Wisdom teeth, the molars farthest back in the mouth, usually come in between the ages of 17 to 21 years. For some this is no problem at all, as their wisdom teeth grow into the proper position. For others the teeth stay in the jawbone, which is called “impacted” and don’t cause any overt complication or nuisance. But for some people, the emergence of wisdom teeth can result in an ongoing source of discomfort and swollen gums. While statistics vary, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of people around the world have at least one bothersome impacted wisdom tooth which has failed to fully emerge.
The solution? Often times surgery is necessary and by far preferable to having swollen, inflamed gums or recurrent gum infections. Some people even prefer to have their wisdom teeth out at an early age as a precautionary measure, before any problems develop. Why?
If your wisdom teeth are only partially erupted, there are hard-to-reach spaces between the malpositioned wisdom tooth and the molar next to it, and this area can become a food trap and a breeding ground for bacteria. Even with thorough oral care, these teeth will be much more susceptible to decay and periodontal inflammation. The worst case scenario that at times results is that the wisdom tooth and the molar in front of it become so decayed that you end up losing two teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth can also create issues for the surrounding bone. While cysts around impacted teeth are very rare, there is a risk for these if impacted teeth are left untreated.
Even if wisdom teeth erupt into the mouth properly, cleaning around those teeth can be a big challenge. Similarly, if there are cavities that form on those hard-to-reach teeth, placing restorations or fillings can sometimes not be possible if the dentists cannot get instruments back that far. So if wisdom teeth are kept good dental hygiene will be even more important.
While this is very concerning, does it mean that extraction is unavoidable? Not necessarily. Some are fortunate enough that their wisdom teeth grow in successfully, straight and without complication. But in most cases extraction is necessary if wisdom teeth are malpositioned or impacted, or are showing a tendency for decay and periodontal issues. If you do start to develop problems with your wisdom teeth, taking action sooner rather than later is wise. It is often much easier to remove the teeth when people are younger, as the roots of the teeth are not fully developed yet, and the bone around the teeth is less dense. Younger people also heal faster than older ones. As you age, it may take longer to recover from the surgery. It can also be a more complicated procedure if you wait for an infection to develop.
And if you do opt for surgery? North Burnaby Dental Group offers intravenous sedation in addition to local anesthesia to make the experience more comfortable. This allows you to be asleep while the wisdom teeth are removed and is administered by a dentist with specialized training in this type of procedure. It is usually recommended that you plan to take it easy for at least a week after the surgery. Avoid heavy exercise or lifting during this time to minimize swelling and strain, and refrain from eating very solid or crunchy food for three to four days (instead try noodles and milkshakes). Avoiding smoking is very important for healing. Swelling is a normal response to surgery. Ice packs on the jaw may help with this, and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics will be prescribed as needed by your dentist.
Your dentist is able to examine your teeth and gums for signs of a wisdom tooth eruption, and to assess the amount of space available. The Burnaby Dentists at North Burnaby Dental Group will also use a panorex x-ray that shows the position of developing or impacted wisdom teeth in the jaws and can discuss whether your wisdom teeth are causing problems now or are likely to cause problems in the future. In the end though, the decision as to whether or not to part with your wisdom teeth is up to you. Your dentist at North Burnaby Dental Group is more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and is able to offer input as to which course of action will be best for you.