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Wisdom Teeth

Author: Ajaideep (AJ) Bassi


What are wisdom teeth & why do we have them?

Wisdom teeth are the third and last set of molars to erupt in the back of your mouth. They typically come in between the ages of 17 to 25 years old.1,2,3 Although there are some people that never even develop wisdom teeth, nearly 85% of people who have them eventually need to have them removed due to issues involving the arrangement of their teeth or oral health.5


Wisdom teeth were evolutionarily valuable to our ancestors, due to the nature of their diet. The food they consumed was generally coarser and tougher than the food we consume today, so they needed a larger jaw with more teeth in order to chew their meals effectively. Through generations, humans have evolved and our diet means that we no longer need the help of a large jaw with many teeth. The result; not having enough room for the extra set of third molars.1


When & why might they need to be removed?

Since our jaws are often not large enough to support wisdom teeth nowadays, when these teeth begin to grow they can become blocked by existing teeth. This is known as impaction and it can cause the wisdom teeth to grow horizontally, outward, or at an angle, which can be problematic. For instance, if they were to grow horizontally, they would begin to push and misalign the existing teeth as well as cause severe pain in the jaw and even lead to infection.1


Another issue is when wisdom teeth only partially erupt into the mouth, this makes it difficult to clean the area effectively. Therefore, food and debris become trapped in the gum tissue that surrounds the area of partial eruption and over time this can cause inflammation of the gums and lead to tooth decay.3


The best way to know if it is time to get your wisdom teeth removed is to first assess if you have any symptoms that are caused by improper growth patterns of your wisdom teeth. If you notice any of the following symptoms for a prolonged period of time, contact your dentist.4

  • Jaw pain and stiffness

  • Limited mouth opening

  • Pain at the tooth site

  • Prolonged jaw ache or headache

  • Unpleasant taste in the area

  • Bad breath

Wisdom teeth extraction

So you have visited your dentist and they told you that you will need to have your wisdom teeth removed, what now? At the appointment for the extraction, you will be given local anesthetic to numb up your wisdom tooth and surrounding areas including your gums. . You may also receive a sedative so you can rest at ease while the operation is being done. During this process, the dentist will gradually loosen the teeth with the aid of a tool known as an elevator, and then pull it out with dental forceps. After the completion of removing the wisdom teeth, the area is then cleaned and gauze is placed at the site of the extraction to stop any further bleeding and promote blood clot formation.2,3,4


Swelling and soreness are natural and can last for a few days, sometimes weeks following the surgery. Luckily, this can be managed with over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Your dentist will give instructions for recommended post-extraction care, but generally, brushing and rinsing your teeth should be avoided for the first 24 hours after the operation as they may cause the wounds to reopen and become infected. During this period it is beneficial to gently perform warm salt water rinses every two hours and up to a week afterwards, as salt helps reduce the bacterial growth and speed up the healing process.2,3



References

[1] Olympus, C. (n.d.). GiO Dental Care Yogyakarta. Retrieved from https://giodentalcare.com/article/wisdom-teeth

[2] Wisdom Teeth. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth

[3] Wisdom Teeth: Picture, Problems, Removal. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/wisdom-teeth

[4] Wisdom tooth extraction. (2018, January 31). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/wisdom-tooth-extraction/about/pac-20395268#:~:text=

[5] Crest. (2021, March 23). Wisdom Teeth Removal, Extraction & Surgery. Retrieved from https://crest.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/wisdom-teeth/wisdom-teeth-removal-extraction-surgery