Wisdom Tooth Problems: Do I Need My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Your wisdom teeth or your third molars are the last permanent adult teeth to make an appearance, right at the very back of your mouth. They generally erupt during the late teens or during your 20s. Although most people will have wisdom teeth, some might never come through. This is most likely because the wisdom teeth are stuck in the jawbone and have become impacted underneath your gums and because there isn’t enough space in the jaw for them to erupt without overcrowding your existing teeth.
How Can I Tell If I Have Wisdom Teeth?
You can easily tell if your wisdom teeth have already come through by counting the number of permanent molars on each side of your mouth. If your wisdom teeth are present, you will have three molars on each side. However, the presence of wisdom teeth yet to erupt can only be seen on a digital dental x-ray. When you visit Ivory Dental, our dentist Dr. Benjamin Hull will regularly take dental x-rays, especially if your wisdom teeth have yet to erupt. These x-rays will show the exact position and angle, as well as the development of your wisdom teeth. Regular dental x-rays will allow him to closely monitor your wisdom teeth so that if they do need to be removed we can plan their extraction before they begin to cause problems. Not all wisdom teeth will need to be removed.
Only Problem Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Extracted
Your wisdom teeth will only be removed if they cannot erupt properly. Often wisdom teeth can come through without causing any problems and without compromising the health of the adjacent tooth. So long as you can brush and floss around your wisdom teeth, there’s no reason why perfectly healthy wisdom teeth would need to be removed. However, there isn’t always sufficient room for wisdom teeth to erupt properly. Ideal Family Dentistry adds that "If your dentist recommends removal of your wisdom teeth, it is best to have them removed sooner rather than later."
Situations Where Wisdom Teeth Do Need to Be Removed
Lots of people simply have too little room to accommodate four extra molars. When there is insufficient room then wisdom teeth can cause significant problems. They may become impacted or wedged underneath the adjacent teeth, while others will try to erupt through the side of your gums. It’s also possible for wisdom teeth to partially erupt. When this occurs the wisdom tooth often remains partly covered by a flap of gum tissue and is extremely difficult to keep clean. A partly covered wisdom tooth is more likely to become infected as bacteria can become trapped underneath the gum tissue. Sometimes wisdom teeth that cannot erupt properly will cause significant pressure on the surrounding tissues and teeth. This can become quite painful, even causing jaw pain or a bad headache. If it’s been a while since you have seen a dentist and if your wisdom teeth are causing you pain, they could be infected or might be pressing on your adjacent teeth.
Recognizing the Symptoms of an Infected Wisdom Tooth
One of the most common symptoms of an infected wisdom tooth is pericoronitis. The tissue around the partly covered wisdom tooth can look red and swollen, you may have a nasty taste in your mouth or bad breath. Biting down on the tooth may be painful and there could even be pus oozing from the infected tissues. Sometimes a badly infected wisdom tooth will cause your gum tissue or your cheeks to swell. This swelling can cause pressure on other facial structures including your ear and your sinuses. Sometimes earache or sinus pain can be dentally related so it’s important to get a proper dental examination as soon as you can. Otherwise, you may need an emergency wisdom tooth extraction. This might be the case if the swelling increases and the pain intensifies, and this can even cause a fever, difficulty swallowing or difficulty in breathing.
What to Expect If You Need Wisdom Teeth Extracted
If you do need to have wisdom teeth removed, then Dr. Hull will make sure the procedure is as comfortable as possible. A local anesthetic will control any discomfort, but more nervous patients may benefit from oral conscious sedation which can be given in the form of Nitrous oxide or laughing gas, or as oral sedation with the option of Valium or Halcion. Wisdom tooth removal is a minor surgical procedure that is generally very straightforward. Often the tooth will be removed in sections to facilitate its extraction and to ensure the procedure feels more comfortable. Afterward, it might be necessary to have several stitches, or the socket will be left to heal on its own.
What to Expect after Wisdom Teeth Are Removed
It’s normal to have some minor bleeding or oozing from the empty tooth socket but this should gradually reduce during the first 24 hours. As the anesthesia wears off, you may find you have some minor discomfort or slight jaw stiffness. These symptoms are generally easily controlled with over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol. If your wisdom teeth were infected, you may be prescribed antibiotics. You will need to clean the rest of your teeth as normal, but you should avoid brushing the extraction site until the healing process has begun. To keep the area clean, it’s possible to use a warm water rinse with a teaspoon of salt dissolved in it, or you may be advised to use an antibacterial mouth rinse. Generally, it can be best to eat soft foods for the first few days and to avoid smoking and alcohol, and spicy foods. It’s especially important not to smoke because this delays healing and can increase the risk of complications.
Are There Any Risks When Having Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Most people will find their recovery after wisdom teeth removal is smooth and uneventful but there is a small chance of developing a problem called dry socket and which can slow down healing. When a wisdom tooth is removed, a protective blood clot forms in the empty socket, but if this blood clot is dislodged, it exposes the empty socket leaving it at risk of becoming infected and inflamed. It’s rare for this to happen, but dry socket can develop a few days after the extraction, causing discomfort and most likely a nasty taste and bad breath. This problem is easily treated by cleaning out the empty socket, so it can heal properly.
If Dr. Hull does suggest removing your wisdom teeth, then you shouldn’t feel concerned as this is a routine procedure. Usually, it’s best performed when you are younger because the jawbone hardens and begins to fuse with teeth with age, potentially making tooth extractions more complicated. Come into our Sandpoint Dental office for more details.