Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the troublemakers of the dental world. They skulk out of sight wreaking havoc and are to blame for multiple oral health problems. This is why wisdom teeth removal has become standard practice both as a preventive measure and to correct issues that are already apparent. The importance of wisdom teeth removal is underscored by the extent of damage this third set of molars can do.

What Problems Do Wisdom Teeth Cause?

Nine out of ten of us don’t have enough room in our mouth for wisdom teeth. This means they often fail to emerge properly through the gum line. They grow in at a skewed angle or stay lodged within the gum, triggering infection and damaging other teeth, nerves and jawbone.

Wisdom teeth are also more susceptible to decay because they’re difficult to reach with a toothbrush and dental floss. Complications caused by wisdom teeth can lead to general health issues as well as damage your oral health. You may get headaches because of bite issues, for instance. And if a wisdom tooth becomes infected, inflammation can spread through your body. If you’re lucky, your wisdom teeth may not need to be extracted. They sometimes emerge through the gum properly aligned. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often happen.

What are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?

Impacted wisdom teeth are fairly common. Impaction occurs when the teeth fail to erupt through the gum line or only partially emerge. This can result in lasting oral health issues that can also affect your overall health. The most serious problem is development of an abscess, cyst or tumor around these teeth. This can destroy healthy teeth and jawbone, and infection can travel around your body, damaging vital organs. Partially impacted wisdom teeth are also more prone to decay and infection because they’re hard to clean.

Wisdom Teeth Complications

Even if your wisdom teeth are causing no immediate problems, they may well do so later, when removal can be more difficult.

Complications that can arise from problem wisdom teeth include:

  • Greater risk of cavities, infection and gum disease.
  • Orthodontic problems resulting from crowded teeth.
  • Compressed sinuses caused by the roots of upper wisdom teeth, causing inflammation, congestion and headaches.
  • Oral abscess, cyst or tumor.
  • Cellulitis – bacterial infection in the tongue, throat or cheek.

Early removal of wisdom teeth is recommended for the best outcome and to avoid complications. It also minimizes the surgical risk of extraction of impacted wisdom teeth.

Signs Your Wisdom Teeth Need Removing

Most wisdom teeth issues start during the late teens to early 20s. Symptoms that indicate your wisdom teeth may need to be removed include:

  • Discomfort in the back of the mouth.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth (because of jaw stiffness).
  • Jaw pain and swelling.
  • Swollen and/or bleeding gums (caused by inflammation).
  • Appearance of cysts – fluid-filled sacs.
  • Sinus problems.
  • Bad breath.
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth.
  • Feeling generally unwell.

The Wisdom Tooth Surgical Extraction Procedure

Some wisdom teeth can be removed with a simple, non-surgical extraction. In other cases, a more complex, surgical procedure is required when a tooth has become rooted in bone. Wisdom tooth surgery entails making an incision in the gum in order to remove bone to facilitate extraction. This is done under local or general anesthesia.

Steps in the procedure typically entail:

  • Cutting into the gum to expose the tooth and bone.
  • Removal of bone obstruction to the tooth root.
  • Extraction of the tooth – piece by piece if necessary.
  • Cleaning debris from the tooth and bone.
  • Replacing tissue and suturing the area.
  • Application of a dressing to staunch bleeding.

After Wisdom Tooth Surgery

Medication can be prescribed by your dentist or oral surgeon to control post-surgery discomfort. Stitches will be removed about a week after the procedure. Initial healing after wisdom tooth surgery takes up to two weeks, but it can be three to six months before soft tissue and bone are fully healed.

To help the healing process during the first 24 hours, you should:

  • Avoid hard, sticky or spicy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated or carbonated drinks.
  • Avoid hot drinks and foods.
  • Refrain from brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth.
  • Drink lots of water. Don’t use a straw – the sucking action can hinder blood clotting.
  • Avoid excessive spitting, which can also dislodge the blood clot.
  • Use an icepack to ease swelling.

Your continuing recovery can be helped by taking extra care when brushing near the extraction area and regularly rinsing your mouth gently with warm salt water. You should also reapply any dressing as directed and avoid smoking for a few days at least or, better still, quit completely.

Surgical removal of wisdom teeth is routinely performed without complications. However, all surgical procedures carry the risk of infection. You can minimize this risk by following the instructions of your dentist or oral surgeon.

Why We Don’t Need Wisdom Teeth

Extraction of problem wisdom teeth is essential to avoid serious complications. The good news is you won’t miss them. All of our other teeth play a critical role in breaking down food so we can swallow it and helping us pronounce words clearly. Wisdom teeth, on the other hand, serve no purpose.

So why do we get wisdom teeth if we don’t need them? Nature designed wisdom teeth to handle the diet of our early ancestors, who survived on plant roots and raw meat. This required a really powerful bite action. Although our modern diet makes wisdom teeth redundant, evolution hasn’t yet realized we no longer need these third molars. Some experts predict wisdom teeth could eventually disappear.

Wisdom Teeth Removal by Your Des Moines Oral Surgeon

General dentists can perform simple wisdom teeth extractions. But oral and maxillofacial surgeons at Oral Surgeons PC (OSPC) in Des Moines are experts in even the most complicated wisdom teeth extractions. This is because they’ve undertaken years of highly focused training to qualify as specialists in oral and maxillofacial surgery, including wisdom teeth procedures.

And when it comes to anesthesia, you can rest assured you’ll be in the most capable hands. Our oral surgeons are trained in all aspects of anesthesia and sedation medication and are licensed to administer general anesthesia.

OSPC can help you decide whether your wisdom teeth need removing. Call us at 515-287-7773 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.