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Wisdom teeth are the set of four “third molars” that usually appear in the late teenage years and reach full development by the early- to mid-twenties. It’s believed that wisdom teeth get their name due to their late arrival – when people are a little older and (hopefully) wiser. Interestingly, in Korea they are called “love teeth”, referring to the age associated with the pain of first love lost.
But removing impacted wisdom teeth at the appropriate time can alleviate unnecessary pain or discomfort later on. The end of adolescence is often ideal since the roots are not yet completely formed, making the teeth easier to remove.
Wisdom teeth removal may be necessary for a few reasons; either because the wisdom teeth are already causing a problem, or it’s believed they could become a problem later on.
Incidentally, about a third of people never develop any wisdom teeth at all.
Three Major Wisdom Teeth Problems
Put simply, most people’s mouths or jaws are just not big enough to accommodate a third set of molars. Teeth can’t come in straight, and become “impacted” or come in sideways, causing crowding of the surrounding teeth in the mouth. This is the most common problem.
Another common problem occurs when the tooth doesn’t fully come in or “erupt” through the gum line. This can cause painful swelling and redness around the eruption site (even bad breath). These “vertical impactions” can be difficult to clean by a toothbrush alone, allowing food debris and bacteria to become trapped. This can cause nasty stuff like infections and gum disease. Left alone, infections can become even more painful and severe (so don’t leave them alone!)
3. Tooth Decay
If the impacted tooth tries to erupt, but has no room to, it often grows in to the tooth in front of it. This can result in a large cavity in the affected tooth, which is usually so severe that it needs to be removed.
What Happens During A Wisdom Tooth Removal
Your teeth and surrounding area will be fully numbed with a local anaesthetic before removal with the same medication you would receive prior to having a cavity filled. Your dentist may decide to provide you with additional medication for anxiety including nitrous oxide or an oral sedative. This is almost always a relatively fast and painless procedure.
Bouncing Back From Extractions
What can you expect following the removal of impacted wisdom teeth? Swelling is a sign that the healing process is occurring as expected. The amount and duration of swelling varies from person to person – from one day to a week, though three days of some swelling is the norm.
Some bleeding is unavoidable as the mouth takes time to heal. The dentist may provide you with stitches to minimize bleeding, and gauze to protect the area and aid in healing. You will notice as the gauze is replaced that bleeding does gradually slow and then stop.
During this time it’s recommended that pain killers such as Tylenol or Advil be taken to alleviate the soreness. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent infection.
A liquid or soft food diet should be followed after removal to prevent any debris entering the area. Also, (and especially for those university students!), alcohol is to be avoided during this time.
Dental Questions or Concerns? Give Us a Call!
Based in Brampton, Ontario, Dr. Robert Axelrad has been practicing dentistry for three decades. Over this time he has removed his fair share of impacted wisdom teeth for his trusting patients! Feel free to call us today at (905) 791-3867 for any wisdom tooth or dental question you may have, as we are always happy to hear from you.