Wisdom Teeth — What Are They and Why Would I Need Them Removed?

Molars are the teeth found in the back of your jaw that help you chew, and humans typically have three sets of them for a total of 12 teeth, six on each side of the jaw. The three types are First Molars, often called the six-year molars; the Second Molars, often called the 12-year molars; and the Third Molars, known as the wisdom teeth, as they generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21 after you’ve gained some “wisdom.”

(We’re not sure if these are years of “wisdom” per se, but that’s what the teeth are called.)

As wisdom teeth come in, they often cause problems that can affect other teeth. Some of these problems include:

  • The wisdom teeth are impacted (unable to break through the gums) because the jaw isn’t large enough to give them room.
  • The wisdom teeth only break through the gum partially because there is not enough space. Gum tissue can grow over the wisdom tooth and trap food to cause a gum infection.
  • The wisdom teeth face the wrong direction or come in crooked.
  • The wisdom teeth are so crowded or far back in the mouth that it is difficult to clean around them.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we keep a check on wisdom teeth through dental X-rays and monitor to see if they are causing any problems such as teeth crowding, pain or infection. Wisdom teeth that are causing problems need to be removed.

Wisdom teeth that have fully erupted through the gums can be removed with a non-surgical dental extraction in our office. The teeth and surrounding tissue are numbed with a local anesthetic, and you may choose to have a sedative to help control anxiety.

Wisdom teeth that are impacted underneath the gum and embedded in the jawbone require a surgical extraction and will require an oral surgeon. The surgeon makes an incision into the gums and then removes the portion of bone that lies over the tooth.

After a wisdom tooth is extracted, patients can sometimes develop a dry socket, which is a painful condition that occurs if the blood clot that was protecting the bone and nerves in the hole where the tooth was pulled become dislodged. Only 2 percent to 5 percent of people develop dry socket.

Dry socket is easily treatable with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or stronger pain medications. If you are experiencing dry socket, we will clean the tooth socket and fill it with a medicine to promote healing. You may also rinse your mouth with saltwater or a special mouthwash each day, and antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Questions about wisdom teeth? Call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

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