Q:What are wisdom teeth?
A: The wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars, develop during early adulthood, most often between the ages of 15 and 25. Most mouths are too small to support these additional molars, making an extraction procedure necessary. If not removed, the wisdom teeth may cause pain, infection and swelling of the face or gum line, as well as the development of cysts and tumors.
Q:Why should I have my wisdom teeth removed?
A: The following conditions may require the removal of the wisdom teeth:
- The teeth appear to grow sideways, emerge only partially or remain trapped beneath the gum
- A fluid sac or cyst develops around an impacted tooth
- Corrective or restorative dental work (such as braces or crowns) may be damaged once the teeth have come in
Q:Can impacted wisdom teeth cause problems?
A: Improperly erupted wisdom teeth can cause many problems. They have the potential to damage nearby teeth, bone and roots and invite bacterial infection, which in turn leads to pain, swelling, jaw stiffness and other difficulties. The most serious problem related to impacted wisdom teeth occurs when tumors or cysts develop, resulting in the destruction of both bone and healthy teeth. Extraction of the wisdom teeth usually prevents these problems. Early removal is generally recommended to avoid complications and decrease any risks involved.
Q:How does a dentist determine that wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
A: The dentist can evaluate current problems or the likelihood of any to arise with an exam of the mouth and X-rays. Treatment is far more successful when wisdom teeth issues are diagnosed and addressed early. Patients typically receive an initial evaluation in the mid-teenage years by a dentist, orthodontist or an oral surgeon.
Q:What happens during a wisdom tooth extraction procedure?
A: Extraction of the wisdom teeth involves opening up the gum tissue over the tooth to remove any bone that covers the tooth. The connecting tissue is then separated so that the entire tooth can be removed. The area is sutured closed and covered with gauze to control bleeding. Most wisdom teeth procedures can be performed in a dentist’s office under local anesthesia, although some patients may require general anesthesia if all four wisdom teeth are removed at the same time.
Q:What is the recovery from wisdom teeth extraction?
A: After surgery, patients will be prescribed painkillers to speed up the recovery process and reduce pain. Patients should eat only soft foods and liquids for the first few days and gently rinse their mouth with warm salt water to relieve swelling and pain. Stitches, if needed, are removed within a few days.
Q:What are complications of wisdom teeth extraction?
A: If the post operative instructions received from the dentist are not followed, patients may increase their risk of:
- Prolonged pain and swelling
- Dry socket
- Damage to existing dental work
- Pain when opening the jaw
These side effects can be serious and may require additional treatment. In general, wisdom teeth extraction is considered safe and beneficial for most patients.