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understanding your wisdom teeth

If you have not had your wisdom teeth removed, you likely know someone who has - more than five million Americans have their wisdom teeth removed every year. But have you ever wondered why we have them in the first place and why we oftentimes remove them?

What Are Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are third molars that grow in during teen and early adult years and were once extremely important to our early ancestors. Before the agricultural revolution, a typical diet consisted of chewy plants and uncooked meats, and wisdom teeth were the evolutionary answer for chewing power. The jaw is like every other muscle in the body, growing the more it's used. So when you eat harder and dense food, like our ancestors, your jaw will be larger, creating space for the wisdom teeth to grow in and be utilized.

Why Do We Remove Wisdom Teeth?

Now that we aren't using our jaw to that measure, we no longer have the room (or need) for wisdom teeth. Although wisdom teeth were incredibly advantageous for our ancestors, they pose a problem for the modern mouth. Wisdom teeth often crowd our smaller jaws - because of this lack of space, molars often grow sideways, only partially emerging from the gums, or get trapped beneath the gums and jawbone. These impacted teeth can be exposed to bacteria associated with infection, tooth decay, inflammation, and gum disease. And because they're so far back in the mouth or trapped underneath gums, keeping them clean is difficult.

The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, destroying the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid complications.

What Are the Signs That Wisdom Teeth Need to Be Removed?

Signs that your wisdom teeth need to be removed include:

  • Pain and consistent discomfort.

  • Bad breath does not go away with brushing your teeth.

  • Infection that damages your teeth and gums.

  • Cysts or tumors.

  • Cracks, pain, sensitivity, and cavities in the neighboring teeth.

  • Gum disease leading to bleeding, inflammation, and other problems.

  • Fever from consistent infections.

Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

The most common treatment to prevent or stop problems with wisdom teeth is to remove them. After that, it is important to:

  • Take proper precautions to aid in socket healing.

  • Take any prescribed antibiotics.

  • Add additional steps to your home oral healthcare routine.

Once you have your wisdom teeth removed, our office will schedule additional exams to monitor the healing process. An exam may involve X-rays, especially if you struggled with ongoing problems because of impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth, which caused further oral health damage.

Wisdom tooth removal surgery is an outpatient treatment; in many cases, it may not even require full sedation. You may be able to have local anesthesia during the process, which takes much less recovery time. When the anesthesia wears off, you can return home to begin your recovery.

  • Keep gauze in your mouth to prevent bleeding and induce a blood clot formation.

  • Eat limited, soft foods and avoid sipping through straws for up to two weeks.

  • Take pain medication for one to three days after the treatment as needed.

  • Rinse gently, without swishing, with warm salt water to prevent infection.

  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol for several days after surgery.

After Wisdom Teeth Are Removed

After recovering from wisdom teeth surgery, you may pursue orthodontic treatment to realign your 28 remaining adult teeth, which can improve your oral health since aligned teeth are easier to keep clean and have fewer places where tartar and plaque can build up and lead to infection.

To schedule your next appointment with Life Point Dental, call our Athens or Jefferson office today.


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