Your third molars are more commonly called "wisdom teeth." Usually appearing in the late teens or early twenties, wisdom teeth often lack the proper space in the jaw to erupt fully or even at all. This common condition is called impaction.
When teeth lack the space to come through, or simply develop in the wrong place of your jaw and become impacted, problems arise. Thus, it becomes necessary to extract them. Never fear. Wisdom tooth extraction is a relatively common procedure, performed on some five million patients every year.
When Is Wisdom Tooth Extraction Necessary?
When your wisdom teeth start coming in you will be examined with a series of diagnostic tests such as x-rays or a CT scan to see if the incoming teeth will cause issues in your mouth. Wisdom tooth extraction will be recommended if:
Your jaw is too small to accommodate all your teeth once the wisdom teeth come in.
The wisdom teeth are erupting (coming in) in a crooked orientation.
It doesn’t look like one or more of the wisdom teeth are going to erupt.
What If I Leave My Wisdom Teeth in?
If your jaw is too small for new wisdom teeth then crowding will occur. Crowding can lead to your wisdom teeth becoming impacted (that is, unable to emerge from the gums), potentially harming adjacent bone or teeth. Additionally, if your wisdom teeth come in at a crooked angle they can damage teeth, harm the jaw, and cause bite problems.
When a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully erupt then it has a greater chance of developing bacterial infections. A cyst (a closed, fluid-filled sac) may also form around an unerupted wisdom tooth, which can turn into an infection and injure adjacent bone or nerve tissue. Wisdom tooth extraction can be a simple solution to potentially save your mouth from a myriad of dental problems like these.
The Extraction Procedure
Wisdom tooth extraction is usually an in-office procedure. It's usually possible to have the treatment done with only a local anesthetic (numbing shot); this could keep you from experiencing any pain. However, if multiple teeth are being extracted at one time (as is often the case) a general anesthetic or conscious sedation may be administered.
Once you have been appropriately anesthetized, the gum tissue at the extraction site may need to be opened if the tooth is impacted. The tooth will then be gently removed. When the extraction is complete, you may need to have the extraction site sutured (stitched) to aid the healing. After the procedure is over you will rest for a short time before going home. Depending on what type of anesthesia you have, you may need another person to drive you.
The recovery period after wisdom tooth extraction generally only lasts a few days. During this time you should rest to encourage healing and take pain medication as prescribed. It's normal to experience some bleeding at the extraction site; this can be controlled by gently biting on gauze pads, changing them as needed, and resting with your head elevated on pillows rather than lying flat. You can also hold an ice pack on the outside of your cheek for a few minutes at a time (for example, five minutes on / five minutes off) as this may help reduce swelling the first day after the procedure. On day two the warm, moist heat of a washcloth placed on the outside of the cheek may make you more comfortable. Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water a few times a day can also help alleviate discomfort.
We recommend eating soft foods for the first few days after a wisdom tooth extraction. On the same note, be careful when brushing your teeth or putting anything in your mouth until your healing is complete. As a whole, be sure to follow your post-operative instructions.
Learn More About Your Teeth Today!
Wisdom tooth extraction is a common procedure than many of us go through in order to prevent future dental problems and protect our smiles. If you’re at an age when your wisdom teeth are coming in, this treatment may be right for you. If you have questions, please contact us at our Tucson, AZ office today.
And for more info about oral and dental topics, visit the Doctor Smiles Orthodontics blog again soon!