The third molars, also known as the wisdom teeth because they usually begin to erupt around late adolescence or the “age of wisdom,” are the largest teeth in the human mouth. In fact, these teeth are so large that many people do not have enough room for them in their jaws.
If the wisdom teeth are unable to erupt properly, they become impacted and can cause a number of problems for the patient, such as cysts, abscesses, tumors, infections, discomfort and damage to surrounding teeth to name a few.
Fortunately, modern humans don’t need their wisdom teeth in order to chew very rough foods like their ancient ancestors did. Therefore, patients will not suffer any adverse consequences if those wisdom teeth are removed. Because impacted wisdom teeth are at such risk of creating problems, many patients opt to have them removed as a preventive measure even if they are not symptomatic.
The wisdom tooth extraction procedure is easier in younger patients because the roots are shorter and the teeth more readily removed. Younger patients also recuperate more quickly and face a lower risk of complications after the procedure.
We understand that some patients will be reluctant to pursue surgery if they are not having issues with their wisdom teeth, and Dr. Chei will thoroughly educate you on the procedure so that you can decide whether it is right for you. Here are some answers to some of the initial questions that may come to mind for you.
Pain at the rear of the jaw is a classic symptom of an impacted wisdom tooth. The discomfort occurs because the impacted tooth continues to attempt to erupt into the jaw, despite the lack of room in the jaw for it. It may also be due to a painful infection of the tooth’s root known as an abscess. Additionally, the teeth in the area and throughout the rest of the smile may shift out of their proper position to attempt to create room for the wisdom teeth. Pus at the back of the jaw or bad breath can also be signs of infection, which also may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
A wisdom tooth extraction can generally be completed in a matter of hours in our office, although some patients may have special circumstances that make the procedure longer. The patient will receive some form of sedation for maximum comfort. Dr. Chei will give you any pre-operative instructions that you may need related to your sedation. A responsible adult will need to escort the patient home after the appointment and stay with the patient until the sedative has worn off completely.
Dr. Chei will give you specific instructions, but most patients will be able to eat and drink something later in the day after their surgery. Patients should stick to a soft diet for the first few days so that the extraction site has time for initial healing. Don’t use drinking straws until Dr. Chei gives you permission to do so, as this can contribute to dry sockets.
A dry socket develops when the blood clot that forms to protect the exposed nerves in the socket either fails to materialize or is dislodged prematurely in the healing process. This painful condition is the most common complication associated with wisdom tooth extraction, although Dr. Chei will make recommendations, like abstaining from smoking and avoiding drinking straws for a period after your procedure, to help you reduce your risk of the condition.
This will vary from patient to patient, so if you have any specific concerns about your pain levels, you should contact Dr. Chei as soon as possible so that you can be evaluated for a problem, if necessary. Most patients should only experience discomfort for a few days after their wisdom teeth are removed, and mild discomfort may linger for another week or so. If you’re having severe pain for a longer period of time, it could indicate a post-operative complication like dry sockets or an infection, so contact our office immediately for further instructions.