Wisdom Teeth Extraction
A Brief History of Wisdom Teeth
Thousands of years ago, the third molars played a very important role in the human mouth. Back before the invention of cooking, the human diet consisted of very coarse foods. The third molars were crucial for breaking down these foods so that they could be properly digested. At the same time, the human jaw was much larger. Because of this, the jaw could easily accommodate all 32 adult teeth.
Following the invention of cooking, foods became softer and much easier to chew. Humans did not need to work as hard to chew their food, rendering the wisdom teeth unnecessary. Over time, the jaw began to shrink to the size it is today. While the wisdom teeth are no longer important, they still develop. Much like the appendix, the wisdom teeth are often referred to as vestigial.
How Your Wisdom Teeth Grow
The eruption of the wisdom teeth occurs gradually. It begins around the ages of 8 and 10. At this age, shadows of the wisdom teeth are visible on dental X-rays. The crowns of your wisdom teeth begin to develop around the age of 12, and the roots form around the age of 17. The teeth then begin to erupt through the gums in your late teens to early 20s.
What Causes the Wisdom Teeth to Become Impacted?
Impacted teeth are those that cannot erupt properly through the gums. They might only be able to erupt partially or they may not be able to erupt at all. This issue can affect any tooth in your mouth. It is most common, however, with the wisdom teeth. Your wisdom teeth can become impacted for several reasons.
Issues Caused by Impacted Wisdom Teeth
There are several different issues that can occur as a result of impacted wisdom teeth. These issues include:
How Do I Know if My Wisdom Teeth are Impacted?
There are several symptoms that can indicate issues with your wisdom teeth. Common symptoms include:
When Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
In many cases, a dental exam is performed around the age of 15 or 16. This exam is necessary to determine the direction of the wisdom teeth. If the wisdom teeth are predicted to become impacted, an extraction may be recommended at this age. Because the roots of the wisdom teeth have not fully formed, the process is simplified.
Typically, the best age to extract the wisdom teeth is between the ages of 16 and 20. At this age, the roots are only partially formed. The bone surrounding the wisdom teeth is soft. Because of this, healing after wisdom tooth removal is generally much easier. As you get older, the roots of the wisdom teeth become longer, and the bone surrounding them becomes harder. This makes the extraction process more complex.
Diagnosing Impacted Wisdom Teeth
An exam at the age of 15 or 16 can help to determine the trajectory of the wisdom teeth and their likelihood of becoming impacted. Even if you are not exhibiting symptoms of impaction, you may still be recommended for an extraction.
In some cases, however, the potential for impacted wisdom teeth may be missed. Over time, as your wisdom teeth attempt to erupt, you may begin to exhibit symptoms. These symptoms might be mild at first and might seem like no big deal. Symptoms tend to worsen the longer the issue goes unaddressed. At the first sign of impacted wisdom teeth, it is important that you schedule an appointment right away.
During your dental exam, we visually inspect your mouth, checking your jaw and gums for signs of swelling. We check for partially erupted teeth. In addition to your visual exam, we also take dental X-rays. These images allow us to see the areas below your gum line. We can see where your wisdom teeth are and how they are growing. We can spot cysts and any damage to your adjacent teeth. Once we have diagnosed impacted wisdom teeth, we can then formulate a treatment plan to extract them.
How are the Wisdom Teeth Removed?
When the wisdom teeth are impacted, surgical tooth extraction is needed. This process is not painful. We provide you with a local anesthetic, which helps to ensure that you do not feel any pain during your procedure. Many patients can undergo a wisdom tooth extraction with just a local anesthetic. You are still completely conscious of your procedure, but you will not feel any pain. Instead, you will only feel pressure.
If you are feeling anxious or fearful about your wisdom tooth extraction, we can provide you with sedation. Sedation options vary. During your initial consultation, we will go over your options to help determine the best one to meet your specific needs. Mild sedation options allow you to remain completely conscious during your procedure, but you are made to feel completely relaxed and comfortable. Moderate sedation keeps you conscious, but sleepy. In cases of extreme anxiety, fear, or complexity, general anesthesia may be recommended. With this type of sedation, you sleep throughout the entire procedure. With sedation, you can remain calm, relaxed, and still. This allows us to perform your tooth extraction in a safe, effective manner
A wisdom tooth extraction begins with small incisions in your gums near the impacted teeth. This provides us with access to the teeth and the surrounding jawbone. Next, we work to extract the tooth. This might include removing bone or soft tissue blocking the teeth. We may even need to section the teeth, a process in which the tooth is broken and removed in pieces.
Once the wisdom teeth have been completely removed, the sockets are cleaned. Finally, the surgical wounds are sutured closed. Before you leave the office, you will be provided with aftercare instructions, which will help you to heal properly during your recovery period. Following a wisdom tooth extraction, you do not need to have the removed teeth replaced.
When the wisdom teeth are impacted, removing them is the best solution for alleviating your pain and restoring your oral health. For more information, and to schedule your consultation, call Rai Oral Surgery today at (757) 777-9883.