Most Americans will have to have their wisdom teeth removed in their lives, likely in their late teens or early twenties. While wisdom tooth extraction (and the days spent on the couch eating ice cream and mashed potatoes afterwards) are often seen as a rite of passage for many of us, you may not be aware of why we need these teeth removed in the first place! If you’re on the brink of an extraction, or simply would like to know more about this common medical procedure, we’ve answered some common questions to help get you informed about what’s happening with your third molars.
What exactly are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are our third and final set of molars to “erupt”, or grow into our upper and lower jaws. For most people, wisdom teeth show up in their late teens or early twenties, but they can actually appear at any point in a person’s life. The current world record for latest wisdom tooth eruption is set at 94 years old!
Why do they need to be removed?
From an evolutionary standpoint, we haven’t needed wisdom teeth for a few thousand years and many scientists believe it’s only a matter of time before we stop growing them. It isn’t only their lack of necessity that is cause for having them removed, however! Because wisdom teeth arrive so much later than the rest of our teeth, they can cause some pretty serious complications upon eruption. If they come in crooked or sideways, the surrounding gums and root of the tooth may become inflamed and infected, which can spread to other teeth in the mouth. A crooked wisdom tooth or one that tries to grow in too close to an existing molar can easily push your other teeth out of its way, causing teeth to shift and threatening any orthodontic work you’ve had done. Removing wisdom teeth before they start to erupt is the best way to prevent any potential problems.
What will the procedure look like?
Wisdom tooth extraction is an incredibly routine procedure with little to be fearful of. Depending on your oral health situation, your oral surgeon will have different tactics for removing your teeth. If they are impacted or imbedded in the bone, your surgeon will have to cut through the gums and remove small amounts of the teeth at a time in order to reduce the amount of bone loss. Recovery will take a few days and your mouth is likely to be swollen and tender for a while, and many people are put on a soft-foods-only diet which means lots of ice cream, jell-o, and soups! Your doctor will prescribe pain medications and walk you through at-home care to keep your mouth clean and healthy post-op!
Sixty-five percent of us will have to have our wisdom teeth removed at some point, and it’s important to know what to expect from your procedure.
If you have more questions about wisdom tooth extraction, or wish to schedule a consultation with your dentist, give us a call at Oak Park Dental Group in Chicago today!