There is a proverb that says: Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. When it comes to your teeth, the wisdom teeth are the last to appear. Good judgement will lead you to Lifetime Family Dental to assess whether or not they should be removed. What are wisdom teeth, and why do so many people have trouble with them?
The last molars
Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars that appear when you are in your teens or twenties. When they are properly aligned and there is space available for them, they are an asset. They can increase your chewing power and aid your digestion. When they are misaligned, which is more often the case, they can be detrimental to your health. When they erupt, misaligned wisdom teeth can damage adjacent teeth, your jawbone and even your nerves. That is why it is wise to have a dentist take x-rays when you are in your teens. We can see how they are developing and determine early on if they are likely to be a potential problem.
Signs of problems
X-rays may reveal wisdom teeth that are misaligned or even impacted. A wisdom tooth that is angled toward or away from other molars is likely to damage healthy teeth when it begins to erupt. If it is lying in a horizontal rather than a vertical position, damage is almost certain to occur. If it is encased in the jawbone or soft tissue, it is said to be impacted. In this case, it may only partially break through the gum, creating an avenue for bacteria to enter. Impacted wisdom teeth often lead to serious infection, swelling, and pain. For this reason, it is advised to have misaligned wisdom teeth removed.
Wisdom teeth are more easily extracted when the patient is young, before the roots are fully formed. The real extraction problems develop with older adults when their jawbone is denser and the roots of the teeth have firmly settled. Older adults often experience more pain and a longer healing time.
The extraction process will vary depending on the complexity of the misalignment or impaction. For a fully erupted wisdom tooth, the extraction can be just like any other tooth: a relatively simple procedure. However, when a wisdom tooth is encased in soft tissue that keeps it from erupting, the oral surgeon must cut through the tissue to free the tooth. For wisdom teeth that are impacted in the jawbone, the extraction requires an incision through the gum to the bone. The part of the bone that covers the tooth must be removed in order for the tooth to come out. Occasionally the tooth must be broken and removed in smaller pieces in order to preserve as much bone as possible.
Anesthesia and sedation
Wisdom tooth extraction requires anesthesia and sedation. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the gum surrounding the teeth to be removed. Then a stronger anesthetic will be used to numb the deeper areas around the bone. Sedation will relieve any anxiety you may have during the procedure. Make sure you discuss sedation options beforehand. Any sedative other than nitrous oxide will require someone to drive you home after the extraction.
In Part Two, we will discuss what to expect during the procedure, any complications that might arise, and recovery times. It is often different for younger people than it is for older people—we will cover both. Lifetime Family Dental looks forward to serving all of your family’s dental needs. From pediatric to geriatric dentistry, we have you covered. We are presently only able to accommodate emergency situations, but when the COVID-19 crisis has passed, we will welcome routine appointments again. Fortunately, wisdom teeth are one area of dentistry that can usually afford to wait just a little bit. But if you experience moderate to severe pain, don’t hesitate to call. Remember: Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.