Wisdom teeth are typically the final set of molars people get in their early twenties – two in the back on the top gum line and two on the bottom gum line. They are called wisdom teeth, because they come in when the person reaches a mature age. It is said that wisdom teeth date back to the stone age, when peoples’ diets consisted of very rough, hard foods that needed to be ground properly to be digested, making jaws stronger and bigger, leaving more space for four extra teeth. Since dentists didn’t exist back then, the wisdom teeth would realign teeth by pushing them back together as they grew in, filling in the spots where teeth had previously been lost due to tooth decay. However, since our diets have changed over time and foods have become more accessible and processed, mouths don’t require the four extra teeth. We now have the need to remove wisdom teeth because they can cause realignment of existing tooth structures and jaw problems.
In many cases, wisdom teeth can position themselves horizontally, pushing against the adjacent teeth, causing pain to the nerves and jawbone. In very rare cases, between 5-10 percent of people, some or all of their wisdom teeth never erupt by breaking through the gum surface. At other times, if they do erupt, they sometimes only break through partially. A wisdom tooth at does not erupt or erupts partially is referred to as an “impacted” tooth. An impacted wisdom tooth creates an opening around the tooth in the soft tissue that collects bacteria and can lead to major tooth infections and toothache.
Your dentist will examine your wisdom teeth and determine if they need to be extracted. If removal is necessary, your dentist can extract all four wisdom teeth at the same time, depending on the individual situation. Before removal, the surrounding tissue will be numbed by local anesthesia. In some cases, your dentist might decide that general anesthesia is appropriate to make sure the experience is as comfortable as possible for the patient. Depending on the anesthesia given, patients may need someone to drive them to and from their appointment.
On average, recovery time last about two days. The first day, the patient might experience some bleeding, facial swelling and might need some antibiotics or pain medication. A liquid diet is suggested since chewing can be a problem if numbing is still present, in which case patients could possibly chew on their own tongue and not realize it.
After the first 24 hours, facial swelling should decrease and the area needs to be rinsed with warm water to avoid developing dry socket, a condition in which a blood clot failed to form in the tooth socket to help it close up. It’s important to keep the area clean to avoid bacteria built up until the socket can heal completely. This might take a few days.
If you feel you might need your wisdom teeth extracted, consult your dentist to talk about all your options and voice any questions or concerns.