Wisdom sounds like a great thing to have. It means reaching a level of maturity and having the ability to make thoughtful adult decisions. Wisdom teeth, on the other hand, are not necessarily a walk in the park and certainly don’t make anyone feel more wise. While not everyone will have a problem with their wisdom teeth, a large portion of the population does need to have their wisdom teeth extracted in order to solve or avoid complications.
Wisdom teeth are also referred to as the “third molars.” They begin to form during the early teen years and usually emerge in the late teens or early 20s. The recommended time to have them removed is between the age of 18 and 24, as they are fully formed and there is a lower risk in this time frame for any surgical complications.
What Can Go Wrong with Wisdom Teeth?
While some wisdom teeth do emerge without issue, they are difficult to care for during a normal oral health routine. Due to their location, reaching them with a brush and floss can be difficult. As a result, bacteria can build up around them, leading to tartar and eventual early decay. This can also cause issues with decay in the adjacent teeth as well.
In many cases, the teeth are crowded and emerge incorrectly. They may come out horizontally or tilted towards the front or back. In these cases, not only can this undo years of corrective orthodontic or cosmetic treatments by pushing on the other teeth, but it can also cause mouth or jaw pain.
Impaction, where one or more teeth become trapped in the connective tissue in the gums, is quite common with the third molar. When the tooth is unable to break through, it can leave the sufferer with intense pain, infection and abscess. Emergency extractions are much more difficult to do when the pain and swelling are present. Sometimes the dentist has to treat the infection before the tooth can be removed. This leads to a lot of pain that could have been avoided with a proactive extraction.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
While the process will vary slightly depending on the oral surgeon or dentist doing the extraction, if the tooth has emerged properly, the extraction will usually be as simple as having any other tooth pulled. You are numbed with a local anesthetic and the tooth and root are pulled.
In the case that the teeth are showing signs of being impacted or have not erupted far enough for a dentist’s removal, an oral surgeon’s expertise may be necessary. The teeth would then be removed surgically, often while you are under a sedative or general anesthesia. Recovery will depend on how difficult the removal was, but most people tolerate wisdom teeth extraction quite well.
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