Wisdom teeth are one of the human body’s least wise attributes. They’re a throw-back to the Stone Age when humans needed the extra teeth to masticate raw meat and chew course foods. These teeth are no longer necessary and sometimes they don’t even fit into our mouths properly. Some evolutionary biologists believe we are gradually losing these extra teeth and, as evidence of this, point to the fact that wisdom teeth only appear in about sixty-five percent of Canadians.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars at the very back of our mouths. In most cases, there are four of these ‘extra teeth’ (one on each corner of the jaw), but not everyone has them. The extra teeth appear in adults between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five but your dentist can spot them in an X-Ray before then.
Tackling Wisdom Tooth Pain
Pain in the back of your jaw behind the molars can be one of the first signs that you have wisdom teeth ‘erupting’ in your mouth. Young people suffering from this ‘rite-of-passage’ may experience other symptoms including swelling and tenderness upon biting. Occasionally, the torsion will cause suffers to experience painful headaches or ear aches.
Other times, an impacted tooth can be painless. You may not even realize it’s there. However, when an impacted wisdom tooth tries to come in, the flap of gum on top of it can become infected and swollen. In addition to pain in the affected gum area, you might even feel pain in nearby teeth, or in your ear on that side of your face.
Impacted teeth can cause real problems in your mouth
An impacted tooth can lead to an infection called pericoronitis. If untreated, this infection can spread to the throat or into the neck. In the very worst cases, oral infections even spread to the rest of the body via the bloodstream. Such severe infections require a hospital stay and surgery.
Impacted teeth can also get cavities both above and below the gum line. A truly terrible situation arises when an impacted tooth pushes onto the neighboring molar. This can lead to tooth movement, decay, or gum disease. It also can change the way a person’s teeth come together, which can affect how they eat and how they speak. Occasionally, impacted teeth can cause cysts or other growths in the jaw.
When should wisdom teeth be removed?
Dentists will advise patients to have their wisdom teeth surgically removed if:
- They’re impacted, meaning the molars are blocked as they push through the gums into subject’s mouth,
- The wisdom teeth have erupted or will erupt at the wrong angle,
- The subject’s mouth is too small and there’s no room for any more teeth,
- The subject already has cavities in the back of the mouth and is unable to brush or floss their wisdom teeth properly due to their location.
Most people’s mouths only have room for 28 teeth, which means there’s little to no room for those extra 4 teeth to grow in. Some people will feel the uncomfortable pressure and throbbing of their wisdom teeth even before they start erupting into the mouths.
Below, and to the right, is an Archer Dental patient with a perfect smile. All of his teeth are clean and straight and his mouth is big enough to comfortably accommodate all four wisdom teeth. This is what a full mouth looks like.
Archer Dental is fully equipped to do any major dental procedures on location, including wisdom teeth. We even have laughing gas!
Explaining Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Wisdom teeth extraction is done by oral surgeons at all three Archer Dental locations. The surgery should take forty minutes, but the length of the operation depends on what type of surgery is required.
If the teeth have already erupted through the gums, they can be removed fairly easily (as in a standard tooth removal). If the teeth are impacted, an incision needs to be made through the surface of the gum above the tooth. The bone covering the tooth needs to be removed and then the tooth itself is extracted. Occasionally, dentists will cut the tooth into multiple pieces to avoid inadvertently damaging bone, nerves, or other delicate tissues. Once the teeth have been extracted, your dentist will stitch the gums back up using dissolvable stitches.