What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are very large molars that erupt from the gum line at the back of the mouth, they typically begin to break through when a person is in their mid-twenties, but they can appear much later in some people, and they can take years to fully emerge. In most cases, the four wisdom teeth – two on the top and two on the bottom – will have erupted completely by the age of thirty, but a small percentage of the population won’t develop any at all. The main problem that wisdom teeth represent is impaction; there is not always enough room on the gum line for the tooth to break through and sit comfortably, which can lead to crowding of the surrounding teeth or the molar becoming trapped under the soft tissue facing the wrong direction. If the tooth is left beneath the gums, there is a chance that it could become infected, and this puts the rest of the teeth at risk.
Should my wisdom teeth be removed?
In the UK, wisdom teeth are not normally extracted unless there is evidence of dental problems, such as decay or infection, however, in other countries, it is common practice to remove them as soon as they begin to show, in order to prevent possible complications. Opinions vary on the topic, as the operation can be quite traumatic and some dentists maintain that it is an unnecessary risk if the tooth doesn’t seem to be causing any problems. However, there is the view that it is prevention rather than cure that works best in this scenario, and there are some surgeons who believe extracting the offending teeth before more serious complications arise is the quickest way to deal with the problem.
If you have one or more wisdom teeth that don’t seem to be erupting properly, you could make an appointment with your local surgery, just to put your mind at ease, and in the meantime, take care to clean the area properly and keep an eye out for any changes. Occasionally, a wisdom tooth can be completely impacted in the alveolar bone, which won’t be obvious to the naked eye, so if you notice any pain behind the two molars already present, this may be the case – an x-ray is the only way to determine whether or not a wisdom tooth is behind the problem. Conditions like this can be worrying, and the thought of having a very large molar removed might be too much for some people, but the best thing to do is seek treatment before the pain becomes unbearable or infection spreads to the surrounding teeth. If you are anxious about visiting the dentist, call the Pearl Dental Clinic today, their friendly team have lots of experience with nervous patients, and they can discuss the various sedation techniques available. Remember, just because a wisdom tooth is impacted doesn’t necessarily mean it will have to be removed, so speak to a professional about your situation before getting worked up about it.
How are wisdom teeth removed?
If the dentist decides that the best course of action is to remove one or more of your wisdom teeth, the process is essentially the same as with a routine extraction, but the position and size of the molars can make the procedure slightly more complicated. Impacted wisdom teeth on the upper jaw can be particularly troublesome, as it is very difficult for the dentist to get access to them at the right angle; however, there are various dental tools available to help with surgery in this respect. If the tooth is severely impacted and the dentist has to dig deeper into the bone to retrieve it, they may decide to put the patient under general anaesthetic, to make the operation easier for both parties. Before the treatment is scheduled, the dentist will use x-rays to identify the problem areas and decide whether the patient would be better off unconscious for the duration, however, in most cases they would try to avoid putting them to sleep, because this adds another element of risk to the proceedings.
After the patient has been anaesthetised, the surgeon will begin by cutting into the gum line to get access to the buried tooth – the extent of the incision will vary greatly from person to person, depending on the position of the wisdom tooth. Once the tooth has been revealed, the dentist will use a metal rod to rock the tooth backwards and forwards gently, until the supporting ligaments begin to snap. Because wisdom teeth are normally much larger than their neighbours, this stage of the treatment can take a little bit longer than with a routine extraction – it’s not just a case of grabbing hold of the crown and ripping the tooth out. When it has been loosened sufficiently, the tooth can be pulled out, from root to tip, leaving no fragments behind.
Again, due to the size of the tooth, the trauma to the gum line can be extensive at this point, so it may be necessary to sew up the empty socket, in order to prevent heavy bleeding or serious infection. Bleeding after an extraction is fairly common, but because the molars are attached to large blood vessels at the back of the mouth, it is often heavier with a wisdom tooth than with a normal tooth.
What happens during recovery?
If the surgery has been successful and there are no immediate complications, the patient can be sent home to recover. However, the wisdom tooth may have been causing problems with decay or disease – leading to the removal, so these issues have to be dealt with promptly, otherwise the open wound could leave the patient at risk of serious infection. The dentist may prescribe anti-septic mouthwash or even antibiotics, if they suspect the danger is increased with certain patients.
People who have recently undergone wisdom tooth extraction should also make an effort to return to the clinic after a week or so, for the surgeon to monitor their condition and to check that everything is healing as it should.