Important Wisdom Teeth Questions Answered

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Important Wisdom Teeth Questions Answered

Your mouth goes through many changes in your lifetime. One major dental milestone is the appearance of your wisdom teeth. Below are some answers to questions you may have when your dentist says it’s time to have your wisdom teeth removed.  

Why are they called "Wisdom Teeth"?

With age comes wisdom. Specifically, wisdom teeth. Originally called "Teeth of Wisdom" in the 1600s and later "wisdom teeth" by 1848. Wisdom teeth is another name for the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties, when we're a little older and wiser. Your wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the last to emerge in the mouth and are the most common teeth to become impacted. In most people, Wisdom Teeth erupt abnormally or remain impacted. This can happen because a wisdom tooth is turned to the side, tilted, or otherwise positioned incorrectly in the jaw. Wisdom teeth also become impacted when there is not enough room in the jaw or the mouth for them to emerge.  

Do I need to have my wisdom teeth extracted?

Not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted. When a wisdom tooth erupts cleanly through the tissue without compromising the adjacent tooth, the wisdom tooth can be retained in the mouth with little concern as long as the person is able to brush, floss and clean it thoroughly. There are certain situations, however, where extraction of wisdom teeth is absolutely necessary. The extraction of Wisdom Teeth is necessary when they do not properly erupt into the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and even remain impacted - trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully. Poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause problems:

  • When Wisdom Teeth are partially erupted, they are very difficult to clean, therefore, the opening around the tooth often becomes infected which may cause swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness.
  • The pressure from impacted Wisdom Teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth.
  • In rare cases, tumors or cysts may form around the impacted Wisdom Tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth.

Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment of Wisdom Teeth result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teenage years by their Dentist or Orthodontist.  

Oral Examination & Medical Evaluation

With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, your dentist can evaluate the position of the Wisdom Teeth and reveal important features such as curved roots, proximity of the tooth roots to nerves, and other vital surgical information that can be determined by visually inspecting the mouth. A complete medical history will also be taken, with particular attention to allergies, medications or health problems that might affect surgery and/or the administration of anesthesia.  

Anesthesia – What types are available?

All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort. Oral surgeons have specialized training and experience to provide various types of anesthesia for patients to select the best alternative. In most cases, the removal of Wisdom Teeth is performed under IV anesthesia; other options include laughing gas (nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia) or local anesthesia. During your initial evaluation, your Doctor will discuss the type of anesthesia that is most appropriate for you. Anesthesia options as well as any surgical risks will be discussed with you, before the procedure is performed. You can be assured that every effort will be made to minimize your anxiety and discomfort during and after surgery.  

What Happens After Your Surgery?

You will be given specific post-operative instructions to follow after your surgery is completed. As your mouth heals, your jaw may be sore and may not open as wide as usual. After a few days, moist heat applied to the face may be helpful, and gentle opening and closing of the mouth can help exercise the jaws and restore normal movement. Most patients are able to resume light activities within two days. Vigorous physical activity can generally be resumed in about one week. Call your dentist or orthodontist today to schedule a consultation for your specific dental needs.  

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