Many people are apprehensive about the removal of wisdom teeth, so we would like to share some information with you to remove the mystery.
Wisdom teeth are the 3rd molar at the very back of the mouth. They are named wisdom teeth as they usually begin to erupt into the mouth between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the age we apparently begin to gain wisdom! Just like many other developmental milestones, these eruption dates can vary a lot, and having wisdom teeth erupt before the age of 18 and after the age of 24 is not a cause for concern.
Plenty of people are missing wisdom teeth and in exceedingly rare cases, some people have extra molars behind the wisdom teeth.
The problem with many wisdom teeth, is that they often do not have enough room to come through and get stuck or “impacted” on adjacent teeth. This leads to food trapping, then decay and gum infections and eventually pain and facial and jaw swelling.
The reason that there is not enough room in our mouth for our wisdom teeth comes down to evolution. We no longer need 3 molars in each corner to crush and grind foods. This is because the foods we are consuming more, are more processed and do not need to be ground and crushed. As humans continue to evolve, our jaws are getting smaller but the size of our teeth remains unchanged. This is why many of us don’t have room for our wisdom teeth and also why many people have crowding and have orthodontic treatment to align their crooked teeth.
Wisdom teeth are sometimes visible in the mouth, having broken partway or fully through the gum. Other times, wisdom teeth are not visible in the mouth and are only detected via a routine OPG X-ray Radiograph. Both erupted and unerupted wisdom teeth can cause pain, infections, swelling, bad breath and cysts. For this reason, at Grandis Dental we elect to regularly monitor wisdom teeth development and position with OPG radiographs for our patients every few years, in an effort to avoid discomfort.
We are lucky to have a digital OPG machine on site that uses only an incredibly low dose of radiation to capture each image. Many health insurance companies will allow you to instantly claim the fee for one of these radiographs, which minimizes the initial outlay of cost. The digital images can be securely forwarded electronically to any other medical and dental clinician that may request them.
There are two different approaches for extracting any teeth: either in the dental office or in a hospital under a General Anaesthetic.
Often a tooth that is not heavily decayed or abscessed can be removed in the dental office, with local anaesthetic. If a tooth is badly decayed or so badly abscessed that it cannot be numbed, sometimes the kindest way to have it removed is at a hospital while under Relative Anaesthetic or General Anaesthetic. The majority of patients having teeth out in hospitals are treated in the Private system, so private health cover is an advantage. The likelihood of having a tooth out in hospital using the Public system is very low- waiting lists are several years long, eligibility for treatment is narrow and often a co-payment is required.
For patients with complex medical histories, anxiety about treatment and teeth with complex bone and dental anatomy, we often suggest referral to an Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon. These specialists have a lot of skill in removing even the trickiest teeth, including wisdom teeth. They have completed degrees in Medicine, Dentistry and Speciality Maxillofacial surgery in order to become a specialist. Our local specialists also have regular hospital lists, which makes for shorter waiting times.
We have all heard stories from friends and family about having pain after having wisdom teeth removed. The truth is, that if you follow your postoperative instructions exactly, this greatly reduces the chances of severe pain and postoperative complications. Should you be prescribed antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatories, take them as prescribed. If you are advised to keep a cold pack on your face to reduce swelling, you should do so. Preventing swelling, infection and pain is much simpler than trying to treat them once present.
If you would like any further information about dental extractions, including wisdom teeth please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly staff.