The four third molars at the back of the mouth, situated at the end of the dental arch, are known as the wisdom teeth. Most people develop wisdom teeth, but they are often underdeveloped and may remain hidden under the gum tissue.
It is not necessary to remove wisdom teeth if they have erupted properly and can be brushed and flossed regularly, maintaining good oral hygiene. However, as wisdom teeth occasionally erupt only partially, leaving sections hidden under the gingival tissue, bacteria may become trapped, leading to infection and inflammation. This inflammation is known as pericoronitis and is one of the most common reasons for wisdom tooth extraction.
A pericoronitis infection results in red and swollen gums and pain in the back teeth when biting and chewing as well as a bad smell in the mouth. In some cases, pus may ooze from the area.
Another occurrence requiring removal is when wisdom teeth emerge at an angle, making it difficult to clean adjacent molars and leading to development of deep periodontal pockets around the neighboring teeth.
Extraction is recommended for wisdom teeth if they cause dental problems and any time it is not possible to clean them properly.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure and is more complex than a typical tooth extraction due to the location and size of the teeth. The process is particularly complicated if the tooth has not fully erupted. In some cases, an oral surgeon is recommended to perform this procedure as he or she will be specialized in the area.
The oral surgeon will need to know the patient’s complete medical history and information on any chronic diseases to avoid any potential complications.
Local anesthesia is necessary for wisdom tooth extraction, but general anesthesia may be preferred, particularly if multiple extractions are being performed. In order to remove the tooth, the dentist or oral surgeon will open the gum tissue covering the tooth and remove any bone covering the tooth. After separating the tissue connecting the bone to the tooth, the dentist or oral surgeon will extract the tooth. Stitches may be required, and a piece of cotton gauze will be placed over the extraction site to stop any bleeding.
Post-surgery care following a wisdom tooth extraction is important. The following steps are recommended:
- Change the gauze when it becomes saturated with blood. Bleeding usually ceases within 24 hours; if it does not, call the dentist.
- Do not lie flat as this may prolong bleeding.
- Apply ice packs to your cheeks for a few minutes at a time.
- Rest is recommended for at least a day, preferably two. Strenuous physical activity should be avoided.
- Eat soft food.
- Take prescribed medication.
If you are having difficulty with your wisdom teeth or would like them to be examined, contact us to schedule an appointment with an experienced oral surgeon.