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Wisdom Tooth Removal
Wisdom teeth are the molars in the far back of your mouth and usually emerge in late teens or early twenties. In the past, they were useful for our more basic diet of meat and hard foods, but now they serve little purpose. Wisdom tooth removal may seem daunting but it is a common procedure.
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last permanent teeth to appear (erupt) in the mouth. These teeth usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth. For others, wisdom teeth erupt normally — just as their other molars did — and cause no problems.
Many people develop impacted wisdom teeth — teeth that don't have enough room to erupt into the mouth or develop normally. Impacted wisdom teeth may erupt only partially or not at all.
An impacted wisdom tooth may:
- Grow at an angle toward the next tooth (second molar)
- Grow at an angle toward the back of the mouth
- Grow at a right angle to the other teeth, as if the wisdom tooth is "lying down" within the jawbone
- Grow straight up or down like other teeth but stay trapped within the jawbone
Problems with impacted wisdom teeth
You'll likely need your impacted wisdom tooth pulled if it results in problems such as:
- Trapping food and debris behind the wisdom tooth
- Infection or gum disease (periodontal disease)
- Tooth decay in a partially erupted wisdom tooth
- Damage to a nearby tooth or surrounding bone
- Development of a fluid-filled sac (cyst) around the wisdom tooth
- Complications with orthodontic treatments to straighten other teeth
Preventing future dental problems
Dental specialists disagree about the value of extracting impacted wisdom teeth that aren't causing problems (asymptomatic).
It's difficult to predict future problems with impacted wisdom teeth. However, here's the rationale for preventive extraction:
- Symptom-free wisdom teeth could still harbor disease.
- If there isn't enough space for the tooth to erupt, it's often hard to get to it and clean it properly.
- Serious complications with wisdom teeth happen less often in younger adults.
- Older adults may experience difficulty with surgery and complications after surgery.
Wisdom Teeth Removal
Before any tooth removal, your dentist will take x-rays. This may have been done at a previous appointment to determine the need the removal, but more may be required on the day.
The tooth and surrounding tissue is numbed using local anaesthetic injected into the gums. Some patients that are particularly anxious about the procedure may also receive some form of sedation.
Once the local anaesthetic has taken full effect, your dentist will use specialist tools to loosen the connective tissue surrounding the tooth. Another set of dental tools are then used to actually remove the tooth. You may feel a lot of pressure at this point, but the anaesthetic will ensure you feel no pain.
To prevent potential future problems, some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if impacted teeth aren't currently causing problems.