Healthy, well-aligned wisdom teeth used to be a vital part of every person’s equipment for chewing course, hard foods like wild grains and roots. With the advent of modern agriculture, though, this last set of molars is pretty unnecessary for most people, and unfortunately, they frequently cause more problems than they solve.
For most people, these teeth remain safely buried under the gums until they’re in their late teens or early twenties, and that’s when the trouble sets in. Since the human jaw has gradually become smaller over the years, wisdom teeth frequently become impacted, which means that their path is blocked by the teeth around them.
In some cases, they erupt partially, which allows trapped food to become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Fortunately, these common problems also have a solution. Our practice offers routine and effective wisdom teeth removal in Miami.
Why Wisdom Tooth Extraction is Necessary
Not all people have wisdom teeth. For those who do, they will typically start to erupt (come in) between 17 and 25 years of age. When they do come in, they can cause problems if an individual’s tooth/gum formation does not provide enough space for the tooth or teeth to come in naturally. When this occurs, the tooth will often become impacted, causing infection and pain.
A good dentist will recommend a patient for wisdom tooth extraction because impacted wisdom teeth can cause a bevy of dental issues. The list of potential issues includes:
- Pain caused by the wisdom tooth getting trapped within the jawbone
- Tooth causes periodontal disease of the gums
- Tooth decay of an embedded partially erupted wisdom tooth
- Damage to connected teeth
- Orthodontic problems with jaw and tooth alignment
As was indicated above, wisdom tooth extraction can also be used as a preventative measure. A dentist will usually choose this course of action if they believe future dental problems are imminent and could be prevented by removing a wisdom tooth or teeth prematurely.
When should I remove my wisdom teeth?
In most cases, wisdom teeth removal becomes necessary due to impaction. Lack of space prevents them from fully entering the mouth, leading to infections, damage to surrounding teeth and bone, pain, and in some cases even tumors or cysts. Even in cases when they do erupt partially or fully, the crowding caused by these unnecessary third molars often leads to infections. These problems are so common that over 85% of adults eventually need to have their wisdom teeth removed.
How To Prepare for Wisdom Tooth Extraction Surgery
Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical process. As such, patients are required to follow certain protocols, protocols that are quite similar to the protocols one would follow if they were having another type of surgery.
The first thing you want to do after your dentist recommends the process is to ask questions. You need to make sure you ask all of the questions you want until you feel comfortable and confident about the surgical process. Remember, while dentists consider wisdom tooth removal to be a rather routine surgical procedure, it’s still surgery and comes with some risk.
Some of the things you might want to focus on during questioning would be the time requirements of the procedure, the inclusion of anesthetics, and how long you should set aside for recovery. This is your time to build trust in your dentist/oral surgeon, which should help mediate any anxiety you might feel about the procedure.
Here’s a couple of things to note before you report to surgery. First, you will want to avoid taking any nonprescription medications or eating and drinking anything before surgery per your dentist’s written instructions. You will also want to make you have transportation going home as this is very much a surgical procedure that requires the use of an anesthetic.
Consultation and Procedure
Before your wisdom teeth are removed, you’ll go through a consultation and examination to determine the proper course of treatment. Fully-erupted wisdom teeth can be simply extracted like any other tooth, but in many cases, they will be only partially or not at all erupted, so the procedure will need to be more intensive.
In most situations where the tooth has not erupted completely, the extraction will be performed under IV sedation or using a local anesthetic with a sedative to keep you relaxed and comfortable. An incision will be made in the gum over the tooth, and a portion of the bone that covers the impacted wisdom tooth will be removed to allow access. The tooth will be removed in sections if necessary to minimize the disturbance to your jawbone. The procedure will then be repeated as necessary for your other wisdom teeth.
The success of the procedure will depend somewhat on your ability and willingness to follow the dentist’s/oral surgeon’s post-op written procedures. You can expect pain. However, you should be able to address your pain issues with over the counter medications. If not, you can request prescription pain medication.
For the first few days, you will notice a little swelling and maybe mild bruising. This is normal. What you don’t want to see is persistent bleeding. If this occurs, contact your dentist as soon as possible. You should confine your eating to soft foods for the first few days while also avoiding carbonated beverages and beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol. As long as you follow instructions, you should be back to normal in short order.
Generally speaking, the most common complication of wisdom teeth extraction is dry socket, which happens in up to 10% of cases. It normally occurs in the lower jaw when a blood clot either falls out or fails to form. This is characterized by increased pain 3-4 days after the procedure and requires medication to be placed in the socket. At Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we take an extra step to improve the healing process by using growth factor protein from the patient’s own plasma to prevent dry socket.
Less common complications include paresthesia, or damaged nerves causing numbness in the lower jaw, as well as swelling and sharp edges on the remaining bone.
In most cases, it’s best to schedule an exam as soon as you suspect that there might be a problem. Wisdom teeth extraction could potentially have complications when performed on older patients.
For most patients, the primary symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. The pain may extend to the inner cheek if the cusps of the impacted teeth dig into the cheeks. Your gum may swell, and it might be difficult to open your mouth. In some cases, you’ll also have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth from an accompanying infection.
The bulk of the recovery is normally over within a week, although the area where the tooth is extracted will not be fully healed for at least 3-4 weeks. You will experience some bleeding for the first day or so, but some gauze can help to minimize this. There will also be swelling and some discomfort, although you will be prescribed painkillers. In order to minimize complications, you’ll need to stick to a soft diet for several days and rinse the socket with warm saltwater daily for up to a week.
It’s certainly possible to only remove one or two wisdom teeth during the procedure, but most patients will be best served by having all of them removed at the same time since it’s so likely that they will cause problems later.