Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth. Their formal name is the “third molar”, and they appear at the very back of the jaw. These teeth typically erupt from around 18-25 years of age, but can be earlier or later in some people.
It’s very common for wisdom teeth to be extracted. While many people have the mental image of post-extraction patients being heavily medicated on painkillers, this is not the case. Most extractions are quick and unremarkable, with a minimum of recovery.
Why Do Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Extracted?
Simply put, most people just don’t have room in their jaws for this last set of teeth.
The most common reason to extract wisdom teeth is impaction. This is when the tooth is either trying to erupt into an adjacent tooth, or has tipped over completely within the jaw and is putting pressure on the root of the adjacent molar.
Impacted teeth can result in severe toothache and greatly increase the risk of infections in the mouth. Extracting the tooth is the fastest, easiest way to relieve pain and return the mouth to normal.
Do Wisdom Teeth Have to Be Extracted?
There’s a common belief that wisdom teeth always need to be extracted, but this is not true.
Some people never have troubles with their wisdom teeth. Their jaws have sufficient space, and the teeth erupt uneventfully. They simply act as an extra set of molars, and there’s no reason to remove them any more than any other healthy tooth.
Interestingly, not everyone develops wisdom teeth to begin with. Over 10% of the population never grows wisdom teeth, although the prevalence of this changes from country to country. In some places, it’s very uncommon to grow wisdom teeth, while in others, it’s the norm.
Do All Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Extracted?
Sometimes only one wisdom tooth is impacted, and the others are fine.
In this case, your dentist will still probably recommend the removal of all the wisdom teeth. Leaving one or two in place can unbalance your bite. This can put uneven pressure on your teeth, which can lead to chips, cracks, breaks, and infections.
Is Wisdom Tooth Extraction Painful?
Tooth extraction in modern dentistry is a fairly unremarkable process in most cases. A simple wisdom tooth extracted, where the tooth is easily accessible, is a fast procedure done under local aesthetic with minimal recovery time.
A fully impacted tooth that’s completely hidden below the jaw is a different matter. The surgery is a bit more complicated, and the recovery time takes a little longer. For these extractions, the gum is opened, a bit of bone is removed to expose the tooth, the tooth is broken down and removed, and the whole site stitched up.
In most cases this will still be performed under local anesthetic, but some patients may require general anesthetic, particularly if all four wisdom teeth are impacted in this way.
These cases are fairly rare, however. The usual wisdom tooth removal today doesn’t look anything like the popular image on TV and film.
How Do I Know If I Need My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
There are several ways to determine if you need wisdom tooth extraction.
Your dentist can tell early on if you’ll need extraction by looking at your dental x-rays. They may reveal that the wisdom teeth will be impacted, and so an early extraction can be done to avoid any problems.
If it’s not obvious early on, or you don’t visit the dentist regularly, it will become obvious once the teeth start to try to appear. Pain while chewing, chronic pain, reddening and swelling of the gum, and even abscesses are all symptoms of impacted wisdom teeth which require extraction.
For more information on wisdom teeth extraction, contact Platinum Dental.