Wisdom teeth, or your back molars, are the last adult teeth to emerge in your mouth. Many in the dentistry field think of wisdom teeth as a vestigial organ, like an appendix, for your mouth. They’re there, but you don’t need them for your daily life. You can live the rest of your days with or without them and not notice much of a difference.
You may only know wisdom teeth removal from your days in high school or college and suddenly your friend came to school after missing a few days looking dazed with puffy cheeks. But if you or someone in your family needs wisdom teeth removal surgery, it’s important to understand why your dentist may suggest this procedure and how the procedure has progressed since your high school days.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the molars at the very back of your mouth. These teeth are not used for chewing; therefore, they just exist at the end of each row of teeth in your mouth. Many anthropologists believe wisdom teeth were used by our early human ancestors to help with chewing coarse, rough food like leaves, roots, nuts, and meats.
Wisdom teeth will usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, one in each of the four quadrants. It is possible, however, to have none, fewer, or more than four (extras are called supernumerary teeth).
Why would you need to remove your wisdom teeth?
As stated earlier, some people live their entire lives without needing to have their wisdom teeth removed. However, many times wisdom teeth can wreak utter havoc on your body and the other teeth in your mouth and need to be removed. That’s why so many general dentists recommend people undergo a wisdom teeth removal procedure, even if their wisdom teeth aren’t causing problems at that moment.
Here are a few reasons why some people should undergo this procedure. All of them can lead to complications like pain, fluid-filled cysts, or damage to the nearby teeth or bones.
Your mouth isn’t big enough
For some people, their jaws simply have no room for an extra set of molars, and wisdom teeth crowd the rest of their teeth.
They come in at the wrong angle
Wisdom teeth can erupt through the gums at the wrong angle and press against your other teeth. This can potentially damage the tooth next to it, resulting in the loss of both of the teeth
Wisdom teeth can get trapped within the jawbone instead of fully erupting, causing a significant amount of pain.
You have cavities or gum disease
Since your wisdom teeth are in the farthest corners of your mouth, you may not be able to reach them with your toothbrush or dental floss. This can lead to periodontitis (gum disease) symptoms like swollen and bleeding gums and bad breath. Also, partial eruption of third molars can often lead to pericoronitis.
Does everyone have their wisdom teeth?
As mentioned earlier, not everyone develops wisdom teeth, or they develop fewer than four. Some people have all four of their wisdom teeth with no problem.
However, for some, these teeth cause tremendous problems, including pain and infections. Some people may not be feeling the effects of their wisdom teeth, but their dentist may prescribe these teeth be removed to prevent problems later on. If you or someone in your family begin having problems with these teeth, it’s important to address them right away. It is much more beneficial to have the procedure done when you’re young, if possible, rather than put it off and allow your wisdom teeth roots to more fully develop.
What does wisdom teeth removal entail?
Wisdom teeth removal is an outpatient procedure, which means you’ll arrive and leave the surgery facility on the same day. Some patients are given local anesthesia or sedation during the surgery and will likely wake up in the dental chair after the surgery has finished. Other patients, however, may be given general anesthesia which will require longer to wake up and will likely have to be moved to a recovery room after the procedure.
Once the anesthesia properly numbs the affected area, your dentist or oral surgeon will use a special instrument to loosen and disconnect the tissue around your wisdom teeth and remove them, some bone may also need to be removed as well. The surgical sites are then stitched, and gauze is placed over them to promote clotting and help the wounds heal. The entire procedure will probably take less than an hour. Most patients are able to have an in office procedure with IV sedation, but there are cases where some patients need general anesthesia due to being medically compromised or severe dental anxiety.
How long is the recovery from wisdom teeth removal surgery?
Each patient responds differently to surgery. Some patients recover almost immediately and can drive themselves home and return to some normal activities. Others, however, may feel drowsier (especially after general anesthesia) and require someone to drive them home.
Most people have swelling and mild discomfort for 3 or so days after surgery but have little to no pain. However, your mouth may need a few weeks to completely heal.
Family Dentistry at University General Dentists in Knoxville, TN
Wisdom teeth removal doesn’t have to be the scary procedure you remember from your youth. Modern advances in dentistry have made wisdom teeth removal surgery a much less painful process that’ll have you and your healthy smile back on your feet in no time. For those who need this procedure, the long-term benefits to your oral health are immeasurable and can relieve a tremendous amount of pain and discomfort.
At University General Dentists, we provide family dentistry services to help keep your loved ones’ smiles healthy and strong. We believe in caring, attentive, and respectful dental care, and we provide everything from routine checkups to extensive dental repairs with the latest state-of-the-art technology.
We have two convenient Knoxville dentist locations. Schedule an appointment at our University of Tennessee Medical Center office at 865-305-9440 or our West Knoxville office at 865-500-5700.