As children, most of us will get 20 primaries (“baby”) teeth, but as adults, we can expect to get 32 teeth in our life. Our permanent teeth start to grow in as early as age 6, and we will continue to grow our permanent teeth through our childhood and youth. For many of us, in our late teens, we will finally get our set of third molars or our wisdom teeth. Our wisdom teeth typically show up between the ages of 17 and 25. For many of us, they appear without any fanfare or fuss. However, for a large number of people, the arrival of our wisdom teeth is the signal of quite a bit of pain and discomfort.
What You Need to Know about Your Wisdom TeethIn the past, our wisdom teeth were a necessary addition to our mouths. Our diets were not as easy, and our food was tougher and chewier to eat. We needed our third set of molars to not only help us chew this food, but if we did lose any teeth, our wisdom teeth would help step in and help our remaining teeth do their job. In today’s era, however, our diet has dramatically changed.
Not only is our diet softer and easier to digest, but we also have access to dental care and have better oral hygiene, making tooth loss less common as it once was. Because of these changes to our society, our wisdom teeth are now unnecessary.
For some people, your wisdom teeth will come in without any complications. They will grow in and erupt normally and healthily with no issues or complications. People who are lucky enough to have wisdom teeth that grew in without problems will not experience infection, pain, or impaction. These individuals are very fortunate and most likely will not need medical intervention on their wisdom teeth. For the rest of us, though, problems can arise when your wisdom teeth show up, and surgery may be required to avoid severe complications.
Why Extract Wisdom Teeth?One of the biggest issues that can arise when your wisdom teeth appear is impaction. When your wisdom tooth becomes impacted, that means that it is not going to erupt (break through your gums) as normal. Impacted wisdom teeth are not just painful; it can be quite dangerous and lead to severe infection and even loss of the surrounding teeth.
Problems that are associated with impacted wisdom teeth include trapped food and debris at the site of the tooth, leading to severe tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. Your teeth may become crowded, and pressure from your wisdom tooth can cause your other teeth to become loose. You may develop an abscess at the site, a sack of pus that is a red flag that you have a major infection. An abscess, if left untreated, can quickly become dangerous and needs to be immediately treated if it occurs.
Impacted Wisdom TeethIf your wisdom teeth become impacted, there is a good chance that you will know right away. You may have severe pain in the back of your mouth. Your gums and jaw may become swollen, and you may notice bleeding in your mouth. You can develop an infection, and your neck, shoulder, and your glands (lymph nodes) may swell up. If you notice any of these signs of a complication, it is vital that you call us right away to have them assessed and removed.
There are four major types of impaction that may occur at the site of your wisdom tooth.
||The most common type of impaction is called mesial impaction, and it occurs when the tooth is angled toward the front of your mouth. The angle of the tooth will determine if it erupts normally or if it needs to be removed. You may have a partial eruption if you have a mesial impaction, and we will monitor it closely to see if it needs to be removed.
||You may also have a distal impaction. This is least common type of impaction and, unlike mesial impaction, it points toward the back of your mouth. The degree of the angle of the tooth will let us know if it needs to be removed. Like mesial impactions, it is a “wait and see” type of impaction. We may monitor it over some time (typically a year or two) to see if it erupts normally. If not, we will surgically remove it to avoid complications.
||Another type of impaction is called vertical impaction. A vertical impaction occurs when the tooth is almost completely vertical. It may be sitting too close to the surrounding teeth and, if so, will need to be monitored for removal. However, this type of impaction usually clears up on its own and erupts as normal. If it crowds your other teeth, though, we may have to perform surgery on it.
||Lastly, there is horizontal impaction. Of all of the types of impaction, this one is the most painful and the least likely to erupt normally. It will sit underneath your gums at a horizontal angle and will push painfully against your surrounding molars. This type of impaction must be treated immediately, or you will run the risk of permanently damaging your surrounding teeth. The pain will be great if you do not remove it, too, so it is vital that it is addressed quickly.
Overview of the Tooth Extraction ProcessWisdom tooth extraction is a straightforward procedure and often outpatient. We may start with X-rays or 3D images of the impacted tooth before we start your extraction. During the procedure, we will cut into your gums to expose the impacted tooth. If anything is blocking it, we will remove whatever is causing the obstruction. We will then carefully remove the tooth, removing it in segments if required. The site will be cleaned; then we will stitch the site closed if necessary. Finally, we will place gauze over the surgical site to encourage a clot to form.
Questions about Wisdom Teeth?We here at Progressive Oral Surgery & Implantology of Long Island are very familiar with wisdom teeth and the complications that arise when they appear and can help make this process as easy and painless as possible for you. If you have been told that you have impacted wisdom teeth, then there is a high likelihood that you may be scheduled for surgery to remove the tooth in question. If you have any questions about wisdom teeth, impaction, or surgery, please contact us today.
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