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When Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary?
10 million wisdom teeth are removed every single year!
In the past, the extraction and removal of wisdom teeth were seen as a precaution measure to promote oral health and prevent long-term health issues associated with the emergence of third molars.
What’s the Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth?
Most people do not have adequate jaw space to accommodate their third molars. As a result, wisdom teeth commonly do not erupt properly, or sometimes not at all, remaining trapped beneath the gums.
The traditional thinking behind the preemptive removal of wisdom teeth is built on the idea that early removal can prevent potential oral health issues later in life.
Many dental professionals believe that wisdom teeth, or third molars, crowd out other teeth as they grow, causing many dental problems, including dental crowding, impactions, and infections.
For most people, wisdom teeth start growing between the ages of 17 and 25 years old. That’s why dentists have traditionally recommended removing wisdom teeth during this period in a patient’s life. The thought is that if wisdom teeth are removed before they become a hazard, patients can avoid much pain and discomfort.
When Is Wisdom Teeth Removal Necessary
Removing wisdom teeth becomes necessary when they cause issues, such as dental discomfort, oral pain, or dental shifting.
Most dental professionals recommend leaving third molars in place in healthy adults.
Reasons that could make the removal of wisdom teeth necessary include:
One of the most important reasons for extracting wisdom teeth is to deal with an impacted wisdom tooth.
An impacted tooth remains hidden beneath the gums without erupting. However, impacted teeth can still wreak havoc by pushing into adjacent teeth, soft tissues, and surrounding jaw bone.
Impaction can cause several oral health issues, including dental crowding, malocclusion, and deep-tissue cysts.
While a wisdom tooth that has not erupted doesn’t necessarily indicate impaction, it is still important to get your mouth checked and to have x-rays regularly so your dentist can monitor the development of your wisdom teeth.
Partial eruptions (or mesial impactions) are the most commonly occurring type of wisdom teeth impaction.
With a mesial impaction, the tooth is partially erupted and angled towards the front of the mouth. For this reason, mesial impactions are sometimes referred to as “angular impactions.” When a third molar is only partially erupted, it may be partially covered by the gums. This extra gingival tissue often traps food debris and bacteria and can be exceedingly difficult to clean.
The combination of difficult maintenance and bacteria often leads to a condition known as pericoronitis. Pericoronitis is swelling, and infection of the gum tissue around the wisdom teeth, the third and final set of molars usually appear in your late teens or early 20s. It is most common around the lower wisdom teeth.
As your wisdom teeth grow in, they can displace your existing permanent dentition leading to dental crowding.
Most people today do not have a large enough jaw to accommodate these late-growing molars. As a result, your teeth can become crooked or even damaged over time.
Cysts or infection
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that typically form as a result of an infection.
According to recent scholarship, only about 2 to 3 percent of impacted wisdom teeth generate so-called dentigerous cysts. While these cysts are typically benign, they can lead to many issues if left untreated.
Cysts can become infected, causing pain, tooth loss, or even jaw fractures.
Over time cysts may also become a type of benign jaw tumor known as ameloblastoma.
Problems maintaining cleanliness
Sometimes a wisdom tooth may erupt in such a way that makes dental hygiene extremely difficult or impossible, leading to chronic infections. This is most common with partially erupted third molars, which are known to cause pericoronitis. In situations where this is the case, doctors may deem dental extraction necessary.
Oral cancer or tumors
Impacted teeth are known to cause cysts. In some rare cases, impacted wisdom teeth may also generate benign tumors, such as ameloblastoma, which must be surgically removed.
Additionally, patients diagnosed with oral cancer in the area of their third molars may also have their wisdom teeth removed in the course of their cancer treatment.
Oral pain or discomfort
Ultimately, a wisdom tooth causing oral pain or discomfort or is otherwise interfering with your life needs to be removed.
Wisdom tooth pain and discomfort are often signs of impaction, infection, or the development of deep tissue cysts. However, to be sure, it is important to see your dentist or periodontist for an oral checkup.
When In Doubt, See a Dental Professional
The wisdom and science on wisdom tooth removal are continually evolving. However, one important fact that has never changed is the necessity of seeing a dental professional if you suspect something is wrong. A dentist will be able to identify the source of your oral pain or discomfort, whether it is a wayward wisdom tooth or something else.
Furthermore, common dental checkup procedures, such as x-rays, can identify problems, such as an impacted tooth, before they wreak havoc on your mouth and your health.
Preparing Your Teenager for Wisdom Teeth Removal
Getting your teens ready to have their wisdom teeth pulled
Every year millions of Americans have their wisdom teeth removed. The majority of these patients are teenagers and young adults.
Wisdom teeth removal is so prevalent in young adults that many families see the procedure as a rite of passage into adulthood. Although there is a healthy debate about the prophylactic or pre-emptive removal of wisdom teeth in young adults, most dentists and periodontists still recommend the procedure.
Wisdom teeth, or “third molars,” have the potential to cause many oral health issues as they grow in during early adulthood. For example, wisdom teeth often become impacted or fail to emerge, resulting in crowded teeth, infections, pain, and other dental problems. Furthermore, wisdom teeth do not provide any known benefits to patients, even if they cause no immediate health issues or discomfort. This is because most human jaws cannot accommodate this extra set of teeth.
Why Remove Wisdom Teeth in Teens
Their jaw bone is still relatively soft and malleable during a person’s teenage years and young adulthood. In addition, as a person ages, their bones tend to harden, which can make extraction procedures in older adults more difficult and make recovery more arduous.
As wisdom teeth begin to grow, they can damage your gums and teeth. Extracting potentially troublesome wisdom teeth in teenagers prevents any potential oral health issues further down the line.
It is important to note that the consensus on whether to extract wisdom teeth early or wait until patients become symptomatic is widely debated. However, most doctors and parents should err on the side of caution. Whether or not to remove wisdom teeth should be a conversation between a patient, a patient’s parents or legal guardian, and their periodontist.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Teen For Wisdom Teeth Removal
Wisdom teeth removal, like any dental or surgical procedure, can cause your teenager some anxiety. Therefore, it is important to proactively communicate with your teen about what the process will entail and what the day-of plan and recovery plan will be.
In other words, preparation is key!
By being prepared, you will not only assuage your teen’s anxieties but also make the experience smoother for yourself.
1. Talk to your dentist or periodontist.
The first step in preparing you and your teen for their wisdom teeth procedure is to have a conversation with your dentist or periodontist. Setting up an appointment for a routine checkup or initial consultation will allow you and your teen to ask your dentist important questions about the wisdom teeth extraction experience.
Some important questions to ask your dentist or periodontist include:
- Does my teen need to have preparatory dental work done before the procedure?
- Can my teen take their prescription medications beforehand?
- What time does my teen need to arrive for the procedure appointment?
- Does my teen need to avoid eating or drinking (fasting) before the procedure?
2. Talk to your teenager about the process.
Communication is key.
Talking your teen through the process will help them feel more at ease and less anxious about their wisdom teeth extraction. Let them know that there is a plan in place and that you are listening to their concerns.
While your teen may have heard stories from peers who have undergone the procedure, talking to a doctor directly will help them clear up any misconceptions and answer any burning questions.
Questions most teens will want to be answered include:
- Will the procedure be painful?
- What will I be able to eat afterward?
- Will my face look swollen or puffy?
- Will I be able to play sports?
- Why is this procedure necessary?
As with any surgical procedure, pain after the initial painkillers wear off is to be expected. However, talking to your teen about the pain can help them mentally prepare for the physical discomfort associated with the recovery period.
3. Go shopping.
After a wisdom teeth extraction procedure, patients must follow a soft food diet for a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on how quickly their wounds heal.
During this time, your teen will have to make do with soft foods and liquids like mashed potatoes and smoothies. But, this can also be an opportunity to have a little fun. Let your teenager pick out their favorite soft foods, snacks, and drinks for their recovery. While Mac & Cheese and ice cream for dinner wouldn’t normally make for the healthiest dinner, it’s a nice treat once in a while.
Great soft foods teens crave include:
- Mac & Cheese
- Buttered baked potato
- Ice cream
- Soft spaghetti
- Creamy PB&J
- Scrambled eggs
4. Arrange transportation beforehand.
No patient should drive after getting their wisdom teeth removed. Sedatives and anesthetics administered for the procedure cause most patients to feel drowsy or sleepy. Chances are, your teen will be ready to nap immediately after the procedure. Parents and guardians should arrange transportation for their teens.
Sedatives can be disorienting for some teens. So you should be prepared to drive them home, help them to their room or the couch, and put them to rest.
5. Rest before and after wisdom teeth removal.
A great rule of thumb immediately after surgery is to have your teen sleep as much as possible. Be sure to put them somewhere comfortable and elevate their head on a pillow or cushion.
During the critical first 24 hours after surgery, patients must get lots of rest and move their heads as little as possible. Resting after surgery speeds up the healing process and keeps the mouth immobile, which allows the wound to clot. Once the wound has clotted, it is important to avoid strenuous activity or prod the extraction site.
What You Must Know About Wisdom Teeth Removal After 30
For more than a generation, the prevailing wisdom in dentistry has encouraged the preemptive extraction of wisdom teeth to prevent future complications. However, wisdom teeth left in place can become impacted, infected, harbor bacteria, or crowd out adjacent teeth. In addition, impacted wisdom teeth can cause excruciating dental pain amongst other oral health issues.
Many Americans have their wisdom teeth removed in their teenage years or their twenties. During this time in a person’s life, wisdom teeth, or third molars, are just beginning to grow in. Furthermore, during a person’s teens and twenties, their jawbones have not completely hardened. This makes dental extractions both easier to execute and easier to recover from.
As a person ages, their bones tend to harden, which can make surgery more difficult. However, just because a person is over 30 doesn’t mean that it is too late for wisdom teeth removal. Wisdom teeth issues that necessitate removal can strike at any age.
If you are over 30, there is no need to worry. However, here’s what you need to know.
What If I’m Over 30?
Wisdom teeth typically emerge between the ages of 17 and 25 years old. Typically, this is considered to be the best time for preemptive wisdom teeth removal.
Wisdom teeth removal for patients over 30 is not uncommon. However, here are some things if you are 30 or over that you should keep in mind:
Healthy patients over the age of 30 generally experience no additional complications with wisdom teeth removal.
Therefore, most dental professionals recommend removing wisdom teeth in your teens and twenties as a preventive measure to later hardships or complications.
If you are experiencing wisdom teeth pain or discomfort, no matter your age, it’s important to consult with a periodontist about wisdom teeth removal and don’t put it off. In general, waiting a little longer to have your wisdom teeth extracted isn’t an issue, but allowing your wisdom teeth to become impacted can cause severe damage to your mouth.
There may already be existing damage.
Those who choose to skip wisdom teeth removal in their teens and twenties may be putting their oral health at risk.
When wisdom teeth first emerge, they do not cause much damage or discomfort. However, over time they can become impacted, resulting in several potential health problems such as cysts or abscesses.
You may hide many of these issues for some time before symptoms become noticeable. For example, patients who wait into their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s to have wisdom teeth removal may find they have preexisting damage caused by impacted teeth.
Teeth extraction after age 30 can be more difficult, and recovery can be slightly longer.
Wisdom teeth are easier to remove before they have fully developed. This is the reason why many dental professionals recommend having your third molars extracted during early adulthood.
As you grow older, your wisdom teeth also grow deeper roots. In addition, as you age, the surrounding bone tissues tend to harden. Deeper roots, harder bones, and proximity to the inferior alveolar nerve may make your wisdom teeth harder to extract. But, of course, extraction is only part of the process.
After extraction, recovery for patients over the age of 30 may also take a little longer. Instead of a few days, an older adult may need a week or longer for their mouth to heal from a wisdom tooth extraction procedure.
Consider having all your wisdom teeth removed at once.
Wisdom teeth removal surgery is a common procedure, even in older adults.
Patients considering a wisdom tooth extraction might want to consider having all their wisdom teeth removed in a single sitting. Extracting all of your third molars at once can avoid undergoing multiple extraction procedures over time. Not only will this save you money, but it will also save you days and weeks in recovery time.
It is important to talk to your periodontist to develop a roadmap for dental treatment that is most suitable for your needs.
Be prepared on your day of surgery. Arrange for help with transportation and stock up on soft foods.
Due to the use of anesthetics and sedatives, patients will not be able to transport themselves home without assistance. Therefore, attempting to travel immediately after wisdom tooth surgery can be dangerous and put your life and the lives of others at risk.
Adults over 30 may not rely on parents or guardians to arrange their post-operation transportation needs. Instead, older patients should have their spouse, partner, or a trusted friend ensure that they get home safely.
Patients should also be well-prepared for a healing period that last for days or even weeks. Recovery may take between 3 or 4 days or longer. Older patients can expect the recovery to take 5 days or longer, while younger patients can usually bounce back in just a few days. But, again, it is important to be patient and err on the side of caution. Give your mouth the time it needs to heal and avoid jumping back into your regular routines.