Between their late teens and early adolescent years, most people experience the eruption of their wisdom teeth. While most of them erupt eventlessly, many of these teeth create some concerns which could affect the gums or even the tooth ahead of this teeth. This calls for a wisdom tooth extraction. These vestigial molars are the third set inherited by adults.
Wisdom teeth usually appear at each of the four quadrants of the mouth. Some people only grow one or two, while others have more than the common four. When too many wisdom teeth appear, it can be a cause for concern due to an already crowded situation.
Wisdom teeth no longer have a use in modern homo-sapiens. Our ancestors were thought to use these teeth to grind plant matter, back when humans had wider mouths. Over time, evolutionary changes caused jaws to decrease in size. However, these extra teeth still appear, causing space problems and crowding.
Throughout this article, we’ll look more closely at what causes the need for wisdom tooth extraction, whether age plays a role, and what the extraction process looks like. Here’s what you should know about wisdom teeth.
Does Age Matter?
While not everybody receives wisdom teeth at the same age, age does play a role in the safety of extraction. After the age of 35, it becomes increasingly difficult to safely extract wisdom teeth without complication. The teeth become more lodged into bone, and healing takes longer. Therefore, some dentists won’t recommend extraction after 35, unless it’s necessary.
When wisdom teeth grow in on time, speak to your dentist or an oral surgeon or an orthodontist about whether they need to be removed. Inquire about potential problems that could occur later in life should you choose to keep them. Being over 35 doesn’t mean you can’t have your wisdom teeth extracted, simply that more care must be taken in determining the course of action to do so.
Why Wisdom Tooth Extraction Is Necessary
Some people grow wisdom teeth and keep them their entire lives without a problem. If your mouth has enough room and the teeth grow in straight and even, your dentist may suggest leaving them be. In cases where wisdom teeth grow in crooked, under other teeth, or without enough room to grow, then extraction is necessary.
Wisdom teeth don’t only affect the space in your mouth; they also affect the teeth around them. A perfectly even smile can become crooked if teeth are forced together due to crowding. This could cause a need for braces or other future extractions in the future. While pulling wisdom teeth can be costly, depending on your insurance coverage, it’s well worth it for the good it will do your health and future dental procedures.
Sometimes wisdom teeth can break through the surface of the gums only partially. This leaves an opening in the gums where food and bacteria get caught and cause infection. If wisdom teeth become stuck trying to break through, they are impacted, which causes severe pressure and mouth pain. The main reasons for extraction are:
- Oral crowding
- Pericoronitis — a soft tissue infection
- Impacted teeth
- Displacement of permanent teeth
- Oral pain
Sometimes wisdom teeth grow in sideways, causing additional pain and bite complications. There are many reasons wisdom teeth require extraction — your dentist will let you know if you’re a candidate for the procedure and why.
Are There Ways To Reduce The Need For Extraction?
While it hasn’t been proven without a doubt, there is mounting evidence to support that dietary changes could decrease the need for future extraction. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology found that eating less soft foods and trying hard and crunchy foods could strengthen teeth. This lowered the chance of impacted molars and the disruption of jaw tissue in subjects.
So, while feeding your children crunchy carrot sticks, apples, and celery sticks might benefit them more than pudding and oatmeal in terms of oral health, it isn’t a guarantee that extraction won’t be necessary. Some dentists do recommend adding more crunchy foods to children’s diets, however.
The Wisdom Tooth Extraction Procedure
Before a wisdom tooth extraction, patients often feel nervous. This is normal, and while wisdom teeth require more invasive dental work than smaller extractions, your dentist will use different methods to reduce pain and make you comfortable. For most patients, general anesthesia is used. This causes you to lose consciousness for the procedure, falling asleep with your wisdom teeth intact and waking to find them successfully removed.
Extracting the tooth, or teeth, requires the use of forceps. For impacted teeth, some cutting of the gum or bone is required, as the tooth has become lodged and stuck. Sometimes the tooth is removed in pieces. Whichever method your dentist uses, you can rest assured that wisdom tooth extraction is extremely safe.
In order to finish your wisdom tooth extraction process, your dentist or orthodontist will stitch up any remaining wounds in the gums which are too deep to heal naturally. A gauze pad is placed over the site, and eventually, your gums will form a clot to stop bleeding on its own.