What are Wisdom Teeth? When do They Appear?
The term wisdom tooth refers to the last molar tooth (among the three) to erupt in the jaw. These teeth emerge in the oral cavity at an age of around 17 to 25 years. They are commonly known as Wisdom Teeth because they tend to appear in the mouth at an age when the individuals grow up or become wiser. Some people get their wisdom tooth even after 25 years of age. After 30 years, their eruption is very unlikely.
For some people, these teeth prove to be a blessing (helps to chew) but in other cases they may be problematic for surrounding molar teeth and soft tissues. This depends on whether they are erupting in a correct direction or slightly tilting. They are mostly misaligned; either slanted towards or away from the second molar tooth, or inward (towards the tongue) or outward (towards the cheeks). Improper positioning of a wisdom tooth causes problems such as crowding, nerve injury, impaction or harm to adjacent teeth.
Functions of a Wisdom Tooth:
- Helps to split up the food.
- Also helps to grind dense and rough food particles.
- Plays an essential role in herbivorous (vegetarian) division of species.
Our predecessors were the one to be the most facilitated by the third group of molars, thus aiding in the digestion process. On the other hand, the food that we prepare today is more refined and easily digested. This has dismissed the use of third molars. Advancement in growth have caused the jaws to become compacted, leaving insufficient space for wisdom teeth to come correctly.
When to Consider Removal?
Wisdom tooth requires removal due to a number of reasons. These changes are detected by the dentist who decides to remove it. They are:
- When it hasn’t erupted in a correct position- making brushing difficult which can cause cavities
- When it is only partially erupted- makes flossing difficult, causing bacteria to accumulate and give rise to infections.
- When it is stucked in the jaw (impacted) – impacted in a way that it is damaging the adjoining teeth by dissolving their roots. This causes tooth mobility
- When it is impinging the cheeks due to improper position
- When it is impacted and causing crowding- decreasing space for other teeth in the jaw.
- When it is associated with a cyst
- When it is associated with a tumor
To know more about wisdom teeth extraction here at Harrison Dental Care visit our ‘extractions’ page.
How are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
The convenience by which a wisdom tooth is removed highly depends on whether the tooth is completely exposed in the oral cavity or it is impacted within the jaw bone.
- Anesthesia is given so as to desensitize the area. Sometimes, intravenous sedation is used if the patient is extremely anxious.
- If the tooth is fully exposed, it can be extracted simply.
- If it is embedded in the bone, first the soft tissue needs to be incised, the overlying bone is cut and then the tooth is taken out.
- The tooth may come out as a single piece or multiple small pieces, after which the incision is closed.
What to Expect After Tooth Removal?
- Bleeding- a gauze is placed on the extraction site for several hours after extraction and the patient is asked to bite on it.
- Swelling on face- ice packs helps to reduce the swelling
- Pain- pain killers are prescribed
- Dry socket – if the blood clot is dislodged by either rinsing or spitting, a dry socket occurs in the first few days of extraction.
Dos and Don’ts During Recovery:
- Don’t remove the gauze until bleeding stops completely
- Avoid rinsing for the first 24 hours
- Avoid spitting for the first 24 hours
- Avoid using straws
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid taking alcohol
- Avoid taking solid food stuff for the first 1- 2 days
- Use of ice packs
- Drinking cold liquids for the first 1-2 days.
- Taking pain medications regularly
- Rinse with warm salt water after 4-5 days of extraction
- If stitches are non-dissolving, visit your dentist after a week.
Time Required for Complete Healing?
It takes several weeks to months for a socket to heal completely. Most of the healing process occurs within the first 2-3 weeks of extraction during which strict care is to taken. After this period, the patient should start feeling comfortable and this is all that is required.
Common Treatment Options for Wisdom Teeth?
The only treatment option for a problematic wisdom tooth is extraction. Firstly, because it doesn’t serve any important masticatory or aesthetic function. Secondly, because it is located far away from the mouth opening (since it is the last tooth in the jaw) which makes it difficult for accessibility and visibility.