Do Wisdom Teeth Have To Be Removed?
Your wisdom teeth get their name because they are the last teeth to come in, hopefully when you are older and wiser. In most cases, wisdom teeth begin their descent during the later teenage years or early 20s. At this point, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon, particularly if their eruption causes undue pain, crowding, or other complications that threaten your oral health.
Removing Wisdom Teeth is One of the Most Common Oral Surgeries
If you’re facing the removal of your wisdom teeth (extraction), never fear. You are not alone. In fact, only about 15% of the population have the healthy space and appropriate wisdom teeth positioning to let them come all the way in without extraction. The other 85% of us require one, two or even all four to be removed in order to keep our other teeth in proper alignment, and to prevent pain or discomfort in the mouth.
For many, the removal of wisdom teeth is the first “surgery” they will ever have. While most only require a local anesthetic to numb the general area and remove emerged wisdom teeth, some individuals require general anesthesia, allowing us to cut into the gum and remove the wisdom teeth before they begin causing further problems. This is typically the case for patients who have “impacted wisdom teeth” – which are wisdom teeth that can’t emerge properly and can even be positioned sideways – rather than upright.
Wisdom teeth can cause problems if they aren’t removed when they should be
If you’re not one of the lucky 15% who get to keep their wisdom teeth, the emergence of these teeth can cause:
- Pain, swelling and discomfort. If adult molars block wisdom teeth, they get stuck while trying to emerge. This can cause intermittent or chronic swelling, discomfort and pain.
- Infections. In many cases, wisdom teeth emerge partially and then stop because they can’t move any further. The skin around them becomes inflamed and irritated. This tissue can cause infection, causing further pain and discomfort (including swelling, stiffness and even illness). Over time, infections become much more serious if they spread.
- Crooked teeth. If wisdom teeth are able to emerge, they sometimes do so at the expense of your other teeth, causing crowding or a shifting of their natural position. Not only does this change how your smile appears, it can also affect your bite and make your teeth and gums more susceptible to bacteria build up that can lead to gingivitis.
- Tumors and cysts. Finally, and most serious of all, poorly positioned wisdom teeth can cause tumors and/or cysts to form. These are very dangerous because they eventually cause the jawbone to erode and can destroy your healthy teeth.
The good news is that absolutely none of that ever has to happen if you have your wisdom teeth removed when your dentist or oral surgeon recommends it.
Symptoms or signs that your wisdom teeth need to be removed include:
- Recommendation from your dentist or oral surgeon based on x-rays and general symptoms
- Pain, swelling or discomfort in the back of the mouth behind your molars
- Tenderness or redness around the wisdom teeth site(s)
- Unusual bad breath
- Stiffness in the jaw
- Pain or issues with an adjacent tooth/teeth
- Complications with orthodontic treatments used to straighten other teeth
- The development of cysts or tumors below the site
What Happens During a Wisdom Teeth Removal?
There are several, routine steps to wisdom teeth extraction. While the process might seem a bit daunting to patients – particularly those who haven’t required much dental or medical intervention in the past – it’s a very routine procedure from an oral surgeon’s perspective. It is very rare that there are complications from the extraction process as long as patients follow their doctor’s post-procedure instructions – and these complications can be addressed when they occur.
Consult with a dentist or oral surgeon
Most of the time, we receive referrals from dentists who’ve identified potential issues with their patients’ wisdom teeth via x-rays or their own examination. We’ll review the records to determine if the teeth need to be extracted and the best course of doing so.
Simple extraction or surgical extraction
Whenever possible, we prefer to use simple extraction methods to minimize the time a patient spends under anesthesia. If we’re able to get the entire tooth out via a simple extraction, we’ll use a local anesthetic at the gum site and pull the tooth out.
If you have impacted wisdom teeth or a more complicated case, we may recommend oral surgery. In this case, we’ll use sedation anesthesia or general anesthesia, depending on the amount of time we’ll need to spend inside the gum area to extract the entirety of the wisdom teeth and the roots. We’ll make incisions as needed, remove the tooth/teeth in question and then use a series of dissolvable sutures to stitch the site up.
The hole, or socket, left after a tooth is extracted must be cared for in order to heal well and without infection. A blood clot forms in the socket and this protects the exposed nerves from pain. It’s imperative that you follow your surgeon’s instructions to keep that clot in place and to allow the empty socket to heal so the gum encloses it completely.
This includes careful attention to activity level, diet and hydration. It will also mean taking special care when brushing your teeth and using a special instrument we’ll provide you with to gently flush empty sockets after eating to prevent accumulated food particles that attract bacteria and cause infection.
In most cases, you won’t even need a post-operative visit with the doctor – which means your stitches have dissolved, the sockets have healed and you have a happier, healthier and more comfortable mouth.
Contact Los Gatos Oral & Facial Surgery to schedule your stress-free wisdom teeth removal.
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