Wisdom teeth removal has almost become a right of passage; like the chicken pox or braces. It seems like everyone needs to have them removed at some point in their lives. Approximately 5 million people have wisdom teeth extracted each year. This leaves many of us asking: why do we even have wisdom teeth?
Anthropologists believe wisdom teeth are a remnant from our ancestors’ tough diet. The consumption of roots, nuts, and berries led to the wearing away of our back molars prematurely. To compensate, we developed a third set of molars that erupt later in life, usually between ages 17 and 25, to replace the worn molars.
Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
- They are impacted. Sometimes your mouth isn’t big enough to support the growth of a third set of molars. This can keep them trapped below the surface, either in the jaw or in the gums, unable to erupt.
- They grow in crooked. Wisdom teeth that are only partially emerged create passages and tissue flaps that can harbor bacteria. These areas are hard to see and clean, and can cause infections. If allowed to grow in crooked they can also cause damage to other teeth, causing crowding and possible root disruption.
- To Prevent Future Problems. Sometimes dentists will recommend the removal of wisdom teeth to prevent tooth decay. If they are in a position that makes brushing and flossing difficult, their removal can prevent serious problems in the future.
Warning Signs of a Problem
- Jaw pain
- Mouth infection
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Swelling around the jaw
Should any of these problems arise, it’s important to contact Kristen Ritzau, DDS and schedule an appointment.
What to Expect During an Extraction
There are several types of anesthesia you may receive depending on how many teeth will be removed, your comfort level, etc. If given local anesthesia, you will receive several injections around the tooth to make it numb. You will be awake during the procedure but will be unable to feel any pain. However, it’s common to feel pressure and movement during the procedure.
Sedation anesthesia may be used, or in special circumstances you may be put under general anesthesia. Sedation anesthesia will suppress your consciousness but won’t actually put you to sleep, while general anesthesia will put you completely under.
What to Expect After an Extraction
An extraction isn’t a long procedure, but you should give yourself at least three or four days to recover enough to return to work. It’s important to remember that every mouth is different and the healing process is different for everyone. Here are some tips to help with your recovery:
- For the first 24 hours, avoid sucking on straws or smoking. Any sucking motion can loosen the blood clot that needs to form for healing.
- Avoid physical activity or lying your head flat as this could exacerbate bleeding.
- Rinse your mouth out with warm salt water several times a day and after meals to help with swelling.
- After the first day, continue to brush your teeth normally but avoid the area.
- Eat soft foods like soup, pudding, or jell-o, and slowly introduce more solid foods into your diet once pain subsides.
Getting your wisdom teeth removed can seem scary, but you can reduce your fear by preparing yourself for the procedure. If your wisdom teeth are causing any problem, make an appointment with Dr. Ritzau today.