Wisdom Teeth Removal
Have you ever worn a pair of shoes that were too snug? Perhaps you can tolerate them for a bit, but after a while your feet swell and just plain hurt. This is the general idea as to why wisdom teeth can be problematic.
Your mouth is made to accommodate 28 teeth; so when those extra third molars (wisdom teeth) arrive, bacteria can get into the area around them to cause infection that leads to swelling, sometimes an unpleasant odor and pain that may affect the jawbones or neck.
Wisdom teeth usually erupt in one’s late teens or mid twenties; this is considered the age of wisdom. They generally appear as the last teeth behind the upper and lower second molars. Wisdom teeth are more problematic than anything else.
As with any dental procedure, Dr. Cherry will want to initially conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom and surrounding teeth. Panoramic or digital X-rays will be taken in order for Dr. Cherry to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine whether a current problem exists, as well as the likelihood of any potential future problems. The X-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended, in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring extraction of wisdom teeth. Only after a thorough examination will Dr. Cherry be able to provide you with the best options for your particular case.
REASONS TO REMOVE WISDOM TEETH
While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth are often extracted because of an active problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection – or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:
- Damage to nearby teeth. Second molars (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and possible bone loss.
- Disease. Although uncommon, cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
- Infection. Bacteria and food can become trapped under the gum tissue, resulting in an infection. The infection can cause considerable pain and danger.
- Tooth crowding. It has been theorized that impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted).
]Before removing a wisdom tooth, Dr. Cherry gives you a local anesthetic to numb the area where the tooth will be removed. A general anesthetic may be used, especially if several or all of your wisdom teeth are being removed at the same time. A general anesthetic prevents pain in the whole body and will cause you to sleep through the procedure. Dr. Cherry recommends that you don’t eat or drink after midnight on the night before surgery, so you are prepared for the anesthetic.
To remove a wisdom tooth, Dr. Cherry opens up the gum tissue over the tooth and takes out any bone that is covering the tooth. He separates the tissue connecting the tooth to the bone, and then removes the tooth. Sometimes Dr. Cherry cuts the tooth into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove.
After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches. Some stitches dissolve over time, and some have to be removed after a few days. Dr. Cherry will tell you whether your stitches will need to be removed. A folded cotton gauze pad placed over the wound helps stop the bleeding.
In most cases, the recovery period lasts only a few days. Take painkillers as prescribed by Dr. Cherry.
The following tips will help speed your recovery:
- Bite gently on the gauze pad periodically, and change pads as they become soaked with blood. Call your dentist or oral surgeon if you still have bleeding 24 hours after your surgery.
- Be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek, or your lip or tongue, while your mouth is numb.
- Prop up your head with pillows. Do not lie flat, as it may prolong bleeding.
- Try using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek during the first 24 hours. You can use moist heat, such as a washcloth soaked in warm water and wrung out, during the following two or three days.
- Relax after surgery. Physical activity may increase bleeding.
- Eat soft foods, such as gelatin, pudding or thin soup. Gradually add solid foods to your diet as healing progresses.
- Drink fluids without using a straw for the first few days. Sucking on a straw can loosen the blood clot and delay healing.
- Rinse your mouth gently with warm salt water several times a day after the first day. This will reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Refrain from smoking for at least 24 hours after your surgery. The sucking motion can loosen the clot and delay healing. In addition, smoking decreases the blood supply and can bring germs and contaminants to the surgery area.
- Avoid rubbing the area with your tongue or touching it with your fingers.
- Continue to brush your teeth and tongue carefully.
At a postoperative appointment, Dr. Cherry will remove the stitches, if needed.
Risks & Side Effects
After a wisdom tooth is removed, you may experience:
- Pain and swelling in your gums and tooth socket where the tooth was removed
- Bleeding that won’t stop for about 24 hours
- Difficulty with, or pain from opening your jaw (trismus)
- Slow-healing gums
- Damage to existing dental work, such as crowns or bridges, or to roots of a nearby tooth
- A painful inflammation called dry socket, which happens if the protective blood clot is lost too soon
- Numbness in your mouth and lips after the local anesthetic wears off, due to injury or inflammation of nerves in the jaw
Rare side effects, include:
- Numbness in the mouth or lips that does not go away
- A fractured jaw, if the tooth was firmly attached to the jawbone
- An opening into the sinus cavity when a wisdom tooth is removed from the upper jaw
Dental surgery may cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. People who have difficulty fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics before and after dental surgery. Such people include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects.