Wisdom teeth are called that because they appear during the adult years, when people are usually considered ‘wiser’ than they were when their first set of teeth appeared as children. Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that come in during the late teens and adulthood. Depending on your situation, wisdom teeth can be a blessing or a curse.
If you have spaces between your teeth and room for them, wisdom teeth assist in naturally filling the gaps between your other teeth. This is usually not the case, however. For the majority of the population, wisdom teeth come in at an angle and there is not enough room to accommodate them in the mouth. Some wisdom teeth do not come in fully and cause infection and pain.
When your wisdom teeth come in, your dentist is the only one who can definitely say if they need to be removed. An exam, along with mouth x-rays, tell the full story about the growth of the wisdom teeth and if they need to be removed. As with other routine extractions, wisdom teeth are usually pulled. In some cases however, oral surgery is required to completely remove the tooth. Rather than taking a wait and see approach, it is recommended that you see your dentist at the first signs of the wisdom teeth. If you wait until they are a problem, damage to other healthy teeth can occur.
How are wisdom teeth removed?
Just as with any oral procedure, your dentist will numb the tooth and the surrounding area with a local anesthetic, similar to the type used when you have a cavity filled. The anesthetic will take care of the pain, but not any anxiety. The anxiety can easily be controlled with nitrous oxide or valium. Usually, you can drive yourself home after the nitrous oxide, but you will require a ride home if you choose valium. Once you are fully numb and relaxed, the dentist will proceed to pull the wisdom tooth.
What can I expect afterward?
After the wisdom tooth is removed, you will need some recovery time. The length of time necessary and extent of the after effects will depend on how easy the procedure was. If the wisdom tooth was fully erupted, then it will usually come out easily, with no complications. If the tooth is impacted, then it will require more work and damage to the surrounding gum tissue to remove. In general, the area will be completely healed within a few months. Usually you can resume your daily activities within 24 hours of the extraction. Your dentist will provide you with follow up care for your specific situation.
Are there any complications?
One common complication of wisdom tooth extraction is dry socket. Dry socket refers to a condition where the blood clot that forms in the tooth socket becomes dislodged. When this happens, the patient experiences moderate to severe pain in the site where the tooth was. The dentist can correct this condition with medication specifically designed to heal the tooth socket.
Another complication is called Paresthesia. This is a less frequently occurring complication. Paresthesia occurs when the nerves surrounding the tooth become damaged during the removal of an impacted wisdom tooth. The condition does not cause pain, but rather numbness of the chin, tongue, or lip. The numbness can last for a few weeks or become permanent.
Wisdom tooth removal is a common procedure that has low risks associated with it. If you are uncertain if your wisdom teeth need to be removed, contact your dentist and make an appointment.