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Wisdom Teeth & Extractions
Wisdom teeth are third molars. The first molars usually grow into the mouth at around six year of age. The second molars grow in at around age 12. The third molars usually will try to grow in around age 18 to 20 years. Since that is considered to be the age when people become wiser, the third molars gained the nickname, “wisdom teeth.” They are just as useful as any other tooth if they grow in properly, have a proper bite relationship, and have healthy gum tissue around them. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.
You may not realize it, but your jaw is probably significantly smaller than that of your ancestors. Long ago, prior to the discovery and use of food preparation and processing tools, our jaws were larger, having much harder work to do. Over time, culinary skills improved and diet changed, lightening the load on our jaws. So jaws have become smaller over time although the number of teeth per jaw has remained the same. The result is crowded teeth and impacted third molars. Instead of erupting all the way, such wisdom teeth often sit partially erupted, becoming a perfect location for bacterial growth and germ accumulation, leading to infection, jaw pain, swelling, gum disease and possibly tumors and cysts. Although antibiotics can help temporarily, they cannot solve the problem. When these problems occur it is wiser to pull the wisdom teeth.
The result of a ongoing study sponsored by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) strongly suggest that patients who do not have their third molars removed prior to age 25 may be at greater risk for development of periodontal disease or gum disease behind second molars and around third molars, this may be attributed in part to the inability to keep this area clean due to difficult access. This in turn, allows infectious bacteria to grow and begin the disease process of caries or periodontal disease, which worsens over time. Additionally, third molars that have broken through the tissue and erupted into mouth in a normal, upright position are as likely to exhibit disease as those that remained impacted or buried.
The vast majority of patients heal flawlessly after having their wisdom teeth removed with little discomfort and swelling, however, a small percentage of patients experience: dry socket, a painful condition that occurs when newly formed blood clots at site of the extraction do not develop or are lost. Dry socket delays the healing process as much as picking at a scab on the knee delays growth of new skin. Research confirms that risks factors such as smoking and poor oral hygiene significantly increase our chances at developing dry socket. Stop smoking for at least 72 hours after an extraction and follow recommendations to avoid post extraction complications.