Wisdom Teeth

What problems can wisdom teeth cause?

The tendency for wisdom teeth to become "impacted" or unable to move into their proper position is the cause of most problems. Impacted wisdom teeth grow in any way they can, such as sideways or at an angle. Some may partially break through the gum surface, while others remain trapped beneath the gum and bone, leading to a host of potential complications:

  • Infected gums
    When the tooth has only partially broken through the surface, bacteria can enter through the opening or flap around the tooth and cause the gum to become infected. This uncomfortable condition is best avoided by having the wisdom teeth removed before infection can develop.
  • Decay
    Because partially-emerged wisdom teeth are difficult to clean, plaque containing bacteria may form on the surface and create cavities in the wisdom tooth and adjacent teeth.
  • Crowding and structural damage in other teeth
    When teeth become crowded, they lose their proper position in the mouth. Thorough cleaning becomes more difficult and teeth may wear unevenly or prematurely with structural damage as a result. These are just a few problems that may occur.
  • Cyst formation
    When a wisdom tooth is impacted, the sac that surrounds the tooth can fill with fluid and form a cyst that is capable of damaging adjacent teeth, the jawbone and nerves.
Did You Know?

Decayed tooth

Crowding displaces next tooth

Poor position

Cyst formation

How do I know if my wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Because problems with wisdom teeth develop gradually and symptoms may or may not be present, the best way to prevent trouble is to visit us regularly for check-ups and x-rays. Regular exams help us prevent your wisdom teeth from threatening your dental health. After all, the "best" kind of problem is one that can be prevented. In many cases, removing your wisdom teeth can take you a long way toward avoiding problems in the future.

At what age should wisdom teeth be removed?

The best time is between the ages of 16 and 19 - before the roots have a chance to become firmly anchored in your jaw. Also, the older we get, the denser our jawbones become, making removal more difficult as time goes on.

What steps are involved with this procedure?

During a preliminary examination, we will evaluate your dental and medical history and take x-rays. The procedure itself depends upon how developed your wisdom teeth are. We will use a local anesthetic and possible other types of anesthesia such as nitrous oxide (often referred to as laughing gas), intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Dr. Wissler offers conscious sedation for wisdom teeth and other cases to optimize patient comfort.

If your surgery includes general anesthesia or intravenous medication, avoid eating or drinking anything the night before and the morning of your surgery. We will review specific instructions with you before you come in, such as wearing loose, comfortable clothing and making arrangements for a family member or friend to drive you home after the surgery.

Following surgery, we will schedule a follow-up examination to make sure you're healing properly or to remove stitches, if your surgery required any.

Are there any risks with having wisom teeth removed?

As with any surgery, there are always risks to consider. You should be aware that certain risks such as side effects from the anesthetic, bleeding or infection are occasionally experienced with wisdom teeth removal, even though it's a common procedure where the benefits still outweigh the risks. Other possible complications may include:

  • Dry Socket
    After your wisdom teeth are removed, a blood clot forms to cover the socket as part of the normal healing process. If the blood clot dissolves or is washed away, you will probably experience the steady, throbbing pain of a dry socket. If this should occur, call us immediately so we can diagnose the problem and treat it properly. Generally, we will apply a medicated dressing to remedy the situation.
  • Numbness
    Nerves near your wisdom teeth are sometimes injured when the tooth is removed, causing tingling or numbness. In most cases the nerve readily repairs itself.

We will be glad to discuss other possible complications with you at any time.

What can I expect during the healing process?

During the normal healing process, you may experience initial swelling and discomfort in your gums and jaw, making it wise to plan on "taking it easy" for a few days after the surgery. Discomfort and swelling can be relieved by placing ice packs on your face. We may also prescribe pain medication to increase your comfort during the healing process, and antibiotics if necessary. Other things you can do to help with the healing process include:

  • Drink lots of liquids and limit your diet to soft foods after the bleeding stops. Avoid hard or crunchy foods for at least two weeks.
  • Avoid brushing the teeth next to the ones that were removed until at least a day after surgery. When you begin brushing the area again, be very gentle so as not to disturb the blood clot that forms in the socket. For the same reason, don't rinse your mouth vigorously, smoke, spit forcefully or drink from a straw during the healing process.
  • Avoid alcohol the day of surgery and do not mix with pain medications.
  • Call us if you have fever, persistent and severe pain, excessive swelling or bleeding, or any adverse reaction to your medication.
A Final Note

The best time to have your wisdom teeth removed is before they have a chance to cause other complications. If wisdom tooth removal has been discussed as an option for you, please feel free to share your concerns with us and we will be glad to advise you. We're here to help you achieve the best possible oral health, and removing your wisdom teeth may be an important step toward that goal.