Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, are the teeth that grow at the back of the mouth, and are typically the last teeth to emerge. Usually, wisdom teeth emerge in the late teens or early twenties. Eventually, most people end up having four wisdom teeth, with one tooth distributed in each corner of the jaws. By the age of 28 years, most adult teeth have taken their position. Often, there is inadequate room in the mouth for wisdom teeth to develop properly. The outcome is that wisdom teeth may emerge at an odd angle, fail to emerge fully, or get stuck, resulting in impacted teeth. However, not everyone has wisdom teeth issues. Some people also develop normal wisdom teeth that show no complications. If complications arise, however, wisdom teeth extraction is a necessary procedure.
Wisdom teeth extraction is a fairly common surgical procedure. It usually involves the removal of one or more wisdom teeth. If impacted teeth become painful or infected, it is critical to have them extracted. It is advisable to visit a dentist if wisdom teeth begin causing pain as the dentist will give proper advice on whether the tooth needs to be extracted. Initially, the dentist does an X-ray of the mouth to ascertain the need to extract a person’s wisdom teeth. The X-ray gives the dentist a clear view of how the teeth are positioned.
Why are Wisdom Teeth Extracted?
Even with impacted teeth, some experts believe that there is usually no need to extract wisdom teeth because of the risk of complications. However, if the impacted teeth cause problems, then extraction is highly recommended. In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth or partially emerged wisdom teeth tend to cause dental complications.
Such teeth also make it easy for food and bacteria to get lodged making them susceptible to the development of plaque. Subsequently, plaque can lead to gum disease, tooth decay (dental caries), abscess, or cysts. Usually, such problems can be treated with the use of antiseptic mouthwash and antibiotics. If such treatments fail to mitigate the problems affecting wisdom teeth, dentists recommend the extraction of wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth are also extracted if there is inflammation of tissue surrounding the affected teeth, a condition commonly referred to as pericoronitis. Since wisdom teeth are not essential for biting, they can be extracted without adverse consequences.
Wisdom Teeth Extraction Procedure
Extraction of wisdom teeth usually happens in the outpatient setting. Therefore, one can expect to go home the same day the procedure is done. Prior to the procedure being performed, one has to sign a consent form. The dentist also offers a succinct explanation of how the procedure is carried out.
The dentist then gives a local anesthetic injection to invoke numbness around the tooth. There are other forms of anesthesia, and dentists make decisions regarding the most ideal anesthesia for each individual. In some cases, the dentist may suggest: conscious sedation (a tablet taken 1 hour before), inhalation sedation (laughing gas), IV anesthesia or general anesthesia (in a hospital setting).
The dentist then has to rock the tooth in a back and forth motion. The motion usually causes widening of the tooth socket, subsequently, leading to a significant level of pressure before the tooth eventually comes out.
In some cases, it is necessary to make a miniature cut in the gum, remove bone that is obstructing the tooth or to divide the tooth into smaller pieces for easier removal. Frequently, teeth that have multiple roots are removed in pieces to avoid a scenario where they break while still in the bone. Once tooth removal is successful, the site is cleaned of any debris and the wound is closed. Gauze is then placed on the site of extraction to control bleeding.
After the procedure, one may experience minor pain and bleeding. Also, there is a likelihood of swelling and discomfort in the inner and outer sections of the mouth but that should end anywhere between three days and two weeks. It is possible to prevent excessive swelling by placing ice packs on the affected area.
Possible Complications after Extraction
Similar to other medical procedures, complications can arise after extraction. However, the risk of complication in most surgeries is minimal. In very rare cases, the individual may suffer damage to the sensory nerve (especially for older patients) that is responsible for delivering sensation to the tongue and lips.
Additionally, one may suffer infections, dry socket, or sinus complications. Usually, damage to the sensory nerve wears off after a few weeks or months. In rare circumstances, there could be a permanent alteration in sensation. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot does not adequately develop in the tooth socket or if blood clots get dislodged.
It is prudent to visit the dentist if there are signs of infection or if the bleeding gets out of control. Other signs that warrant one to go back to the dentist for immediate review include fever, pus oozing from the socket, and severe pain that is not responding to pain medications.
Following surgery, it is important to rest the remainder of the day and only resume routine tasks the following day. However, it is vital to avoid strenuous tasks the week after surgery as it can dislodge the blood clot from the socket. To manage the pain, it is advisable to adhere to the pain medication the dentist prescribes.
Further, dentists advise patients to consume ample amounts of water after surgery. Alcoholic, carbonated, caffeinated, or hot beverages should be avoided at least 24 hours after surgery. Drinking using a straw is also ill-advised because the suction can interfere with the blood clot’s integrity.
In regards to maintaining hygiene in the mouth, it is advisable to avoid brushing teeth. Instead, one should rinse the mouth with mouthwash for the first 24 hours. Afterward, it is recommended to rinse the mouth with warm, salty water every few hours and especially after eating. The dentist will advise the ideal time to get back to normal brushing to avoid irritating the surgical wound.