Have you ever wondered how wisdom teeth got their name? Unfortunately, they do not make us any smarter or wiser, but they are named so because they come in at a later stage of our lives when we are deemed more mature with wisdom.
However, not everyone has wisdom teeth. For some lucky people, wisdom teeth may never form or erupt. This is due to an evolutionary change as humans have no need to tear and grind into hard foods as our ancestors once did. It is even estimated that in a few centuries, wisdom teeth may cease to exist!
By the end of this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about your wisdom tooth.
What is Wisdom Tooth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. They grow in the four back corners of your jaw; two on top and two on the bottom. Wisdom teeth usually appear at the age of 18 to 21 but may erupt later in life.
What Does An Impacted Wisdom Tooth Mean?
When there’s not enough room in the jaw, your growing wisdom teeth may be affected. They may not grow in the ideal upwards direction and end up in the wrong position.
This is known as impacted wisdom teeth. An impacted wisdom tooth may not have space to break through the gums or is stuck under it. It can also mean that your wisdom tooth is growing out at an angle and pushes into other teeth. This is very common among the lower wisdom teeth.
Wisdom Tooth Growth Symptoms
If you feel any discomfort in the back of your jaw, your wisdom teeth may be making its debut. It is perfectly normal to feel intermittent and pulsating pain when your third molar is erupting as it has to push through the gums to appear. Usually, this is temporary and only lasts for a few days.
However, you may develop pericoronitis which is the inflammation of gum tissue associated with an impacted wisdom tooth. This can be caused by an infection and you may experience intense and severe pain.
Some people may not feel pain whilst their wisdom tooth is growing. This does not mean you don’t have to extract the tooth. The best method to confirm your wisdom teeth growth is to visit the dentist and get an X-ray done.
Why Do You Need To Remove Your Wisdom Tooth?
The most common reason for wisdom teeth removal is due to impacted wisdom teeth. When the tooth is partially erupted and does not grow out completely, it forms a pocket where food tends to get stuck between. It is also harder to clean, increasing the chances of tooth decay and gum disease.
Your impacted wisdom tooth can also grow towards and damage its surrounding teeth, causing more cavities.
Impacted teeth can also cause problems such as pericoronitis, infection and cyst formation in the bone may also occur.
When Do You Need To Remove Your Wisdom Tooth?
It is advisable for you to remove your wisdom tooth as early as you can to prevent possible problems stated above. Younger people also tend to recover faster and have less risks in a surgical procedure, therefore having your wisdom teeth removed at an early stage is better.
However, it is not a necessity to remove all your wisdom teeth. If they are growing out healthily in the right direction or not causing any problems, they can be left in your mouth.
Wisdom Teeth Removal
There are two methods of wisdom teeth removal:
A simple extraction is also known as wisdom tooth extraction. It is performed for fully erupted teeth. The dentist will administer a numbing agent, also known as a local anesthetic into the gum to ensure a pain-free treatment. When your gums feel numb, the dentist will use instruments to loosen and remove the tooth.
A surgical extraction is also known as wisdom tooth surgery. This procedure is more complex and performed when the tooth is impacted, under the gum or partially erupted.
A surgical incision is required to expose the wisdom tooth hidden in the bone and when the tooth has been removed, the dentist will stitch the gum back. This procedure may involve bone removal and tooth division.
Surgical extractions can be performed by your local dentist. In some cases that are more complex, surgery is referred and performed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
Local anesthesia is sufficient for numbing but for dentally anxious patients, the option for sedation and general anesthesia is also available in some private clinics and hospitals. Sedation helps you to relax whereas for GA, you will be unconscious for the treatment.
Is It Painful To Remove A Wisdom Tooth?
Many people associate wisdom teeth removal with pain and often delay the treatment due to fear. The drilling sounds and unawareness of what is happening do not make the situation any better.
However, when you are undergoing extractions or surgery, the dentist would administer anesthesia. The treatment can only proceed when the gums and tooth are completely numb so you should not feel any pain. Instead, you will feel some pressure when the dentist is removing the tooth or drilling the bone.
Can I Remove All Four Wisdom Teeth At Once?
Yes, it is possible to remove all four wisdom teeth at once. Your dentist will assess your dental health and recommend you options for removal. You will also be offered the option of local anesthesia, sedation or general anesthesia for the procedure.
What Happens After The Wisdom Tooth Is Removed?
After extraction or surgery, you may experience minor bleeding at the site. This is entirely normal and can be easily stopped by biting tight onto a piece of sterile gauze for about half an hour.
For surgery cases, painkillers, antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash are usually prescribed to help you cope better over the next few days. An iced pack will be given to you immediately after the surgery to minimize facial swelling.
It will take up to a week to fully recover from the procedure but light activities can be resumed on the 3rd day.
Things To Avoid After Wisdom Tooth Removal
- Sucking through a straw
- Excessive spitting
- Excessive mouth rinsing
- Strenuous activities
- Hot/ hard food
After removal of the tooth, a blood clot will form in the tooth socket as part of the healing process. These activities above may cause the newly formed blood clot to dislodge which leads to a painful condition known as dry socket.
Another possible complication that may occur is nerve damage. However, this is very rare. It could either be permanent or temporary depending on the nerve’s condition.
If you suspect that your third molars are erupting, you should visit a dentist for a check-up to confirm. You can visit your local dental clinic and following the consultation, you can choose to remove your tooth there or be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgery. It is wise to extract third molars in the wrong position as soon as you can.
At Ocean Dental, we have a regular visiting oral surgeon specialist coming in every month for more complex surgery cases. We also have dental X-ray machines for panoramic X-ray (OPG) and CBCT (for 3D scans). We aim for every step to be done within our clinic for your own comfort and convenience.
For more information or help, check out our wisdom tooth removal services.