Wisdom Teeth Extraction – When Is It Necessary?
I am Dr Ellie and I am an emergency dentist in Brisbane Southside. Every week we treat people who rush into our dental clinic complaining about severe pain in their third molar also known as their wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth can be a real pain. And most people have four of them. Wisdom teeth are the last teeth through your gum and the reason they are called wisdom teeth is that “these days”, for many people, wisdom teeth usually appear in the late teenage years when the person has acquired some level of wisdom.
Dentists use the term impacted wisdom tooth when the tooth does not break through the gum. Lack of space is the most common cause of impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is not always painful but it can be a problem. It can cause severe pain in the mouth, even neck and ear!
The problem of impacted wisdom teeth is an old problem for humans. But perhaps not a problem in ancient times. British Dental Journal published an article in March 2006 that shows an X-ray image of an impacted wisdom teeth that belongs to a nearly 15,000-year-old skeleton which was discovered in France more than a 100 years ago.
Un-erupted lower wisdom tooth prone to become impacted
Because these days wisdom teeth typically erupt between 18 to 22 years of age, scientist initially estimated the age of the person to be around 20 but then further bone analysis revealed that the person has had around 30 years of age at the time of her death and her wisdom teeth had failed to erupt at normal time by today’s standards.
Tooth is angled and eruption pathway is blocked
Scientists say that Stone Age people did not have wisdom teeth problems because of the coarse type of food humans were consuming at ancient times. At those times, consumption of coarse food had been stimulating the growth of the jaw bone and thus Stone Age people had sufficient space in their jaw bone for their wisdom teeth to grow normally without complications.
In the modern age, wisdom teeth are not very usable because the human jaw has reduced in size. There is less space for wisdom teeth to grow into useful teeth for many of us.
On average, wisdom teeth bother women more than men because on average women have smaller jaw bones compared to man.
Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?
Well wisdom teeth usually erupt around the age of 20. If they don’t erupt, they are not always painful. Wisdom teeth tend to come in problem-free for some people. However, if problems with wisdom teeth do develop, they don’t respect people’s age. You don’t want to have a wisdom teeth surgery at the age of 60. It is much safer to have it sorted at young ages when the healing abilities of your body are at its maximum level.
Best recommendation is to have your dentist examine your wisdom teeth as early as possible. Dentists may require x-ray imaging to assess if extraction is beneficial for you or perhaps not required in your case.
When the wisdom teeth are only partially erupted, gum infection can occur. The erupted section of the tooth can act as a food trap where food pieces get stuck and provide food source for harmful bacteria activity. That area at the back of the tooth is usually hard to clean which in turn, can lead to tooth decay and infection. If your wisdom teeth are infected it is important to call your dentist before the infection spreads. Your dentist may ask you to take antibiotics, take x-ray images and then remove the infected tooth.
If a wisdom tooth is being removed, its opposite tooth may also need to be removed because after removal of its mate, it can elongate towards the empty space of the now missing tooth. Ask your dentist if extraction of other teeth is also required or not.
By removing your wisdom teeth, you don’t lose your chewing power. These days removal is done under local or general anaesthetics and the removal itself is almost painless however extraction is a traumatic dental procedure and requires post-operation care for the healing process to complete.
Your dentist may recommend you take pain killers to manage the post operation pain. You can also gargle with lukewarm salt water to help sooth your gums.