Remember when your kids were little and they started to get teeth? Their gums were swollen, you made them wear a bib for all the drool, and boy were they cranky!
While time has passed, and they have grown, not much else has changed when it comes to your child’s teeth. The gums are swollen, and even the jawline is a little puffy. As teenagers, they can (usually) manage the increased saliva, but the crankiness has increased by a factor of 10. When the wisdom teeth are coming in, no one feels comfortable.
The good news is that having those third molars taken out is a relatively easy procedure. Unless a tooth is growing very unusually, or the patient has waited past the age of 21 or so, wisdom tooth extraction is fairly routine.
Plus, recovery time is short: most patients feel back to normal within a few days. The extraction site itself typically takes just two weeks to heal.
Even though this is a very standard procedure, we still get a few questions about why it is necessary. For instance:
Question 1: We’re born with these teeth. Shouldn’t we try to keep them?
Yes, you are born with the genetic plan for all the teeth you will ever have. And in general, Summit Dental Center dentists do everything we can to help you keep your natural teeth.
But wisdom teeth are a little different. The modern human jaw is smaller than it used to be. For most people, there is simply not enough room in the mouth for an extra tooth at the end of each arch.
When the wisdom teeth begin to erupt, they push against and into other teeth, shifting alignment and sometimes causing damage. When the tooth has grown in as far as it can, most of the time part of it remains under the gum. This allows food particles and bacteria to enter the opening, and keeps the tooth from being thoroughly brushed or flossed. This is dangerous, not just for that one tooth, but for the molar adjacent to it and the gums surrounding it. Abscesses, decay, and gum disease are just a few of the side effects.
Question 2: Why won’t my mouth accommodate them?
There are a few theories out there about why most people’s jaws won’t grow to accommodate the third molars. One is that our food supply has changed so substantially that the nutrients needed to continue the growth of the jaw are not found in abundance in the modern diet. Additionally, children’s diets consist of easy-to-chew foods, like applesauce and crackers. Hard foods like nuts or dried meats that require substantial pressure to chew make a less frequent appearance. As such, their mouths develop differently.
The second, more likely theory is simply that the human skull has evolved to the point where those teeth are not needed, so the jaw does not allow room for them. They are treated as a vestigial organ, present, but not necessary to carry out a function.
Question 3: Dental surgery is pretty recent isn’t it? What did people used to do about their wisdom teeth?
Dental Surgery is actually not as recent as you might think! Millennia ago, people were writing about tooth decay and tooth extraction. The Sumerians, Egyptians, and Greeks all had people who studied teeth and tried to discern how best to care for them. Hammurabi’s Codex even mentions pulling the teeth as a form of punishment! (Maybe that’s a reason dentistry gets a bad rap!) While some of these ancient cultures did have excellent dental health, they didn’t have the resources and research available that we do now. Teeth would decay, fall out, or need to be removed. But when this happened, wisdom teeth would have that extra space in the mouth to grow into. Regardless, it is certain that extracting painful teeth is not a new concept.
Question 4: Do I have to have them out?
Whether this is asked in fear of oral surgery, or anxiety over payment, the answer is often yes. If your Summit Dental Center dentist suggests that you need to have your third molars removed, they truly do need to come out.
There are only two circumstances where you might not have a wisdom tooth extraction:
- You don’t have wisdom teeth. Dental x-rays can show how your wisdom teeth are situated under the gum line. Some people simply don’t have them!
- Your wisdom teeth appear to be growing straight, and your jaw has the room to accommodate them and you’re not experiencing any type of infection or impaction.
Any other circumstance usually requires your wisdom teeth to come out. They will damage your other teeth and create an environment perfect for gum disease. If you have them, but they never come in at all, you’ll have a one in four chance of developing epithelial cancer of the lining around the tooth! So, when the dentist says they need to come out, your next question should typically be “When?”
As we mentioned before, wisdom teeth extraction is not a difficult surgery either to perform or to undergo. With a little bit of prep, your teen will be back on their feet in no time. Before surgery:
- Brush and floss really well. You won’t be able to brush or even rinse for a few days, so get your mouth as clean as possible.
- Plan transportation to and from Summit Dental Center. The patient will not be able to drive home.
- Set up the recovery area. Make sure there are enough pillows available to keep the head elevated during sleep.
- Ice Packs Ready. Whether you have a flexible bag for ice cubes or a few cold packs that you use for lunches, get them cleaned up and ready for use.
- Stock up on soft foods: oatmeal, applesauce, yogurt, cottage cheese.
At Summit Dental Center of Houston, we offer the best care for wisdom teeth extraction. We recognize that you have a variety of choices when it comes to your dental health. Contact us today for a consultation appointment!