Wisdom teeth cause more problems than any other tooth in the mouth. They will either partially break the gum tissue and grow in crooked, or remain completely underneath the gum. In nine out of ten people, at least one tooth remains underneath the gum – referred to as an impacted wisdom tooth – causing future problems of varying degrees.
Even if there are no problems initially, headaches, earaches, pain in the face, neck, throat and upper and lower teeth can occur if impacted wisdom teeth are not removed. Impacted wisdom teeth (particularly the lower wisdom teeth) are almost certain to cause problems if left in place.
The most common reasons for removing wisdom teeth are:
It is recommended by specialists that impacted wisdom teeth be removed between the ages of 14 and 22 years, whether they are causing problems or not. Surgery is technically easier and patients recover much more quickly when they are younger. What is a relatively minor operation at 20 can become quite difficult in patients over 40 because as we get older, the bone surrounding the tooth becomes more dense, making the tooth more difficult to remove. In addition, the risk of complications increases with age, and the healing process is slower.
Depending on the size, shape and position of the tooth, removal can vary from a simple extraction to a more complex operation. With a simple extraction, there is usually little swelling, bruising and/or bleeding. More complex extraction will require special treatment which may result in more bruising, swelling and bleeding. However, post-treatment measures can minimize these side-effects.
Following an extraction, a condition called "dry socket" may occur: If the blood clot that formed in the extraction area becomes dislodged, it exposes the underlying bone. This condition is very painful, but resolves after a few days. It is preventable by following the post-treatment recommendations provided by a dental professional.
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