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The Truth About Wisdom Teeth: To Pull or Not to Pull?

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Wisdom teeth are typically thought of as teeth that can simply be removed. However, if a wisdom tooth is healthy and properly aligned, extraction may not be necessary. Historically, when food preparation methods were less advanced and diets consisted of tougher foods, wisdom teeth were useful. As our diets have become softer, our chewing functions have weakened. If you’re unsure about the condition of your wisdom teeth and whether they need to be extracted, the following information might assist you in making an informed decision.

What’s The Medical Term For The Wisdom Tooth?

The term “wisdom tooth” is the colloquial term we commonly use. The proper term is the third molar. It is named for being the third largest molar and is located at the very back of the oral cavity. Unlike the first and second molars, which start to appear around age 6 and are used throughout your life, wisdom teeth usually emerge between the ages of 18 and 20, hence the name.

 

What If It Doesn’t Properly Grow?

When a wisdom tooth incorrectly erupts, it can create structural issues that make it prone to trapping food. Even with diligent brushing, keeping the area clean can be challenging, resulting in gum inflammation and frequent cavities in the tooth in front of the wisdom tooth. Repeated inflammation can affect the wisdom tooth and adjacent teeth, causing severe periodontitis and bad breath.

 

Extraction Should Be Done With Caution

When removing a wisdom tooth, it’s necessary to check the condition of the tooth with an X-ray, sanitize the surrounding tissues, and prescribe antibiotics. The difficulty of extraction varies depending on the level of impaction, categorized as simple, partial, or complete impaction. The more severe the impaction, the closer it is likely to be to the nerve that runs through the lower jaw, which can increase the amount of bone removal and the difficulty of the surgery.

 

Is There A Standard For Extracting Wisdom Teeth?

There is no specific guideline for wisdom teeth extraction. Typically, the decision is based on the level of discomfort the patient feels and the impact on adjacent teeth. If a wisdom tooth is growing properly, it can be used like any other tooth. However, in most cases, wisdom teeth are partially emerged or impacted, which can lead to neglect and are therefore typically extracted.

 

What Kind Of Discomfort Can Patients Experience?

Patients may often feel discomfort, such as pain and bad breath. When wisdom teeth partially erupt, with part of the tooth covered by the gum and half exposed, food can easily get trapped between the gum and the partially erupted tooth. This can lead to bad breath and create an environment conducive to bacterial decay. This condition is called pericoronitis. When pericoronitis develops, it can cause persistent pain, difficulty opening your mouth, and discomfort while swallowing.

 

Do All Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Extracted?

Not all wisdom teeth require extraction. If a wisdom tooth is well-aligned, functions properly for chewing, and maintains good oral hygiene, it can be kept. Even if a wisdom tooth is completely impacted, its position may allow it to be monitored rather than extracted. However, if swelling and pain occur around an exposed wisdom tooth, it’s better to have it extracted. It’s beneficial to keep a close watch on the growth pattern of your wisdom teeth.

What If There’s Pain In The Wisdom Tooth?

If you experience pain in a wisdom tooth, seek treatment. A wisdom tooth that grows crooked can form a sac in the bone that can dissolve the jawbone or damage the front teeth. Therefore, obtaining a diagnosis and getting treated at a dental clinic is imperative.

 

Impacted Wisdom Teeth Can Cause Malocclusion

 Impacted wisdom teeth can cause malocclusion by pushing the permanent teeth in front as they grow. They can also damage the nerves of the front molars or cause inflammation within the gums, potentially leading to the formation of a cyst in the jawbone. This can dissolve the lower jawbone and result in loss of mandibular function. Therefore, it’s usually recommended to extract them as soon as possible.

Post-Extraction Care Is Important!

If you’ve had a wisdom tooth extracted, it’s important to follow the precautions explained by your dentist on the day of extraction. You should abstain from alcohol and smoking for at least two weeks and avoid intense exercise and saunas. When a wisdom tooth is extracted, blood clots fill the extraction site, which is then replaced by bone. If this process doesn’t occur properly, a condition known as “dry socket” may develop. It takes nearly 2-3 months for the bone to fully regenerate and heal, so it’s important to take special care during this period.

 

Smoking After Extraction Is The Worst

It is advisable to refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking for at least a week after extraction. Alcohol can trigger inflammation while smoking can restrict blood flow, which can delay recovery. Therefore, it is best to avoid drinking and smoking after the extraction as much as possible. Wait until you can bear it, then wait until the extraction site has healed to some extent.

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