Wisdom Teeth

We hope to become more aware as we get older; that what comes out of our mouths is wiser than it would have been years before. Though sometimes our words may not be as wise as we’d like, our teeth certainly develop wisdom after a number of years, though the wisdom in keeping them is sometimes in question.

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that develop, usually during early adulthood. They can be useful for chewing, but only if they are positioned correctly in the mouth; improper alignment can occur often with these teeth, which can have serious consequences. Improperly aligned wisdom teeth can result in damage to the jawbone, nerves, and other teeth.

The third molars may also become impacted; this occurs when there is crowding in the mouth, and blockage from other teeth causes them to only partially erupt from the gums. Bacteria can then infiltrate the gums from the site of eruption; this leads to infection, inflammation of the gums, pain, and swelling. Partially erupted teeth are harder to brush, which makes them even more prone to developing problems including tooth decay.

Oftentimes, when wisdom teeth do not erupt, they are asymptomatic at first; the teeth are in the gums, but there is no pain or swelling. Wisdom teeth that have not emerged may begin to cause problems as time goes on; mild gum disease may develop around the area, causing bad breath and bleeding. An individual might experience pressure in the area around the wisdom teeth, and if they are not removed, more severe symptoms may emerge as the integrity of the surrounding tissues becomes compromised.

The best way to know about the state of wisdom teeth is by visiting a dentist for regular preventive maintenance; they can take x-rays in order to determine the health of your third molars. Should severe problems develop, you may have to go to an emergency dentist to have them removed, as serious pain and tension can develop over time. It’s best to have a yearly check-up and remove your wisdom teeth while they are still asymptomatic if the dentist believes they will cause problems down the line.

Wisdom teeth can be removed, and the methods used to remove them depends on their stage of growth and positioning. Fully erupted wisdom teeth can be extracted quite easily; impacted teeth are more difficult to remove, and teeth that are embedded in the jawbone may require small amounts of the bone to be removed in order to complete extraction. Local anesthetic will be used, and you may be given a sedative before the procedure.

You should consult with your dentist about the aftercare for your wisdom teeth; bleeding and swelling can be expected for the first 24 hours, after which symptoms will slowly begin to subside. Certain complications, such as dry socket and paresthesia, can occur after the procedure; be sure to stay in contact with your dentist after the procedure should you have any concerns.