What Are Wisdom Teeth and Why Do They Need to Be Removed?

What Are Wisdom Teeth and Why Do They Need to Be Removed? By Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho | November 15, 2023

Many of us desire a bright and confident smile, but sometimes, our wisdom teeth can stand in the way of achieving that goal. Wisdom teeth or third molars erupt during late adolescence or early adulthood. Some may grow without any issues, but for others, they can cause complications that require attention.

Understanding the potential wisdom teeth complications and the benefits of timely removal is essential for anyone experiencing discomfort or seeking to maintain optimal oral health.

Whether you’re experiencing discomfort from your wisdom teeth or simply want to be informed about this common dental issue, this article will provide well-researched and accurate information. So, if you’re considering the removal of wisdom teeth or want to understand why it might be necessary, continue reading as we explore this essential aspect of dental health.

Summary of the Content:

  • Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars that erupt in the mouth, and they often require extraction due to complications they cause, such as decay, misalignment or impaction.
  • Extraction is often necessary to prevent potential damage to nearby teeth and gum tissue and infection.
  • The extraction procedure is a common dental procedure performed with care and precision.
  • Timely removal of wisdom teeth offers benefits such as preventing complications and promoting better oral health.
  • Neglecting extraction can cause severe pain, infection, and other risks adversely affecting dental health.
  • Post-operative care includes pain management, dietary considerations, gentle oral hygiene care, avoiding damaging habits like smoking and alcohol, monitoring for signs of infection, managing swelling, following detailed instructions from the dentist, and long-term oral health maintenance.

Introduction to Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars that emerge during the late teenage years or early twenties. Historically, they were useful for grinding hard-to-chew foods. However, with the evolution of diet and smaller jaw sizes, they often don’t have enough room to grow properly. The lack of space can cause several issues, such as wisdom teeth impaction, misalignment, tumour or cyst formation, and gum infection.

Understanding the nature of wisdom teeth and the complications they can cause is the first step in deciding whether extraction is the right option for you. If you’re experiencing symptoms like pain, swelling, or difficulty opening your mouth, it may be time to visit a dentist to know your treatment options.

Why Wisdom Teeth Extraction Is Often Necessary

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Many people undergo wisdom teeth extraction. While not everyone will need to have it removed, certain complications can arise from impacted wisdom teeth, making extraction a necessary option for maintaining oral health.

Here’s why wisdom teeth extraction might be necessary:

  1. Impacted wisdom teeth:
    When wisdom teeth are blocked from erupting properly, they can become impacted. Consequences of wisdom teeth impaction include:

    • Pain:
      Constant or intermittent pain due to the pressure exerted by the erupting third molars on the surrounding structures.
    • Infection:
      The risk of infection increases, which can spread to other areas of the mouth.
    • Damage to neighbouring teeth:
      Impacted wisdom teeth can push against adjacent teeth, causing misalignment or an erosion cavity.
  2. Misaligned wisdom teeth:
    If wisdom teeth grow at the wrong angle or assume an abnormal position, they can cause several problems:

    • Crowding:
      Misaligned wisdom teeth can push other teeth out of their position, causing crowding and misalignment.
    • Difficulty cleaning:
      Misaligned teeth can be difficult to clean. With improper cleaning, the risk of decay and gum infection increases.
  3. Cysts and tumours:
    Rarely impacted wisdom teeth can cause cysts or tumours in the jawbone, requiring more complex procedures.
  4. Preventive measures:
    In some cases, experienced dentists may recommend extraction as a preventive measure if they anticipate future problems with wisdom teeth.
  5. Orthodontic treatment:
    Removal of wisdom teeth may be necessary to achieve proper alignment of teeth during orthodontic treatment.
  6. Gum health:
    Partially emerged wisdom teeth can create pockets where bacteria can grow, causing gum infections and other oral health issues.

Wisdom teeth removal should be consulted with a dentist who can evaluate your oral health and dental condition. Timely extraction can prevent wisdom teeth complications, such as damage to nearby teeth and infection, and promote better oral health.

If you are experiencing symptoms related to wisdom teeth or have been advised to consider extraction, understanding the reasons behind this recommendation can help you make an informed decision.

The Extraction Procedure: Step by Step

Wisdom teeth extraction is a surgical procedure that involves removing upper or lower third molars for various reasons, such as impaction, decay, orthodontic treatment, or potential future complications. Understanding the step-by-step process of this treatment can help alleviate any concerns or anxiety about the procedure. Here’s a detailed walkthrough:

  1. Consultation and evaluation:
    • Initial assessment:
      Your dentist will conduct a thorough examination to assess the exact position and condition of the wisdom teeth. This usually involves the use of X-rays or other imaging diagnostic tools.
    • Discussion of options:
      Based on the assessment, your dentist will discuss the need for extraction and the available options for anesthesia.
  2. Preparation:
    • Scheduling:
      The procedure will be scheduled, and pre-operative instructions will be provided.
    • Anesthetic options:
      Depending on your comfort level and the complexity of the extraction, local anesthesia, sedation, or general anesthesia may be used.
  3. Extraction procedure:
    • Anesthetic administration:
      The chosen anesthesia will promote comfort during the procedure.
    • Incision and access:
      An incision is made in the gum to gain access to the tooth, and any bone covering the tooth will be removed.
    • Tooth removal:
      The wisdom tooth is carefully extracted. Dividing the tooth into pieces may be necessary for easier removal.
    • Wound closure:
      The incision is closed with stitches, and a gauze pad is placed to help control bleeding.
  4. Post-operative care:
    • Recovery Room:
      You will be monitored in a recovery room until the anesthesia wears off.
    • Instructions for home care:
      Detailed post-operative care instructions will be provided, including guidelines for eating, drinking, and oral hygiene maintenance.
    • Prescriptions:
      If necessary, pain relief medications or antibiotics may be provided to prevent infection.
  5. Follow-up:
    • Healing monitoring:
      A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor healing and remove stitches if necessary.
    • Addressing concerns:
      Any concerns or questions about recovery can be addressed during the follow-up.

The extraction of wisdom teeth is a common dental procedure performed by dentists. While it may seem daunting, understanding the process and maintaining open communication with your dental team can make the experience more comfortable.

Benefits of Timely Wisdom Teeth Removal

The decision to remove wisdom teeth is often based on personal circumstances and the potential risks of keeping them. Timely removal of wisdom teeth can offer several advantages, contributing to overall oral health and well-being. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Prevention of impaction and misalignment:
    • Avoiding pain and discomfort:
      Removing wisdom teeth before they become impacted can prevent pain and discomfort associated with impaction.
    • Preventing damage to nearby teeth:
      Timely removal can prevent wisdom teeth from pushing against other teeth, causing misalignment or potential damage.
  2. Reduction of infection Risk:
    • Preventing gum infection:
      Removing wisdom teeth that have partially emerged can prevent the formation of gum pockets where bacteria can enter, reducing the risk of gum infection.
    • Avoiding cysts and tumours:
      In rare cases, impacted wisdom teeth can cause the formation of cysts or tumours. Early removal can prevent these serious complications.
  3. Facilitation of Oral Hygiene:
    • Easier cleaning:
      Wisdom teeth that are misaligned or partially emerged can be challenging to clean thoroughly. Removal facilitates better oral hygiene maintenance, reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
    • Preventing bad breath:
      Proper cleaning and oral hygiene can prevent bad breath associated with impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth.
  4. Supporting orthodontic treatment:
    • Successful alignment:
      If you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, the removal of wisdom teeth may be necessary to achieve proper dental alignment and success of the treatment.
  5. Avoiding future complications:
    • Preventive measures:
      Even if wisdom teeth are not currently causing problems, removal may be recommended as a preventive measure to avoid potential future complications.
    • Convenience:
      The removal of wisdom teeth at a younger age may lead to faster recovery and healing, making the procedure more convenient.
  6. Enhancing overall oral health:
    • Promoting healthy gums and teeth:
      The timely removal of problematic wisdom teeth contributes to overall oral health by preventing potential issues that can affect the gums and other teeth.
    • Long-term oral health maintenance:
      By avoiding complications such as impaction, misalignment, and infection, you invest in long-term oral health maintenance.

The benefits of wisdom teeth removal are multifaceted and extend beyond merely addressing immediate issues. By understanding these advantages, you can make an informed decision regarding your dental treatment.

Potential Risks of Neglecting Extraction

While not everyone will experience issues with their wisdom teeth, understanding the potential risks associated with neglecting extraction is essential for making informed decisions about your oral health. Here are some of the potential dangers:

  1. Impaction:
    • Pain and discomfort:
      Tooth impaction causes severe pain and discomfort, affecting your quality of life.
    • Damage to nearby teeth:
      Impacted teeth can push against other teeth, causing misalignment and erosion cavity.
  2. Infection:
    • Gum infection:
      Partially emerged wisdom teeth can create gum pockets where bacteria can lodge, causing painful gum infections.
    • Spread of infection:
      If not addressed, infections can spread to other areas of the mouth and even other parts of the body.
  3. Cysts and tumours:
    • Development of cysts:
      In rare cases, cysts can form around impacted wisdom teeth, damaging the jawbone and nearby teeth.
    • Potential for tumours:
      Although rare, tumours can develop, requiring more extensive surgical procedures.
  4. Oral hygiene challenges:
    • Difficulty cleaning:
      Misaligned or partially emerged wisdom teeth can be challenging to clean properly, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
    • Bad breath:
      Inadequate cleaning can cause bad breath and other oral hygiene issues.
  5. Orthodontic complications:
    • Interference with treatment:
      Wisdom teeth can interfere with orthodontic treatment, hindering the success of teeth alignment procedures.
  6. Potential future complications:
    • Unpredictable issues:
      Even if wisdom teeth are not causing problems, they may cause complications later in life.
    • More complex extraction:
      Delaying extraction may result in a more complex and challenging procedure later on, which may require a longer recovery time.
  7. Overall oral health impact:Long-term health risks:
      Not extracting when necessary can have long-term oral health risks, impacting the wisdom teeth, nearby teeth, gum tissues, and overall oral health condition.

The decision to extract wisdom teeth should be consulted with a dentist who can evaluate your oral condition. Understanding the potential risks of neglecting extraction provides valuable insight into why a timely intervention may be necessary.

Post-Operative Care

After extracting wisdom teeth, proper post-operative care is crucial for a smooth recovery and to prevent complications. Following the guidelines provided by your dentist and understanding the general principles of aftercare for wisdom teeth extraction can make the healing process more comfortable. Here’s a comprehensive guide to post-operative care:

  1. Pain management:
    • Use over-the-counter pain relief medication:
      Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to manage post-operative pain. Drink these medications as instructed.
    • Avoid severe pressure pain:
      Be gentle with the affected area to prevent unnecessary pain or discomfort.
  2. Dietary considerations:
    • Soft foods:
      Choose soft foods that are easy to chew, especially in the first few days after wisdom teeth surgery.
    • Avoid spicy and hot foods:
      Consumption of hot and spicy foods can irritate the surgical site.
    • Stay hydrated:
      Drink plenty of fluids, but refrain from using a straw, as the suction can dislodge the clot from the extraction site, leading to a dry socket, which may disrupt proper healing.
  3. Oral hygiene:
    • Gentle cleaning:
      Brush and floss gently around the surgical site to prevent irritation.
    • Avoid rinsing vigorously:
      Gentle rinsing can help keep the area clean, but avoid vigorous rinsing. It may dislodge the blood clot in the tooth socket.
  4. Avoiding potential damage:
    • No smoking:
      Smoking can slow healing and increase the risk of complications.
    • Avoid alcohol:
      Alcohol can interfere with healing and should be avoided during recovery.
  5. Monitoring for signs of infection:
    • Watch for symptoms:
      Monitor for signs of post-operative infection, such as increased pain, swelling, or fever, and contact your dental clinic if you notice any concerning symptoms.
    • Follow antibiotic guidelines:
      If prescribed antibiotics, follow the instructions carefully to lessen the risk of infection.
  6. Managing swelling and bruising:
    • Use ice packs:
      Ice packs in the affected area can help reduce swelling.
    • Rest and elevate your head:
      Resting and keeping your head elevated can minimise swelling and promote healing.
  7. Follow the detailed instructions:
    • Adhere to clinic guidelines:
      Your dental clinic will provide specific aftercare instructions tailored to your procedure. Follow these recovery instructions for optimal results.
  8. Long-term oral health maintenance:
    • Regular dental check-ups:
      Continue regular dental check-ups with a qualified dental health practitioner to maintain oral health and monitor healing.

Post-operative care is essential to wisdom tooth extraction, and following these guidelines can support a successful recovery. If you have any questions or concerns during recovery, don’t hesitate to contact your dental clinic for assistance. Proper aftercare is key to a comfortable recovery and contributes to long-term oral health maintenance, reinforcing the benefits of wisdom tooth removal.

Final Thoughts

Many patients face wisdom teeth extraction. From understanding what wisdom teeth are and why they might need to be removed to the benefits of wisdom teeth removal and the essential guidelines for post-operative care, this comprehensive guide has provided valuable insights into the entire process.

At Darch Dental Centre, we prioritise your oral health and well-being. Our dental clinic consistently provides quality, personalised treatment guided by the latest research and practices. Whether you are currently experiencing issues with your wisdom teeth or simply seeking a consultation to understand your options, we are here to support you every step of the way.

We believe in empowering our patients with the right tools and information to help them make their decisions about their oral health. If you have questions on wisdom teeth removal, post-operative care, or other dental concerns, we invite you to contact us at Darch Dental Centre. Together, we can explore the options for your unique needs so you can receive the care you deserve.

You can take the next step towards a brighter and healthier smile. Please book an appointment online or call us through Darch Dental Centre’s website. We look forward to partnering with you on your journey to optimal oral health.

Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho

Dr. Jon is a Perth-based dentist who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Science in 2005 from the University of Western Australia. He has worked at a range of dental practices, including being a partner and principal dentist for a group of five dental surgeries in Sydney. Dr. Jon has been practising for over a decade in the northern suburbs of Perth. He provides treatment for patients in Darch, Madeley, Landsdale, Kingsway, Kingsley, Marangaroo, Alexander Heights, Wangara, Ellenbrook, and others.

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