Wisdom teeth, or third molars, tend to erupt in the late teens or early twenties. Most people have four, but some people have less, and in rare cases do not have any. Often times, wisdom teeth don’t grow in properly. If they do not have enough to come in, they are considered to be impacted, which can cause a number of problems.
Impacted wisdom teeth can cause difficulty with chewing and eating, as well as develop cavities or painful infections, which can spread to the face, jaw and neighbouring teeth. Often times, these problems will occur before a patient realizes that they need to have their wisdom teeth removed. Some people don’t have any issues with their wisdom teeth early on, but problems can present themselves well into the adult years.
At Coast Dental Centre, we do a thorough examination which includes X-rays to determine whether or not extraction is necessary. In general it is wise (no pun intended!) to remove wisdom teeth early on, while their roots are small and before they have erupted or caused any problems. There are fewer risks and chances of complications if removed earlier in the patient’s life.
In many cases, all of the patient’s wisdom teeth can be removed in one visit. The procedure to remove wisdom teeth will depend on whether or not the teeth are impacted and what type of impaction is present. There are two different types of impaction:
Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.
Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.
Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.
Wisdom teeth removal is a common, safe and effective procedure. The extraction can be performed while the patient is under local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia. The patient will be given a prescription for medication to manage any pain following the procedure.