Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, emerge during early adulthood. A panoramic dental radiograph (x-ray) will confirm the number of wisdom teeth in a person’s mouth and indicate whether any of these teeth are buried or unerupted. It also allows full radiographic examination of the upper and lower jaw architecture and all the teeth present.
Due to our smaller jawbones, wisdom teeth often do not properly erupt and can grow sideways, emerge part-way out of the gum, or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. As maintaining their cleanliness is difficult, gum and bone infection is very common. Wisdom teeth and their adjacent teeth can also become decayed. Chronic pain, migraines, headaches and facial pain can result. The adjacent teeth can also become so grossly carious that root canal therapy may be the only way to salvage the tooth. In some circumstance, the adjacent tooth may be replaced by a dental implant.
Even when the wisdom teeth erupt properly, there may be a tight fit in the back of the mouth, making it very hard to clean them properly – leading to decay.
The younger one is, the easier the removal of the wisdom teeth, as the bone is more elastic and the roots are shorter. With proper management, the procedure is smooth and seldom causes any significant swelling or discomfort afterwards.
The procedure can be performed under local anaesthesia alone, or together with intravenous sedation, which puts patients in a relaxed state of mind and significantly reduces any anxiety factors. Sedation can be done in the clinic with the assistance of an anaesthetist who will administer the sedation and monitor the patient’s vital conditions. General anaesthesia usually takes place in a hospital or day surgery centre and increases the total cost of treatment. Whichever method selected to remove wisdom teeth, with proper expertise, wisdom teeth removal can be accomplished under an hour for all four teeth or under 30 minutes for two teeth.
Delaying treatment may increase the likelihood of pain, infection and problems associated with the wisdom teeth. Researchers have found that patients aged 30 years and above may be at greater risk for gum disease in the tissues surrounding the wisdom teeth and adjacent teeth, which can, in turn, affect general health. It is also unwise to delay removal of wisdom teeth until pain and infection set in as healing may be complicated and more prolonged. It is better to remove the wisdom teeth preventively before they become infected as infected wisdom teeth are more complicated and more expensive to treat.
Research has shown that the overall dental condition improves after the removal of wisdom teeth. Prevention is cure and early removal avoids all the associated problems stated.