Wisdom teeth are the last molars that erupt out of our gums. These commonly grow out in your late teens or early 20s. Although not everybody has them, commonly there are 4 with one in each corner of the jaw. Although we call them wisdom teeth, in actual fact they are just the same as your large molar teeth that you have at the back of your jaw. Dentists get asked all of the time whether or not these teeth need to be removed. The simple answer is that the decision for wisdom teeth removal is often a complicated one. This depends on many factors including impaction, pain and infection.
Oftentimes one of the reasons which pushes the dentist towards recommending removal is impaction. Because these wisdom teeth are commonly the last teeth that erupt, there may not be enough room in the jaw for them to safely line up with your other teeth. This causes them to grow out at odd angles, or sometimes not at all.
Another common reason for wisdom tooth removal is infection. These teeth commonly become infected due to their position in the mouth. Because they are so far back in the mouth, good oral hygiene can be difficult to achieve. Another common reason for infection is the angle that they erupt. Wisdom teeth regularly grow out of your jaw at an angle, which makes it very difficult to brush and floss them well. This may result in tooth decay in the wisdom tooth or the neighbouring teeth. A bad infection may occur a few times a year from not being able to clean those teeth well. The pressure from the wisdom tooth growing sideways can destroy the adjacent tooth or interfere with a person’s bite.
There is a little misconception that the presence of wisdom teeth causes your other teeth to be pushed in and become crooked. Studies have not conclusively shown this to be the case.
If you have concerns, your dentist will fully evaluate your wisdom teeth and whether they require removal. Xrays are the key diagnostic tool for dentists to be able to ascertain whether or not there is a problem. Xrays allow a dentist to see the position of these teeth, and the direction that they have grown. If it looks likely that the wisdom teeth will impact on your other teeth, often a recommendation would be to remove them. However your dentist will be the best person to evaluate you.
The most common surgical procedure performed by dentists and oral surgeons is wisdom teeth extraction. Naturally, as any type of surgical intervention, wisdom teeth removal poses some risks. Among them are partial numbness resulting from nerve damage – temporary or permanent, excessive bleeding, infection of the extraction site, and dry socket.
In a small number of persons, the roots of the tooth get damaged or bruised during the extraction procedure, resulting in numbness or partial numbness. Thus, these patients cannot feel temperature changes, touch, as well as pain.
It is hard to tell how often complications occur after teeth extraction. Some studies show that one in ten patients has problems after or during the operation. The good news is that these are not permanent or serious in most cases. Usually, serious complications occur in patients who have impacted wisdom teeth and are older than 25 years of age.
Excessive bleeding may occur after the surgery but less than one in one-hundred patients has excessive or persistent bleeding which is difficult to stop. Usually, bleeding stops completely within 6 hours following teeth extraction. Small amounts of blood are normal within the first two days after the surgery.
Another possible complication following wisdom teeth extraction is difficulty opening your mouth. This is known as trismus. Your jaw may feel stiff and become locked, and you may find it difficult to brush your teeth, talk, or eat normally. This happens due to an injury of the medial pterygoid muscle, and there are different reasons for it occurring. It may be that your mouth stayed open for too long, while other reasons are injury caused by a needle, swelling, hematoma, and inflammation. In most cases, this is only temporary.
Dry socket is another complication after wisdom teeth removal, and this occurs when a blood clot fails to form in the socket. Most research studies report that dry socket occurs in 5 to 10 percent of cases after wisdom teeth removal. How to avoid dry socket? There are certain things you can do, including avoiding vigorous swishing and rinsing with water, spitting, smoking, and suction, i.e. drinking liquids with a straw. Avoid these for three days after the surgery. In addition, you should avoid activities that are likely to change the pressure in the oral cavity, for example, playing some musical instrument. Other things to avoid include having carbonated beverages such as alcohol and pop soda as well as vigorous physical activity.