Wisdom Teeth: Problems and Treatment

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With age comes wisdom, so is the case with wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth are categorized as the third set of molars that you might get in your late teens or even early twenties. They are a valuable asset to your mouth when healthy and properly aligned. Unfortunately, most often, they are misaligned and might require examination and tooth removal.

The appearance of your third molar is one of the major dental milestones that happen between the ages of 17 and 21. Historically, these teeth have been named wisdom teeth. Probably because they come at a more mature age.

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When they erect correctly, your healthy wisdom teeth can be very useful and help you chew even better. It is normal to feel slight discomfort when these teeth start to appear. Chances are you might have pain, discomfort and it is advisable to consult your dentist at the earliest.

Dental Problems Related to Wisdom Teeth

The major problem noticed with wisdom teeth is the alignment issue. Most of the time, these teeth are misaligned, and they might position themselves horizontally. 

In such a scenario, they are angled toward or away from your second molars. Else they could even be angled inward or outward. Any of these conditions lead to poor alignment of your wisdom teeth leading to dental problems. At times, they might also be crowded or might damage your adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or even your nerves in extreme cases.

By the time you reach 18 years, most of your jawbones stop growing. But interestingly, most wisdom teeth erupt when you are around 19 years old. The primary problem caused by wisdom teeth is because they do not have enough space to grow.

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Your wisdom teeth also can be impacted. Impacted wisdom tooth is typically enclosed or trapped within the soft tissue of your jawbone. In some cases, they might only partially break through. When they erupt through your gums, they cause intolerable wisdom tooth pain

Partial eruptions could be very painful and might also allow an opening for bacteria to enter the area around your teeth. It might cause infection, resulting in pain, swelling, jaw stiffness, and other issues. 

If you have partially erupted teeth, you are at risk of having tooth decay, tooth cavity, and gum disease. It is probably because they are hard-to-reach areas that make brushing and flossing extremely difficult.

Wisdom Teeth – Interesting Facts

1 Why the name

Wisdom teeth do not make you smarter. They are named because they usually come in when you are older, around 18 years plus. Located at the very back of your mouth, you can get four such teeth max as part of a complete set of 32 adult teeth. But some might get only one or even all four.

2 Missing molars

Do you know that your wisdom teeth are molars, your toughest, widest teeth that grind your food? But many people do not have even one wisdom tooth. They are missing from most adult mouths. 

3 Why Take Them Out

You are more likely to have problems with these molars. According to stats, every year, more than 10 million wisdom teeth are extracted in the US. The top reason is impaction, meaning the tooth does not have enough room to come out from the gum.

4 Simple extraction

Even if your teeth have come out completely, your dentist might take them out. Your dentist will numb the jaw area. They will then loosen the tooth with an elevator and then pull the tooth out with dental forceps. Finally, the area is cleaned and packed with gauze to stop bleeding and promote healing.

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5 Other Issues

Most of these teeth show signs of disease at some point in your life. Reasons include cavities or dental caries, infection, lesions, damage to adjacent teeth, and bone loss. But the most common reason being – there is not enough room to brush and floss around these teeth at the back of your mouth.

6 Surgical extraction

In some cases, the tooth has come out but is still below the gum line. Your dentist will then opt for removal. Chances are, your dentists might refer you to an oral surgeon for a tooth extraction procedure. During the procedure, your surgeon will cut open the gum line to remove the tooth. It will help remove the tooth bone to reach the root of your teeth. 

How Do You Know If You Have Wisdom Teeth?

Do you know the anatomy of teeth and the position of your wisdom teeth? When you visit your dentist, they might take an X-ray to examine your teeth. Your dentist will take the x-ray periodically to evaluate your teeth’ exact position, growth, and alignment. In case of complications, your dentist might also refer you to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.

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Your dentist might recommend teeth extraction even before problems start. It could avoid a more severe pain condition. At times your dentist might extract the tooth earlier to avoid more complicated extraction in the future. 

Remember, tooth removal is easier in young people when your roots are not fully developed and the surrounding bones are less dense. While in adults or older people, healing and recovery time always tend to be longer.

Why are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Did you know that your jaw has become smaller as you age? There are several reasons for this progress in evolution. Researchers and scientists believe that as the human brain grew bigger over time, the jaw slowly diminished in size to accommodate for space.

Over time the diet and dental needs of humans have also changed drastically. Smaller jaws mean less space, and there is not enough room in your mouth for all the teeth to be spaced properly. 

Human beings have four wisdom teeth in total, two on top and two on the bottom. But you can have a number of wisdom teeth varying from zero to all four.

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Below are a few commonly occurring issues associated with these teeth. However, the American Dental Association suggests that removal would be necessary if your dentist observes any of these apparent causes:

  • crowded teeth
  • teeth growing sideways
  • crooked teeth
  • increased tooth decay in the molars
  • jaw pain
  • cysts or tumors under the gums
  • gum disease

Most dentists recommend that teens should evaluate for wisdom teeth removal surgery. Removal of wisdom teeth at a young age leads to faster healing and fewer complications. Moreover, your tooth roots and bones are fully formed with age, and dental surgery could lead to complications.  

Sometimes your dentist might also recommend wisdom tooth removal before any orthodontic procedure. At times, your dentist might even suggest removing wisdom teeth as part of any other treatment. When the condition is too bad you can try home remedies for toothache for temporary relief. 

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For example, before giving teeth braces, your dentist will ensure that these teeth do not erupt at a later stage. Before making any decisions, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and take x-rays. Then they will discuss the best course of a treatment plan that suits you.

Keeping Your Wisdom Teeth?

If you decide not to remove your wisdom teeth, you need to keep monitoring constantly. Probably because the potential for developing problems with the teeth later might still exist. As you grow older, you are at a greater risk for other health problems, including potential problems with your wisdom teeth. 

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Make an extra effort to brush and dental floss around your wisdom teeth and to visit your dentist periodically. Regular visits will help them in evaluating your wisdom teeth better and your overall dental health.

How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

The position and stage of development of your wisdom teeth typically determine how easy it is for your dentist to extract the teeth. Your dentist will be able to give you a fairly good idea of what to expect, especially during your pre-extraction exam.

Once your wisdom tooth fully erupts through your gum, then your dentist can extract it easily. However, if your tooth is embedded in the jawbone and is still underneath the gums, then the extraction procedure might require an incision into your gums. 

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Your dentist will remove the tooth and the portion of the bone lying over the tooth. Often, the portion of the tooth that is underneath – extraction would happen in stages. 

What Happens During Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Before starting the extraction procedure, the teeth and the surrounding tissues will be numbed using a local anesthetic. In addition, your dentist might give you sedating medications depending on your condition. 

In case your dentist uses nitrous oxide for sedation, you will be able to drive back home. With the use of other medication you might need someone to drive you back home from your clinic. 

Dry socket, also known as alveolar osteitis, is one of the most common complications after a wisdom tooth removal procedure. It is a condition where a blood clot fails to develop in the tooth socket or when the blood clot becomes dislodged. The situation can arise 3 to 5 days after surgery.

Wisdom Teeth Removal Aftercare

As it is a simple extraction, you would get back to your normal activities the next day. To accelerate the healing process and ease any pain after extraction, you can follow these tips.  

  • Hold a cold pack against your jaw – to help with swelling and soreness.
  • Avoid spitting too often – as it would disturb your blood clot process. This, in turn, will prevent your teeth from bleeding.
  • You might also notice facial swelling in the treated area, especially after your tooth extraction. To minimize swelling, try to place an ice pack on your face after every 30 minutes. 
  • Try drinking lots of water and stay away from hot beverages, sodas, alcohol, or for about 24 hours.

You might not be able to open your mouth after extraction. Stick to soft food that will not harm the treated area. Your dentist will explain what to follow as part of your aftercare and expect in your specific case.

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