Wisdom tooth, clinically known as the third molar tooth, are the last teeth to come in for healthy adults. They are called wisdom teeth because they typically between 17 and 21 years old.
Healthy wisdom teeth help people chew. However, some may argue that they are largely vestigial appendages, biological remnants from the time our ancestors had to chew through tough plant fibers, and had bigger jaws to accommodate more teeth.
Today, humans have smaller jaws because of changes in diet, and thus have less space for teeth. But we have yet to evolve out of growing wisdom teeth, which causes problems for about 85% of the population. When a wisdom tooth grows incorrectly, it causes wisdom tooth pain. They become impacted, affect the alignment of the surrounding teeth, and irritate the gums. An impacted wisdom tooth is one of the oldest dental problems of mankind, with the first known impacted tooth belonging to a woman from some 13-15,000 years ago.
Should wisdom teeth be removed?
Although not everyone experiences wisdom tooth pain, the majority of the population do. Most need to get wisdom teeth extracted, and for good reason. An untreated impacted wisdom tooth can give rise to a plethora of short and long-term dental problems, from damaged and shifting teeth, to rarer and more serious cases such as the growth of tumors.
Here are the most reasons why your dentist might recommend getting your wisdom tooth extracted:
1. To make space for your teeth
For most of us, 32 is the average number of teeth we can fit in our mouths, including wisdom teeth. However, since wisdom teeth often come in at a later age, and are located so far back into our mouths, our jaws often cannot accommodate the new molars. A crowded mouth results in wisdom teeth that cannot grow correctly, and therefore might tilt or become misaligned.
2. To get rid of infection
Pericoronitis is the inflammation of the surrounding gums of a tooth that has partially or not fully erupted. Bacteria and germs get trapped in the pockets surrounding the tooth, which irritates the gums and leads to infections. The severity and symptoms of an infection range from painful chewing to swollen lymph nodes and muscle spasms on the affected side of the face.
3. To preserve your existing teeth
Sometimes, wisdom teeth can come in at a crooked angle. The tooth then pushes against the other teeth, which can cause your teeth to move and become unstable over time, and may even directly damage neighboring teeth.
4. To avoid cyst formation
In more severe cases, the sacs surrounding the tooth and on the jawbone can be filled with liquid. These cysts gradually break down tissue and bone, and in rare cases, can lead to oral cancer.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
So if your wisdom teeth are causing you pain, the best course of action is to see a dentist about extraction. But do not fret. While any kind of tooth extraction is not exactly anyone’s idea of fun, it is a safe and routine procedure. Roughly 85 million people get their wisdom teeth taken out every year, to no consequence. Here is what you can expect when you get your wisdom tooth extracted:
5. You will be sedated
For most wisdom tooth extractions, patients can either choose to be numb or asleep during the procedure. Dentists can either apply local anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth, or sedate you through a gas mask or with general anesthesia administered through an intravenous drip.
If you choose to be sedated, make sure to have someone assist you on the way home, as you will still be quite groggy, and will not be in a proper condition to drive or commute by yourself.
6. You may require stitches
In some cases, dentists have to cut through gum and tissue to get to the wisdom tooth, especially if they are impacted or crooked. The dentists then seal the wound with stitches. Usually, patients do not have to return to get the stitches removed, as they are dissolvable and will disappear in a few days or weeks.
7. It is an outpatient procedure
Wisdom tooth extraction takes an average of 45 to a couple of hours, depending on the number of teeth to be taken out.
Wisdom teeth extraction recovery and healing tips
Recovery from wisdom tooth extraction is relatively quick. Generally, patients only feel discomfort up to 3 days after the procedure, however, the mouth itself can take weeks until it fully heals. You will need to avoid any physical activities or exercise, especially those that involve heavy lifting.
Patients should stick to a soft food diet to lessen stress on the jaw and to avoid taxing the wound. Avoid food that can leave bits in the socket, like potato chips or peanuts. Dentists also advise against vigorously swilling liquids around your mouth, as this can dislodge the socket’s blood clot and cause prolonged bleeding. Smoking should definitely be avoided, as nicotine slows down the healing process.
There may be times when the wound will bleed after the procedure. Patients are advised to apply a clean gauze to the site and bite down gently, to apply pressure and soak up the blood. If bleeding does not stop after 45 minutes, it is best to contact your dentist.
There may also be some inflammation around the side/s of the face near the extraction site. Apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling, applying in in intervals of 10-20 minutes until the inflammation subsides.
Your dentist can prescribe medication to help manage the pain for the first few days. Some even include antibiotics to ensure that the socket stays clean and healthy until it heals. If you are prescribed medication, be sure to let your doctor know about pre-existing conditions like an allergy to NSAIDs like ibuprofen or advil, or stomach ulcers.
Wisdom tooth giving you pain and keeping your from your normal activities? Or threatening your perfectly aligned teeth? Book an appointment for wisdom tooth extraction with us at Dental Focus today to get back your pain-free smile.
Dental Focus – Dental Clinic in Singapore
10 Kaki Bukit Place, #04-00
Tel: 6747 0573