Pearls of Wisdom
Chances are almost everyone (in the world) knows someone who has gotten their wisdom teeth removed or has personally gone through the experience themselves. When it comes to dentistry, wisdom teeth extractions are fairly common and as a provider, I get asked about them all the time. I’m here to shed some light on what wisdom teeth are, why extractions are recommended (or NOT recommended), how the procedure itself is performed, and what to expect afterward. Sexy stuff, I know. But I can assure you it’ll be enlightening! Let’s get started.
Why are they called wisdom teeth?
The general consensus is that wisdom teeth are so duly named because they appear later, at an age when a person has matured into adulthood and is “wiser” than when other teeth erupted.
When do they come in...and why?
Wisdom teeth usually develop when you’re in your mid to late teens, at which time, you will suddenly become all-knowing and very, very wise. Just kidding. These teeth (which are typically the very last to grow in) have no real purpose. They may have been more useful during our more primitive times thousands of years ago by allowing us to be more effective chewers. In today's world though, they very seldom play a functional role in our mouths.
Why didn’t my friend/family/bumble match have to have their wisdom teeth removed?
Wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they are:
- Grown in completely (fully erupted)
- Positioned correctly and biting properly with their opposing teeth
- Able to be cleaned as part of daily hygiene practices
- Not present - which is ok! Some people just don't grow them.
...and why did my dentist recommend that I get mine taken out?
Many times, wisdom teeth don't have room to grow properly and can cause problems. Erupting wisdom teeth can grow at various angles in the jaw, sometimes even horizontally. Problems can include wisdom teeth that:
- Remain completely hidden within the gums. If they aren't able to emerge normally, wisdom teeth become trapped (impacted) within your jaw. Sometimes this can result in infection or can cause a cyst that can damage other teeth roots or bone support.
- Emerge partially through the gums. Because this area is hard to see and clean, wisdom teeth that partially emerge create a passageway that can become a magnet for bacteria that cause gum disease and oral infection.
- Crowd nearby teeth. If wisdom teeth don't have enough room to come in properly, they may crowd or damage nearby teeth.
Some dentists recommend removing wisdom teeth if they don't fully emerge. Many dentists believe it's better to remove wisdom teeth at a younger age, before the roots and bone are fully formed, and when recovery is generally faster after surgery. This is why some young adults have their wisdom teeth pulled before the teeth cause problems.
According to the American Dental Association, wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you experience changes in the area of those teeth, such as:
- Repeated infection of soft tissue behind the lower last tooth
- Fluid-filled sacs (cysts)
- Damage to nearby teeth
- Gum disease
- Extensive tooth decay
The decision to remove wisdom teeth isn't always clear. Talk to your dentist or an oral surgeon about the position and health of your wisdom teeth and what's best for your situation.
What if they've grown in and they don't hurt?
If this is the case, the decision is up to you. Wisdom teeth that cause minimal crowding and don’t hurt are fine to keep, but a lot of dentists will recommend that they be removed. Why? They are very susceptible to cavities and are not easily cleansable. If your wisdom teeth have cavities and you cannot clean them due to their location, filling the cavities is unwise because you’ll continue to develop more cavities. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to remove the wisdom teeth altogether.
If you've had braces or are thinking about aligning your teeth, definitely talk to your dentist about their recommendations. After braces, retained wisdom teeth can lead to relapse and crowding. Before braces they can impact how easily the rest of your teeth move because of the lack of space created by the presence of wisdom teeth.
When is the best time to have them removed?
There is no “correct age” for wisdom tooth removal. Some people get their wisdom teeth at a young age, while some others get them in adulthood. But if you need to remove wisdom teeth, it would be better to take them out younger because the healing process would be a bit quicker. However, if you’re in your 40s with all your wisdom teeth and they cause no oral health complications, taking them out is not necessary. If you’re unsure, you should see a dentist to get a proper wisdom tooth examination and treatment plan.
Is it painful :/ ?
No, it shouldn’t be! With proper anesthesia, you should only feel pressure/pushing, not pain. If you do feel any sort of “sharpness”, or pain, let your dentist know that you’re not fully numb. Our periodontist, Dr. Cameron Hamidi used enteral sedation + nitrous oxide. This means when you come to our office we have you take a tablet that will help you forget the procedure happened altogether. The nitrous oxide helps with anxiety throughout the procedure as you will still be conscious and awake. During the procedure itself you might here loud noises from a drill and while the sharp, shooting pain should be eliminated, you may still be able to sense pressure.
What can I expect after the procedure is completed?
Depending on which anesthesia options you choose, you may need to have someone drive you home from the procedure. Some swelling and bleeding may occur within the few days following the extractions. Dry socket is a worst case scenario situation and symptoms typically show up a few days after treatment. Definitely don't delay and see your doctor immediately if you feel intense pain. Often times though, this can be resolved if you keep the sites very clean and follow the post-op instructions well.
Eating can be difficult after the extractions, which is why we’ve compiled a list of some soft foods you can eat:
- Mashed potatoes
- Scrambled Eggs
- Protein shakes
What should you avoid? Smoking, drinking alcohol, forceful spitting, abrasive rinses (think Listerine with alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide), and anything too hot or too cold.
Ready for your free consultation or to schedule?
Give us a call at brush.! We'll take your panoramic image and provide a consult at no charge.
I hope this addressed any questions or concern you may have had! As always, we'd love to see you in our office!
Sara Mahmood DDS, MSHM
Founder/Owner of brush.