Wisdom Teeth Removal
Wisdom teeth come in between the ages of 17 and 25, but everyone is different. Your mouth continues to grow as you age, and the "wisdom teeth" are a sign of reaching a mature age. A lot of patients consider wisdom teeth a major milestone in their lives.
Others, on the other hand, will find that their wisdom teeth hurt and are uncomfortable.
Many patients schedule appointments for their wisdom tooth removal because they've been told that they have to remove their wisdom teeth if they grow in. However, wisdom teeth removal is not a necessity for everyone.
What do we recommend? Educating yourself on the facts and talking to a professional, such as our dentist, about what you can expect from wisdom teeth extraction is important.
Common Wisdom Teeth Myths
You'll Definitely Grow Wisdom Teeth
You've likely been told: don't worry, you'll get wisdom teeth. But you might not. Many people have wisdom teeth that never erupt through the gums.
Around 35% of the entire population will never grow wisdom teeth. These aren't just non-eruptions, but actual people not born with these teeth.
If you're curious whether you have wisdom teeth, we can X-ray your mouth to see if they're hiding under your gums.
Anyone worried about their wisdom teeth should know that not all wisdom teeth are problematic. The only time that you need to have your wisdom teeth extracted is when they hurt periodically or you have a dental emergency. For many people, their wisdom teeth never cause pain.
Everyone Knows When They Have Wisdom Teeth
You may or may not know that you have wisdom teeth. Sometimes, your soft tissue and jawbone cover your third molar so that you can't see them. When this is the case, you can schedule an appointment with us, and we'll take x-rays to see if your wisdom teeth are hiding away.
The x-rays will also uncover any issues with third molar growth.
All Wisdom Teeth Need Removal
Wisdom teeth cause some patients a lot of pain, and the pain only subsides when the tooth is removed. However, other patients don't experience any pain from their wisdom teeth. In fact, just because you have wisdom teeth doesn't mean that you'll experience the following:
- Impactions – Mesial vs Distal vs Vertical
Your treatment needs are unique, and your wisdom teeth may fit fine in your mouth. Braces or orthodontic treatment may or may not be required. If you're not experiencing wisdom tooth pain, chances are, the teeth grew in correctly and in proper alignment.
If alignment is proper and there's no pain, there's no need for removal.
Multiple studies on wisdom teeth exist, with a new study stating that removal may improve taste function. Annually, over 10 million third molar removals are performed, with an average of two removals from each patient per year.
How many of these removals are truly necessary? The study states that only 40% of these removals are a necessity.
We always examine the molar and its alignment before we remove a tooth. If the tooth isn't painful, fits well in the mouth and isn't shifting, we recommend keeping it. The times when we recommend a wisdom tooth removal is if the following occurs due to:
- Jaw damage
- Interfering with our cosmetic services
- Gum inflammation
- Sinus issues
- Damage to other teeth
What Attributes to an Increase in Removal Risk?
A few factors can add to your risk of needing a tooth removal. Dental work and your diet play a significant role in causing teeth to drift and shift. Diets that include "tough" foods are common culprits because they're rough on your teeth.
Due to the high standards of today's dental care, the impact of your diet on wisdom teeth is less of an issue.
Braces and retainers can help realign teeth. The realignment may create a beautiful smile, but the straightening can also lead to less room in the mouth for your wisdom teeth to grow. The lack of space can cause the wisdom teeth to erupt in an improper position.
If, for example, the wisdom tooth is trapped under your jaw or gums and there's no room for eruption, this can cause the tooth to be impacted and require surgery.
When patients come in for routine exams, we'll monitor their third molars for telltale signs that they may cause dental issues in the future, including the following signs:
- Difficulty flossing, which is an indicator that the third molar isn't properly positioned
- Food being trapped in between the wisdom teeth due to the improper positioning of the third molar
- Crowding risks, which occur when there's not enough room for the third molar
- Partial eruption, which can lead to gum infections
- Cysts on or near an impacted wisdom tooth, which can lead to root or bone damage
Routine dental cleanings and exams can allow us time to examine your wisdom teeth and find issues before they occur so they don’t interfere with our other services. We recommend keeping your third molars if we don't suspect any problems and you're not experiencing pain.
Unnecessary removal provides little-to-no benefit for your bite or oral structure. In fact, wisdom teeth do have a purpose, which leads us right to our next myth.
Wisdom Teeth Have NO Purpose
Since many people do have their wisdom teeth removed and they grow in after years of not having them, it's not uncommon for people to think that they don't serve a purpose. But if your molar doesn't hurt, it will make it easier to chew.
There is some evidence that early humans grew wisdom teeth because they had to eat meats, leaves, and rough and coarse roots.
Due to human advancement, we eat much softer foods in a traditional diet today. As a result, we're able to eat without the need for wisdom teeth. Biologists believe that our diet today makes wisdom teeth obsolete, which may be why some people never grow them.
Common Wisdom Tooth Removal Myths
We've covered general myths surrounding wisdom teeth, but what about wisdom teeth removal? A few of the most common removal myths are:
- Removal is dangerous: Tooth extraction is a type of surgery, and as with all surgical procedures, tooth removal poses risks. The good news is that at Lighthouse Dental Centre we perform tooth extractions routinely, and it's one of the safest procedures you'll undergo. Nevertheless, we'll discuss potential risks with you before the procedure so that you know what to expect when your wisdom tooth is removed.
- Impacted teeth don't need removal: Wisdom teeth impaction causes some people significant pain, and others have no pain. An impacted tooth can result in cysts, infection or damage to surrounding teeth even when no pain is present initially. We can examine the tooth to determine whether the impacted tooth is a concern.
- You'll definitely get a dry socket: Dry sockets can occur with any tooth extraction, but there's only a 2% to 5% risk. Chances are, you won't experience a dry socket, and if you do, we'll take care of it quickly.
- Removal is required for orthodontic work: For most orthodontist procedures, you won't need to remove your third molars. The one exception to the rule is if you're experiencing teeth shifting or resorption. In this case, molar removal may be necessary.
- Waiting for extraction is best: When you wait longer to extract wisdom teeth, they're allowed to grow, and the bone hardens. If removed early on, when you're younger, the bone is softer, and the surrounding structures are less likely to experience damage during removal.
- Remaining teeth aren't impacted after a removal: Removing the third molar can be beneficial if there's crowding or other issues. Removal can result in better periodontal health and an improvement in tooth stability. Occasionally if we are placing an implant close to a wisdom tooth we may also remove it prior to prevent implant complications
Dry sockets are painful, and since a lot of our patients are concerned about dry sockets, it's a topic that we want to discuss a little further. Your dry socket risks increase based on:
- Poor oral health
- Difficult tooth extraction
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Drinking with a straw immediately after extraction
- Diabetes or other underlying health problems
- Improper extraction care after removal
If you do experience a dry socket, we'll often ask you into our office to redress the area and help it heal. A general rule of thumb is that pain should subside each day after an extraction. If pain worsens or remains the same, you may have a dry socket.
Wisdom teeth that cause issues should be removed quickly, but when they don't cause problems, they can remain in the mouth without side effects. The state of your current dental structure will determine whether a third molar extraction is an ideal option for you.
Common Myths Surrounding Recovery from Wisdom Tooth Extraction
Almost every area of wisdom teeth, from growth to removal and recovery, are filled with myths. The following myths all involve recovering from extraction, and they include:
- No eating for two days: Many patients are told that they can't eat for two days after the procedure. You can and should eat, but you should change your diet for the first few days. First, swap out hard foods for soft foods to allow the surgical site to heal. Slowly, you can move to semi-hard and then harder foods. Also, try to avoid hot foods or chewy foods that can become lodged in your tooth's socket.
- You can't brush your teeth for a week: No one wants to go around with bad breath and bad dental hygiene. Following the extraction, you'll want to avoid brushing for 24 hours to allow for proper healing. When you do brush, avoid spitting too hard and brushing the extraction site. You must allow the extraction site to heal fully before brushing the area again.
- You can drink and smoke afterward: No, you cannot. The main reason is that smoking and drinking can lead to dry socket. These two practices can cause the healing process to slow and dislodge the blood clot needed for the socket to heal properly. On top of this, smoking can lead to tooth stains, increase the risk of oral cancer and can cause gum and tooth loss. Avoid smoking for at least 72 hours after the procedure and chewing tobacco for a minimum of a week.
- You shouldn't eat ice cream: If you're a fan of ice cream or milkshakes, you'll be happy to know that they're both great options to consume after wisdom tooth extractions. These sweet treats are soft and cold, allowing you to confidently eat them while enjoying the soothing effects, too.
Recovering from wisdom tooth removal requires diligence for the first few days. However, if you follow the facts above, you'll lower your risk of dry socket and complications after extraction. The swelling should subside within a few days, and you can go back to a relatively normal routine.
Setting the Record Straight
Wisdom teeth naturally grow in and are concerning to our patients. Unfortunately, myths surrounding extraction have led to unwarranted anxiety and fear in a lot of people. We recommend consulting with a professionals, such as the dentist or our staff, who can help you learn the facts about wisdom tooth removal.
We can perform a variety of procedures at our office on your wisdom teeth that go beyond an extraction, including:
- Partial removal
- Full removal
- Cyst drainage
- Conscious Sedation
- Root Canals
- Fillings or restorations
- Surgical procedures
There's also a good chance that removing your wisdom teeth isn't the right choice. If your teeth grow in naturally, don't cause pain and are in proper alignment, they can aid your chewing. Sometimes we can also use Wisdom teeth as anchors for bridges or do single crowns if required.
For many people, over 50%, there's no need to remove these third molars because they grow in without any side effects.
We always recommend keeping a wisdom tooth if it doesn't have a negative impact on surrounding teeth. At every cleaning, we'll continue to monitor the tooth for signs that it may have a negative impact on your dental health.
Contact us today to assess your wisdom teeth!