Third molars are commonly called “wisdom teeth.” Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to develop and usually come in between the ages of 17 and 25. When they align properly and the gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not necessarily have to be removed. However, this does not generally happen.
What are Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth often lack the proper space in the jaw to erupt fully or even at all. This common condition is called “impaction.” When any tooth lacks the space to break through the gum or simply develops in the wrong place of your jaw and becomes “impacted,” problems can arise.
What Problems Can Arise from Impacted Wisdom Teeth?
The most common problems associated with impacted wisdom teeth are infections and damage to neighboring teeth. Since the wisdom teeth area(s) are difficult to clean, bacteria can accumulate and lead to gum disease and decay. Other problems that can develop include tumors or cysts that form around impacted wisdom teeth. If these conditions go untreated, they can cause destruction of the jawbone and other surrounding healthy teeth. Removal of the impacted tooth or teeth can resolve or prevent these problems.
Many people believe that as long as they are not in pain, they do not have to worry about their wisdom teeth. However, pain free does not necessarily mean disease or problem free. With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, we can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and identify if there may be present or future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in better outcomes for the patient. Wisdom teeth should be removed in the following instances:
- infections and/or periodontal disease (deep pockets)
- cavities that cannot be restored
- pathologies such as cysts and tumors
- damage to neighboring teeth
- in certain cases to assist orthodontic treatment
- when location or development predispose to pathologic conditions
There are several conditions that affect how easy it will be to remove a wisdom tooth. These conditions include how the tooth is positioned in the mouth and the stage of root development. Wisdom teeth that are impacted are more easily removed before root development is complete. Wisdom teeth can be removed safely and comfortably using local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia. Anesthetic options, as well as any surgical risks, will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed.
What Happens After Surgery?
After surgery, you may experience swelling and discomfort, which are part of the normal healing process. Cold compresses may help decrease the swelling and medication will be prescribed to help manage discomfort. You may be instructed to modify your diet following surgery for a few days before returning to a more normal diet.
Our services are provided in an environment of optimum safety that utilizes modern monitoring equipment and staff that are experienced in anesthesia and surgical techniques.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (520) 745-6531.
Known Risks & Complications
The surgical removal of wisdom teeth is a common procedure that usually produces few, if any, serious complications. However, as with any surgical procedure, you should be aware of the following possible complications:
- Dry socket – this term is used to describe a condition that can develop in the empty tooth socket when normal blood clotting is disturbed following surgery. If a blood clot prematurely dissolves or does not form properly in the socket, the socket remains “dry” for a period of time and heals more slowly than usual. A dry socket can be quite painful because it leaves the bone in the socket exposed to air, food and fluids. If you experience such increased pain a few days after surgery, contact our office. Steps can be taken to reduce discomfort while healing takes place.
- Infection – any time surgery is performed, there is a slight chance of infection setting in afterwards. Any infection should be taken seriously and reported to our office right away. We can prescribe appropriate antibiotics to treat the problem. Signs of infection include fever, abnormal swelling and pain, salty or prolonged bad taste and pus formation.
- Injury – adjacent teeth, filling material or bridge work located near the wisdom teeth may be damaged during extraction.
- Numbness or alternated sensation – in some cases major sensory nerves serving the mouth are located near wisdom teeth and it is possible that one or more of these nerves could be irritated during surgery.
- Sinus complications – sometimes upper wisdom teeth are located near the large maxillary sinus and the roots may even penetrate into the sinus cavity. When removed, these wisdom teeth may leave an opening in the sinus that will typically heal without incident. While rare, drainage or sinus pain may occur following tooth removal. If this occurs, contact our office.
- Root fragments – Occasionally tooth roots are extremely long or fragile and a piece may break during surgery. Typically the fragment is removed, but if it is close to a nerve or the sinus cavity, or if its removal would jeopardize adjacent teeth, we may decide to leave the fragment in place and monitor it with x-rays. This rarely presents long-term problems.