Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that start to form in your late teens to early twenties. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when they grow properly aligned. Unfortunately, these teeth are often misaligned and require removal. When wisdom teeth are misaligned, they may position themselves horizontally, be angled toward or away from the second molars, or be angled inward or outward. Poor alignment of wisdom teeth can crowd or damage adjacent teeth, the jawbone, or nerves.
How Do You Know if You Have Wisdom Teeth?
Ask your dentist about the positioning of your wisdom teeth. Your dentist may take an X-ray periodically to evaluate for the presence and alignment of your wisdom teeth. He or she may also decide to send you to an oral surgeon for further evaluation.
Your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend that your wisdom teeth be extracted even before problems develop. This is done to avoid a more painful or more complicated extraction that might have to be done a few years later. Removal is easier in young people, when the wisdom teeth roots are not yet fully developed and the bone is less dense. In older people, recovery and healing time tend to be longer.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
The ease at which your dentist or oral surgeon can perform the surgery depends on the position and stage of development of your wisdom teeth. Your oral health care provider will be able to give you an idea of what to expect during your pre-extraction exam. A wisdom tooth that is fully erupted through the gum can be extracted as easily as any other tooth. However, a wisdom tooth that is underneath the gums and embedded in the jawbone will require an incision into the gums and then removal of the portion of bone that lies over the tooth. Often, for a tooth in this situation, the tooth will be extracted in small sections rather than removed in one piece to minimize the amount of bone that needs to be removed to get the tooth out.
What Does Recovery Look Like After Surgery?
After having your wisdom teeth removed, how quickly one can recover depends on the degree of difficulty of the surgery. In general, here is what you should expect after surgery:
Antibiotic and Pain Medicine Prescriptions
Dental Health Mouth Guards
Mouth guards are protective coverings for teeth grinding during activities, especially sporting activities. Mouth guards should be used by anyone who plays contact sports such as football, boxing, soccer, ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and field hockey. However, even those participating in noncontact sports (for example, gymnastics) and any recreational activity (for example, skateboarding, mountain biking) that might pose a risk of injury to the mouth would benefit from wearing a protective mouth guard.
Children and adults who grind their teeth at night should have a mouthguard called a nocturnal bite plate or bite splint to prevent tooth damage.
How Do You Care for Your Mouthguard?
Clean your mouth guard with cold water or a mouth rinse before and after each use
Clean it with soapy water and rinse it thoroughly
Place your mouth guard in a perforated container to store and transport it
Protect mouth guard from high temperatures so that the shape of the mouth guard does not change
Check mouth guard for holes and tears frequently
Bring your mouth guard to your dental visits