Adults normally have 28 teeth, assuming they don’t lose any in an accident or need to have them extracted. In addition to the 14 teeth on the top and bottom jaws, some people have an additional one to four teeth erupt called wisdom teeth. This typically happens in the late teen or young adult years.
Because the jaw lacks space in the far back, it’s impossible for the wisdom teeth to grow in successfully and become useful. This process can cause sufficient pain and swelling and may eventually cause an infection or damage the health of surrounding teeth. In severe cases, wisdom teeth that are not extracted can cause cysts or tumors to grow in the mouth. The wisdom teeth may become impacted, which means they get stuck because there is no room available on the back jaw for them to grow.
An impacted tooth can occur in three different ways. With a complete bony impaction, jawbone surrounds the incoming wisdom tooth on all sides. The surgical procedure for a complete bony impaction is the most complex of the three types. In the case of a partial bony impaction, the wisdom tooth partially erupts while some of the crown stays beneath the gums and jawbone. This situation will lead to an infection if the wisdom tooth remains in the mouth.
A soft tissue impaction means that the upper portion of the wisdom tooth has come through the jawbone. In the process, part of the tooth remains covered by the gums or the upper portion of the tooth is coming through in the wrong position. Because that makes it difficult to keep the teeth clean, food gets trapped below the gum line and can cause infection and tooth decay.
When Should Impacted Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
Our dentists prefer to remove an impacted wisdom tooth as soon as it’s discovered. Patients typically don’t know that they have wisdom teeth until they start to experience pain and swelling. However, some people don’t have any indications that a wisdom tooth is developing.
Whether or not the impacted wisdom tooth causes symptoms, not extracting it can increase the risk of bone loss, gum disease, future cavities, and crowding of the other teeth. As part of the examination process, your dentist will determine if immediate extraction is necessary or if the wisdom teeth can carefully be observed for a while.
Examination and Extraction of Wisdom Teeth
Prior to making the decision to remove wisdom teeth, your Arlington Heights dentist will complete an oral exam and take both panoramic and digital x-rays. The results of the x-rays help with planning your course of treatment. As part of our normal treatment approach with teenaged patients, our dentists take x-rays to see if wisdom teeth are developing below the surface. Knowing about the presence of wisdom teeth as soon as possible allows us to avoid many oral health issues in the future.
On the day of your wisdom teeth extraction surgery, your dentist administers general or local anesthesia according to which you prefer. You can also request oral sedation if you think you will feel highly anxious during the procedure. After successfully removing the wisdom teeth, your dentist places gauze to control the bleeding and gives you instructions on pain management at home. You may receive a prescription if you need stronger relief than what is available with over-the-counter medications.
Please contact our dental office in Arlington Heights right away if you or your child are experiencing pain and swelling in the area of the jaw where wisdom teeth normally grow.