takes longer because the bone enveloping the tooth needs to be opened up first. This should take between 45 min and one hour.
Of course, each case is different, so ask your West Ryde dentist!
If you are feeling sensitivity, pain, or swelling near the back of your jaw, you may have a problem with your wisdom teeth. If so, see your dentist immediately!
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