Getting your wisdom teeth removed is never on the top of anyone’s priority list. The question that gets posed quite often is whether it’s necessary to have them removed. This is a difficult question to answer, and it really depends on your individual situation. If your wisdom teeth are healthy, fully erupted, and contributing to your chewing habits then the answer is no, you don’t need to have them removed. Unfortunately, most people’s wisdom teeth don’t erupt properly, which leads to a myriad of oral health concerns that need to be addressed.
When it is necessary to get my wisdom teeth removed?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the very last teeth in the back of the jaw. Most of the time, they need to be removed, but there are some instances where extraction may not be necessary. Some of these examples include:
- The third molars have erupted and are functional inside the mouth
- They are healthy and show no signs of cavities
- Have a purpose in biting with the opposing wisdom tooth
- Are in an area where they can be kept clean and maintained.
In many people, these teeth do not room to grow and erupt properly. Many times they remain hidden underneath bone tissue and gum tissue. These are what are known as impacted wisdom teeth and they can also cause numerous problems inside the oral cavity. This can lead to many problems. Some of these problems are listed below:
- Cyst formation inside the jawbone(s): If these wisdom teeth are not removed when these cysts form, it can lead to bone and nerve damage.
- Tumors inside the jawbone
- Sinus infections: Recent studies have shown that upper wisdom teeth may be involved in certain sinus infections that are seen.
- Tooth decay on both the wisdom teeth and the teeth adjacent to them
- Damage to adjacent teeth especially if they are erupting horizontally
- Can lead to a condition called pericoronitis, which is essentially inflamed tissue that becomes a breeding ground and nidus for bacteria.
- Depending on the angle, wisdom teeth may contribute to crowding of adjacent teeth
If wisdom teeth have not fully erupted, most dentists will recommend that they be removed during your teenage years. This is due to the fact that the roots of the third molars have not fully formed which allows for an easier extraction, and faster recovery time. Removal at a younger age is also recommended because of the faster healing that is seen in younger age groups.
What if my wisdom teeth don’t bother me?
Most people feel that if their wisdom teeth does not bother them, then there is nothing wrong. This could not be further from the truth.
As mentioned earlier, many people notice damage and decay on their adjacent teeth late into adulthood because they do not get their wisdom teeth removed when they are younger. As adults, these third molars are a lot more difficult to remove because they are fully grown, and have to started fusing with our own bone tissue. Waiting to get your wisdom teeth removed can also increase the chances of nerve damage leading to face numbness, and an increased risk of jaw fracture (due to the fact that teeth will require more forces on the jaw bones for removal).
What should I expect during the surgery?
Your surgery should take less than an hour to complete. There are many methods in which you can have your wisdom teeth removed:
- Traditional local anesthesia: Local anesthetic is given to numb the teeth that are to be removed. During the procedure a lot of pressure is felt, but you should not have any pain.
- IV sedation: An IV line is given and mild to moderate medications are given to put you in a twilight state (twilight sedation). After the procedure is completed, you will need someone to drive you home, and you will need to take the rest of the day off to recover.
- General Anesthesia: Similar to IV sedation, an IV line is started, but stronger medications are given to completely put you to sleep. Airway management will become critical during the procedure as these stronger medicines can have an impact on your breathing patterns.
After the procedure is completed, sutures (stitches) are commonly placed. These will normally dissolve on their own within 7-10 days.
Okay, I’m ready to get my wisdom teeth removed. What can I expect afterwards?
After reading above, the explanations should clearly show you why wisdom teeth removal is a must. The first thing you need to do is make sure your dentist or oral surgeon is qualified to remove wisdom teeth should there be any complications after their removal. Some of these complications can include:
- Bleeding – sometimes excessive bleeding will be seen and will need to be managed and cared for by your dentist.
- Numbness – sometimes there can be nerve damage after wisdom teeth removal. Your dentist needs to be qualified to deal with this matter quickly
- Infection – there may be an infection that forms after the procedure. This matter must be dealt with quickly as you do not want the infection to turn into a serious medical condition.
Pain and swelling is a common occurrence after wisdom teeth removal. An ice pack is usually given to help with the swelling for the first 24 hours. Antibiotics and pain medication should also be given after your procedure to minimize any chances of infection. Your doctor should bring you in for a post-operative visit 1-3 weeks after the wisdom teeth are removed to make sure all sites are healing properly.
What are some of the limitations I have after my wisdom teeth are removed?
There will be some physical limitations you will have after your procedure. These are usually recommended for 1 week after your third molars are removed
- If you have been sedated (put to sleep) for the procedure, make sure to take the day off, and sleep with your head in an elevated position for 24 hours.
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Do not use a straw for 1 week after the procedure.
- Do not smoke under any circumstances for 1 week.
- When rinsing your mouth, do not spit. Spitting should be avoided to prevent dry socket formation.
These are some of the main limitations that are recommended after your wisdom teeth are removed. There will be other recommendations given by your dentist and their team after your procedure is completed.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What are some benefits of keep your wisdom teeth?
As mentioned earlier, not all wisdom teeth need to be removed. Third molars that are fully erupted, healthy, and function in mastication can contribute to your overall systemic health. These wisdom teeth may also contribute to:
- Prevent gaps and spacing between your teeth
- Improve chewing habits inside the mouth
- Give your face a more full appearance versus if they were removed
Is wisdom teeth removal surgery safe?
It is a very safe surgery under the right hands. Make sure whoever is performing your surgery has a lot of experience under their belt. Read reviews, and ask friends about their experience with the surgical team, and lastly make sure the treatment plan presented fits within your budget.
Can you stay awake during wisdom teeth removal?
You can always opt to have your wisdom teeth extracted under local anesthesia. Some patients do not like the idea of being sedated for their procedure, and choose to just have their teeth numbed with medications like Novocaine prior to their surgery. Talk with your dental team, and make the right choice for your individual needs.