Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last set of teeth to develop.
For most people, wisdom teeth appear in their late teens or early twenties – often thought of as the ‘age of wisdom.’ These teeth appear behind the upper and lower second molars know as ’12 year’ molars.
Some people never develop wisdom teeth and others have wisdom teeth that erupt normally and cause no problems. However, some individuals don’t have enough room in their mouth for the wisdom teeth so they become partially or fully blocked or ‘impacted.’
Both partially and fully impacted wisdom teeth can cause problems such as pain, headaches, infection and damage to neighboring teeth. A fully impacted tooth can become a serious problem if a cyst forms when the sac around it fills with fluid. Left untreated, the cyst could cause permanent damage to other teeth, the jawbone and nerves.
Wisdom teeth can create problems even if there are few or no symptoms. As a person grows older, the roots of the wisdom teeth become longer and the jawbone becomes denser making it more likely for complications to develop. This is why extraction (surgery to remove the wisdom teeth) is frequently recommended.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING SURGERY
The position of the tooth and the root development determine the type of surgery.
The surgery generally takes place in the dental surgeon’s office with little or no discomfort however in some cases it may take place in a hospital setting.
Depending on the type of surgery, you may have local anesthesia that numbs the surgical area, an intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Your oral surgeon will discuss the types of anesthesia and suggest what is right for you.
If the tooth is impacted, an incision will be made and stitches will be needed to close the gum. These stitches may dissolve after surgery or you may need to return to the office for their removal.
If the teeth have fully erupted forceps or other instruments designed for this purpose will be used to remove the tooth from its socket in the bone.
POST SURGERY: The surgeon will give you a list of instructions to follow for the next couple of days.
Usually this involves taking pain medication as directed by your doctor, applying ice packs to your face to help reduce swelling and drinking plenty of fluids.
Following the surgery, your diet should consist of soft foods which can be easily chewed and swallowed.
The majority of people have a speedy recovery after wisdom tooth extraction.
Ask your dentist about the health and positioning of your wisdom teeth. The dentist may make a recommendation for removal or send you to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.