Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that appear rather late in life, anywhere from the age of 16 onwards. Also, they may not appear at all, in some cases. These are called 'wisdom' teeth because of the fact that, they appear quite late compared to the other teeth at an age, when one is supposed to be 'older and wiser'.
Wisdom teeth are 4 in number, two in your upper jaw, and two in your lower jaw. They are the last teeth in the dental arches. Having less than four (or no wisdom teeth at all) is considered normal. Although rare, a person may have more than four wisdom teeth. Many people have impacted wisdom teeth. Being trapped in the jawbone or gums, they may not erupt through the gums. They can cause severe pain. X-rays help detect such teeth.
Reasons for Wisdom Teeth Extraction
➺ If you have a small jaw that cannot accommodate an extra set of wisdom teeth, then your dentist may advise you to get them removed. Impacted wisdom teeth often need extraction.
➺ Wisdom teeth erupt rather slowly as compared to other teeth. This may cause a flap of gum tissue to grow over them. Food particles may get stuck in this flap and cause an infection. In this case too, wisdom tooth removal can be suggested.
➺ A wisdom tooth erupting at a weird angle may put pressure on the surrounding teeth. Removal of the wisdom tooth will help eliminate the pain and discomfort.
➺ If the wisdom teeth at the back of your jaw are so situated that you are not able to clean them with your toothbrush or dental floss, then you are likely to suffer from pain due to cavities and / or gum disease. It is better to get rid of such teeth. Microbial infection in these teeth can lead to swelling in gums, fever, intense pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Process of Wisdom Teeth Extraction
More often than not, the wisdom teeth extraction process is a surgical procedure. The dentist will take an x-ray beforehand to know which teeth need to be removed. If you have any infections, you will be given antibiotics, and the surgery will usually be postponed. It will be performed after clearing the infection.
➺ You will be given a local anesthetic, which will make the area numb. If the doctor has planned to remove all your wisdom teeth at the same time, you may also be given a general anesthetic, and may even need to spend a day at a hospital.
➺ During the procedure, the gum tissue and the bone that cover the problematic tooth are removed. This promotes easy removal of the tooth from the socket.
➺ Sometimes, a dentist has to break the wisdom tooth into smaller pieces before extraction.
➺ Usually, stitches will be needed to fix the gum tissue back into place. These stitches can either be the ones that dissolve over a period of time, or may be removed by the dentist after a few days. The dentist will inform you which type of stitches have been used.
➺ The dentist will put a cotton gauze pad over the surgical site. This helps stop the bleeding.
Wisdom Tooth Extraction: Aftercare
➺ Take care not to bite the inside of your cheek, lip, or tongue, when the area is numb.
➺ Bite on to the cotton gauze pad, and change the pad once it becomes soaked with blood. Bleeding is a normal process after a tooth extraction, but if it continues, call your dentist immediately.
➺ Put an ice-pack on your cheek. This helps reduce the swelling, and provides a lot of relief from the pain.
➺ Don't lie flat on the bed, as this may cause more bleeding. Don't exert yourself after a dental surgery, as this may also cause bleeding.
➺ For the first 24 hours after the surgery, avoid smoking and drinking liquids with straws as this may loosen the blood clot formed over the extracted tooth. Consume soft food or liquid.
➺ Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day. This can help reduce swelling and pain. A mild narcotic prescribed by the doctor can also provide pain relief. If needed, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
➺ For a couple of days after the surgery, eat soft foods such as pudding, milkshake, smoothies, or soup. Slowly start eating solid food as you progress with your healing.
➺ Don't touch or rub the area with your finger or tongue.
➺ Do brush your teeth and tongue - but gently and carefully, avoiding the tooth extraction site.
To avoid complications like dry socket (blood clot is dislodged from the extraction site, and the bone and sensitive nerve endings are left exposed), one should follow the instructions of the dentist religiously. Complete healing of the gums may take about 3-4 weeks. Besides being painful, a dry socket may delay the healing process.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.