Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 and 25. In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth and possibly cysts or tumours.

There are degrees of impaction based on the actual depth and position of the teeth within the jaw:

  • Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.
  • Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.
  • Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.

Reasons for wisdom teeth extraction

While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth extractions are most often performed because of an active problem such as crowding other distant teeth, pain, swelling, decay or infection, or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present, and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:

  • Damage to nearby teeth: Second molars (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and possible bone loss.
  • Disease: Although uncommon, cysts and tumours can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Infection: Bacteria and food can become trapped under the gum tissue, resulting in an infection. The infection can cause considerable pain and swelling.
  • Tooth crowding: It has been theorised that impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted). This theory isn’t universally accepted by all dental professionals, and it has never been validated by any scientific studies.

Wisdom teeth examination

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will want initially to conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom teeth and surrounding teeth. Panoramic digital X-rays will be taken in order for your dentist to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists or the likelihood of any potential future problems.

The X-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions. Only after a thorough examination can your dentist provide you with the best options for your particular case.

What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under local anaesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation by a specially trained dentist. The surgery does not require an overnight stay, and you will be released with post-operative instructions and medication (if necessary), to help manage any swelling or discomfort. The most common – but nevertheless rare – complication is a dry socket, which is treated by applying a dressing to the area to relieve pain.

 
 

  

 

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