Wisdom Teeth Removal

What are the Wisdom Teeth?

The third molars or "wisdom teeth" are the last teeth to develop and grow into the jaws as a patient reaches adulthood in their late teens.  This typically does not leave much room for the third molars since the average adult does not have the space for all of these teeth to erupt in the mouth. Wisdom teeth often grow in sideways, remain trapped in bone, or put pressure on nearby teeth and cause injury or problems with alignment.  If the third molars are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth can allow bacteria to seep in and cause an infection resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness. 

impacted wisdom teeth in phoenix, oral surgeryWhat is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

A wisdom tooth is impacted when there is a lack of space in the dental arch and the growth and eruption of the tooth is prevented by overlying gum tissue, bone, or the presence of another tooth.

How Serious is an Impacted Wisdom Tooth?

Impacted teeth can lead to complications such as painful inflammation or infection.  It may also cause crowding or damage to nearby teeth or other structures.  More serious problems may also occur if the development sac or capsule surrounding an impacted tooth enlarges to form a pathologic cyst. As the cyst grows it may cause bone loss within the jaw and permanently damage adjacent teeth, bone or nerves.  In some cases, if a cyst is not appropriately treated, a tumor may develop from its walls and require an even more invasive surgical operation for treatment.

Despite the considerable concern regarding impacted third molars, a recent study sponsored by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation finds that third molars which have broken through the tissue and erupted into the mouth in a normal, upright position may be as prone to disease as those third molars that remain impacted.

Must the Tooth Come Out if it Hasn't Caused Any Problems Yet?

Not all problems related to third molars are painful or visible. Damage can occur without your being aware of it.

As wisdom teeth grow, their roots become longer, these teeth become more difficult to remove, and complications become more likely. In addition, impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to cause problems as patients age.

No one can predict when third molar complications will occur, but when they do, the circumstances can be much more painful and the teeth more difficult to treat.

When Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

In general, earlier removal of wisdom teeth results in less complications with healing. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed by the time the patient is a young adult in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing. Older patients may be at greater risk for periodontal or gum disease in the tissues surrounding the third molars and adjacent teeth. Chronic infections of the gums may affect your general health and studies have linked periodontal disease to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and even cancer.

What Happens During Surgery?

Before surgery, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss with you what to expect. This is a good time to ask questions or express your concerns. It is especially important to let the doctor know about any illness you have and any medications you are taking.

What Happens after Surgery?

Following surgery, you may experience swelling and mild discomfort, which are part of the normal healing process. Cold compresses may help decrease the swelling, and medication prescribed by your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon can help manage the discomfort. You will also be instructed to modify your diet following surgery before later progressing to more normal foods.

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