Wisdom Teeth Extraction In-Depth

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Why do wisdom teeth need to be extracted?

For several reasons:

  • Partially impacted wisdom teeth can cause infection, pain, crowding and decay or damage to surrounding molars.
  • Completely impacted teeth can form an infection around the root resulting in permanent damage of the nerves, jawbone and surrounding teeth if not treated.
  • In rare cases a tumor may develop from the enlargement of the walls of the tooth and a more extensive surgical procedure would be required to remove it.

What other problems are often associated with impacted wisdom teeth?

  • bacteria and plaque build-up
  • cyst (a fluid-filled sac) development
  • tumor development
  • infection
  • jaw and gum disease

What is the treatment for impacted wisdom teeth?

Early removal of wisdom teeth is safest. Once roots are completely formed, removal becomes more difficult and can be associated with complications to surrounding structures. Fully erupted wisdom teeth can be extracted with a minimally invasive procedure.

Impacted teeth are removed by making an incision in the gum to expose the tooth. If bone covers the tooth, the surgeon will remove a small portion of the bone. Sutures will hold the gum together once the tooth has been removed, and will either dissolve on their own or be removed.

Most wisdom teeth extractions are performed in the dentist's office under local anesthesia. Consult your child's dentist or oral surgeon about supplements to local anesthesia or alternative forms of anesthesia, if your child is particularly anxious.

Surgical risks and complications

  • Pain and bleeding usually occur for up to 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Sore joints and muscles are also common following surgery.
  • If a portion of the bone was removed, weakening of the jaw can occur.
  • Sinus and nerve problems can also occur but are extremely uncommon.

Infection is rare but can occur; symptoms include fever, swelling, pain and a prolonged foul taste in the mouth. If this should occur, contact your child's surgeon immediately.

Dry sockets

A dry socket develops if the blood clot that formed after the tooth was extracted prematurely loosens, leaving the socket open and dry. The exact cause of a dry socket is mostly unknown but certain risk factors, such as smoking, increase the likelihood of it happening.

Recovery

During the first 72 hours following surgery, an ice pack may reduce swelling and decrease bleeding. Skin discoloration can occur which should disappear within a few days. For the first two days following the operation, your child should eat soft food and stay well hydrated.

During the first three to five days, make sure you or your adolescent avoids the following:

  • sucking fluids through straws
  • tobacco
  • vigorous rinsing of the mouth
  • hard or sticky foods
  • exercise

Any of these could disrupt the blood clot and delay healing.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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