Wisdom Tooth Extraction

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth are very large teeth that are located at the back of the mouth, behind your last molar. These teeth are thought to have been needed in our evolution in order to chew the dense plants that we would have eaten for most of our nutrition when meat wasn’t in abundance. These teeth have large flat surfaces like your molars rather than coming to a point like your front teeth. This surface area would have allowed for effective grinding of dense matter, but they are of almost no use today, since food is abundant, and we no longer have to spend most of the day chewing to gain enough nutrition to keep us ready for the next hunt. The green matter that we tend to eat now are more tender, like lettuces or kale. 

Why are they often removed?

These days, wisdom teeth have become a nuisance to teenagers and young adults who have to contend with these teeth trying to creep into an already very full dental arch. Just when you thought you were done getting and losing teeth, surprise – your wisdom teeth are on the scene to disrupt things. While not every wisdom tooth has to be removed (some mouths can accommodate them), these teeth are typically removed to prevent or correct any of the number of issues that they can present.

A typical mouth has a wisdom tooth in each quadrant – two upper, and two lower. Like anything, however, there are exceptions.  Some patients present with fewer than four wisdom teeth, while some have the unlikely circumstance of having more than just one set of these teeth. No matter how many wisdom teeth you have, the likelihood that they will be a source of discomfort is high.

When wisdom teeth begin to emerge in the mouth, they have a tendency to disrupt the placement of other teeth, or to get stuck, which are both matters in need of resolution. Teeth that make their way into the mouth by putting pressure on the teeth next to them are at risk of causing significant crowding. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but it increases the likelihood of developing gingivitis or decay. This is because these teeth are so large and so recessed in the mouth, that it can be difficult for a toothbrush and floss to do their job. Accessing the nooks and crannies there is important, since food debris settles in the back of the mouth after eating and goes to work exposing the teeth to acid which irritates tissues and eventually results in cavities.

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Wisdom teeth can also present with cysts that are asymptomatic until damage is done. These cysts, called dentigerous cysts, grow inside the gum line and expand while filling with fluid over time. Without symptoms of pain, these cysts can grow and eat away at the healthy bone tissue and other root systems around them. These are typically caught during routine checkups, but some patients present with advanced cysts which have caused drifting of adjacent teeth and swelling on one side of the mouth. Removing wisdom teeth is a precautionary step to avoid this potential.

Finally, wisdom teeth often become impacted (stuck) problematically within the tissues in the mouth. They can become stuck in bone tissue, gum tissue or both – or, they can partially emerge from the gums. Partial emergence is problematic because it loosens the seal of the gums around the tooth where it is exposed. This produces a flap of skin that traps food and bacteria and becomes chronically infected.

Signs of Infection

If you are concerned that you may have an infection around one or all of your partially emerged wisdom teeth, you will begin to feel pain at the site and will likely begin to taste something foul leaking from the site that doesn’t go away with brushing or rinsing. On waking in the morning, you may find it painful to open your mouth to brush your teeth or eat. If you have signs of infection, it’s important to see your dentist right away to correct it before it becomes dangerous.

How is the extraction performed?

Removing wisdom teeth is a similar process to standard tooth removals with the exception that your dentist will want to have recent digital X-rays in order to locate the primary nerve along the bottom jaw and ensure that the root isn’t going to disrupt it when removed. Your dentist will also check the digital images to ensure that the roots of the teeth on the upper arch don’t extend too close to the sinus cavity, which could also cause problems if removed. In such cases, your dentist may recommend that you see a specialist, but these are unusual circumstances. Typically, your tooth can be safely removed under local anesthetic right in the clinic.

If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.