Most people expect they will need to have their wisdom teeth removed but don’t know why they will need wisdom teeth extraction. First, it is helpful to know that wisdom teeth are the third molars in the very back of your mouth. They come in sometime between the ages of 17 and 25. And no, they don’t actually bring wisdom with them. Some people will never develop them, but most will. To understand more on the what and the why, here is some general wisdom you need about wisdom teeth.
Why do I have them?
Anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth were once meant to help grind up the coarser, rougher food of our ancestors. With today’s diet of softer foods along with modern utensils such as forks and knives, we don’t really need that third set of molars. As a result, our wisdom teeth are now considered vestigial organs, or body parts that no longer serve a function. You could actually tell someone, “My vestigial teeth have come in” and see if he or she knows you are talking about your wisdom teeth.
Do I have to remove them?
You only have to have your wisdom teeth removed, if they are causing you problems or if your dentist believes they will cause problems. Some people go their whole lives and never have an issue. If your wisdom teeth are healthy, fully erupted, positioned correctly, and don’t cause you any pain or bite issues, don’t worry about them!
When do I need wisdom teeth extraction?
Impacted wisdom teeth are another matter and almost always require removal. The term “impacted” refers to wisdom teeth that did not fully erupt. In other words, they sit beneath the gum line, usually laying sideways instead of upright because they didn’t have the room to develop normally.
They can cause significant pain and also cause damage to other teeth and bite issues. In addition, because wisdom teeth, especially impacted ones, are harder to clean, they can be more susceptible to infection, tooth decay and gum disease than your regular teeth.
What age should I get them removed?
To determine if and when you need your wisdom teeth taken out, get a thorough dental exam and x-rays. Also, don’t be hesitant to seek a second opinion. There is no set age for removing your wisdom teeth, nor is there any indication that removing impacted wisdom teeth from early adolescents will help prevent the need for braces. That being said, once a dentist or oral surgeon determines you need your wisdom teeth removed—the sooner the better. It’s just easier to excise teeth without fully formed roots and before they have had a chance to become diseased. As we mentioned, most people develop their wisdom teeth between the ages of 17 and 25. Studies have shown that the removal procedure has less complications in people age 25 and younger.
What is it like to recover from having my wisdom teeth removed?
Healing up from oral surgery takes up to two weeks, but it can be different for everyone. It depends on how deeply impacted, if at all, your wisdom teeth are and how many teeth must be extracted. But two weeks is a good rule of thumb. Here’s what to expect:
- First 24 hours: Blood clots will form
- 2 to 3 days: Mouth and cheek swelling should improve
- 7 days: If you have stitches, they can now be removed
- 7 to 10 days: Jaw stiffness and soreness should begin to go away
- 2 weeks: Mild bruising on the face should begin to heal
What are the risks?
Every surgical procedure carries risks, but wisdom teeth extraction is one of the most commonly performed dental procedures. To keep risks at a minimum, follow your dentist or oral surgeon’s post-op directions to the letter. Rest and rinse according to instructions to minimize any chance for problems. Some of the complications that can occur include:
- Painful dry sockets
- Infections in the socket
- Damage to nearby teeth, nerves, jawbone, or sinuses
The decision of whether to your remove wisdom teeth isn’t always clear. That’s why it is really important to talk to your dentist. Here at Artistic Dental, Dr. Dougherty and Dr. Adhikari are able to take care of some extractions at our office but will recommend an oral surgeon for more complex cases. To find out what is best for you, schedule a consultation and the dentist will provide you with the information and best options.