Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Many people find it necessary to have their wisdom teeth extracted. This procedure is relatively common, because these teeth can cause a few different problems. Having a good understanding of what wisdom teeth are and why they are usually removed can help a patient feel more comfortable with the procedure.

What are Wisdom Teeth?

The wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars, are the last teeth to appear in one’s mouth. They typically appear around the age of eighteen. Like the other two sets of molars, these teeth are designed to grind food before it is swallowed.

What Problems Do They Cause and Why?

Unfortunately most people do not have room in their mouths for these final four teeth. The lack of space can obstruct the growth of the wisdom teeth, causing them to not completely emerge from the gums or grow in inappropriately. In some cases, they may actually become trapped under the bone, so that they cannot be seen at all.

Teeth that have not grown in properly can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in the jaw and gums. When the teeth have only partially grown in, bacterial infections are common, which can then lead to illness. Aside from the direct problems caused by wisdom teeth, they can also affect other teeth and the jaw itself. The teeth may become misaligned or even develop tumors or cysts.

Wisdom Teeth Extraction

A wisdom tooth extraction is performed by either a general dentist or an oral surgeon (a dental specialist). In many cases, all four wisdom teeth are removed, although this is not always necessary. The dentist or surgeon will examine the teeth and use x-rays to determine the best procedure. This is usually an outpatient surgery.

In this procedure either local anesthesia, which numbs only the affected area, or general anesthesia, which prevents pain throughout the body, will be used. General anesthesia is more popular and causes the patient to sleep through the surgery. An incision in the gums is often needed to remove the offending tooth, and one may have stitches to close the wound. The stitches used are usually dissolved over time, but when non-dissolvable stitches are used, they are removed a few days after the surgery.

After Surgery

The patient is usually observed for a short time following this procedure. When general anesthetic is used, the oral surgeon will wait until the patient is awake. He or she is then allowed to go home with a family member or friend. Painkillers are typically prescribed. The dentist or surgeon will give specific instructions of what to expect and how to avoid disrupting the healing process. Patients may schedule a follow-up appointment to ensure everything is healing properly and there are no complications.

It is recommended that wisdom teeth are removed at an early stage of development. Dealing with problem molars early has been shown to make the recovery process easier for the patient and reduce the risks associated with the extraction. Having wisdom teeth extracted can prevent painful symptoms as well as cosmetic issues caused by excess pressure on other teeth.