About Wisdom Teeth
By the age of 18, most adults will have 32 total teeth. However, nearly 90% of adults will only have the approximate jaw size to hold 28. Those extra four teeth are typically the third molars, or “wisdom teeth.” Some people are born without these “extra” teeth – in fact, they are the most common teeth to be born without – but for the rest of us, the extra teeth in the jaw causes problems. When the wisdom teeth come in (years after the rest of our permanent teeth), there is often little to no space for them to erupt. This forces them into strange positions, or to grow into spaces they were not meant to – a condition called “impacted”. This can damage the wisdom teeth and the surrounding teeth and tissues, including the possibility of cysts, abscesses, tumors and other maladies.
When Should Wisdom Teeth Come Out?
The “common wisdom” of years past indicated that wisdom teeth should only be taken out after they erupted or caused problems. We now know, however, that in many cases, wisdom teeth can already cause major problems before erupting. A recent study by the AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) shows that normally erupted, well positioned wisdom teeth can be just as prone to infection as impacted wisdom teeth, furthering the case for the early extraction of wisdom teeth.
Waiting to remove a wisdom tooth only gives the tooth time to grow larger and become more difficult to extract. Also, older patients often suffer more complications and longer recovery times than their younger counterparts when undergoing wisdom tooth extractions.
Before Your Procedure
Wisdom tooth extractions typically begin with an examination so we can best determine the best method of extraction. This exam usually involves a comprehensive “panorex” x-ray, taken either by our office or by your general dentist, if they have the necessary equipment. Once we have examined your mouth and x-rays, we can make a diagnosis and recommendation regarding your wisdom teeth. Wisdom tooth extractions are the most common procedures for oral surgeons, meaning our experience and expertise are best suited for this particular situation.
We will give you appropriate pre-operative instructions so that your procedure proceeds as smoothly as possible. Before the procedure, an appropriate anesthesia will be administered to maximize comfort during the procedure.
After Your Procedure
After the wisdom tooth is removed:
- The gum will be sutured and gauze placed on the extraction site in order to minimize bleeding.
- You will be given post-operative instructions and any needed materials to help with healing and recovery.
- In most cases, we will recommend a special diet for several days after the surgery. Soft foods, cool liquids, and no straws, rinsing, smoking or sucking of any kind will help keep you nourished and also minimize the chance of damaging or removing the blood clot forming in the extraction site.
- You should expect some light bruising, swelling and bleeding. If you have a concern, don’t hesitate to call our office.
- After the first 24 hours following the procedure, we typically recommend using a salt-water rinse to help accelerate healing. Simply mix a tablespoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water, and gently rinse the solution for 30 seconds, two to three times a day for about a week.
- Be careful not to damage the extraction site while brushing and flossing. Further details can be found in our post-operative materials.
- We will schedule a follow-up appointment, usually around a week after the day of your wisdom tooth extraction, so that we can ensure the extraction site is healing properly, and to make sure you have no questions or problems we can address.
The word “surgery” often brings to mind a stay in the hospital, general anesthesia, and perhaps a lengthy recovery period. However, the experience of having oral surgery is usually very different from that. Oral surgery is often performed in a dental office setting, under local anesthesia, with minimal recovery time. Oral Surgery can range from routine procedures such as tooth extractions and implant placement to more complex jaw realignment surgeries and emergency care for facial trauma.
Oral Surgery Procedures
Oral surgery procedures may be performed to relieve pain, treat an infection or trauma, restore function or improve a person’s appearance. Procedures and conditions treated include:
- Tooth Extractions. There are a variety of reasons why you may need a tooth or teeth removed. You may have a wisdom tooth that is impacted; a diseased tooth that can’t be saved; or overcrowded teeth that need to be removed so more room can be created to facilitate proper alignment during orthodontics.
- Dental Implants. Today’s preferred method of tooth replacement is a titanium dental implant, which is placed beneath the gum line and into the jawbone during a minor surgical procedure. The implant is then attached to a realistic-looking dental crown that is visible above the gum line and indistinguishable from a natural tooth.
- Oral Diagnosis & Biopsies. When a suspicious oral lesion is found, a biopsy is often used to detect or rule out oral cancer — a disease that is treatable if caught early. A biopsy involves removing a very small tissue sample for laboratory analysis.
- Corrective Jaw Surgery. Sometimes a person’s jaws don’t fit together properly. This can affect both jaw function and appearance.
- Snoring & Sleep Apnea. Excess tissue in the back of the throat may need to be removed in certain individuals with sleep apnea.
- TMD. When conservative remedies fail to relieve chronic jaw pain over a long period of time, surgery may be considered.
- Facial Trauma & Reconstructive Surgery. Facial injuries can affect not only a person’s ability to carry on basic life functions such as eating, but also his or her appearance. Knocked-out teeth can sometimes be re-implanted, or replaced with dental implants.
- Cleft Lip/Palate. These birth defects are among the most common, estimated to affect around one in 700-800 babies born in North America. With proper surgical treatment, the child has an excellent chance of leading a healthy, normal life.
What to Expect
Before your oral surgery is performed, x-rays will often be taken to aid in diagnosis and treatment planning. A step-by-step explanation of the procedure along with your anesthesia options will be discussed, and you should feel free to ask any questions you have. Your recovery experience will depend on what procedure you are having as well as your general state of health. It’s always important to let your healthcare providers know what medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), any chronic health conditions you have, and whether you smoke. This will help ensure your safety and comfort — always the paramount concerns.