Are you one of the million Americans that have had to have their wisdom teeth removed or are you getting ready to have your wisdom teeth removed? The thing about wisdom teeth that really sticks out about wisdom teeth is that so many people have to have them removed. It is so common that about 40% of adults have had them removed.
Of course, there are a lot of questions about wisdom teeth, like why do so many people have to have them removed. Why do we even have these extra teeth that cause us so many problems? There are answers you need about wisdom teeth.
What Are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that usually show up in the late teens or early twenties. The accepted theory about wisdom teeth is that they are an evolutionary throwback. They are largely unnecessary, and often have to be removed because they overcrowd the teeth that have been in place since childhood. Basically, these extra teeth are a nuisance that we can all live without.
There is not a lot known about wisdom teeth and the whys and how’s. For example, why do they wait until the late teens and early twenties to show up? There are plenty of theories about wisdom teeth, but in the end just not a lot of information.
What We Do Know About Wisdom Teeth
Scientists believe that wisdom teeth were needed by ancient ancestors to help process their diet of roots, leaves, and meat. They were a necessity, however today, if you ask your dentist, they will likely confirm that they serve no purpose at all. When you think about it, typically the last “permanent” molar shows up around 12 years of age, which means by the time the wisdom teeth arrive, you have been getting by fine for about 8 years.
We also know that these third molars are called “wisdom teeth” because when they erupt, unlike their counterparts we are “older and wiser”. For many people, they are simply a painful nuisance that likely does not make them feel any wiser.
Another thing we also know about wisdom teeth is that not everyone has them. That’s right about 35% of the population were born without these bothersome teeth. Dental care services are reporting a trend of seeing fewer patients with wisdom tooth problems. Third molar hypodontia or the absence of third molars is on the rise, and evolution is being blamed. Since these teeth are useless anyway, it is believed that humans are evolving without them. It will take about 7 generations for them to disappear altogether from human anatomy.
Unfortunately, for the people that are left with these third molars, many of them suffer from impacted wisdom teeth that have to be surgically removed. Many people in their late teens and early twenties complain of ear pain and hurts to swallow not because of an ear infection or infection of the throat but because of an impacted wisdom tooth.
What Does an Impacted Wisdom Tooth Entail
For many young adults there simply is not enough room in their mouth for another set of molars. When the third molars try to erupt through the gum, they get stuck and become impacted. That means that the teeth have nowhere to go.
That constant pressure on your jaw, can cause a lot of pain, headaches, sore gums, and can push your straight teeth into crooked positions. Impacted teeth can become infected. Dental health services will almost always recommend having them removed.
Keeping impacted wisdom teeth is not an option. The cost for orthodontics to make room for teeth that you just do not need can be cost-prohibitive, the only option is to have them removed. While oral surgery never sounds like a good time, it is far better to have them removed and be done with it. Once you have them removed the pain will stop and your oral health can be restored.
Learning more about wisdom there and what the experience is like having them removed can help to ease some of your fears. There are about 100,000 dentists in the US practicing currently and all of them would agree that having wisdom teeth removed is a pretty common procedure.
The Process of Wisdom Tooth Removal
One of the things you need to know about wisdom tooth removal is that it can be a little harder for an oral surgeon to remove these teeth because of their location. Here is what you need to know about wisdom teeth and the extraction process:
- You may have to have gums cut to get the tooth out.
- If an infection is suspected you may have to take a round of antibiotics.
- You may experience discomfort in your jaw for a few days.
Depending on how badly the teeth are impacted, you may not be able to eat solid foods for a few days. On your way to the dentist grab some banana drink mix powder, Jello, yogurt, soups and other soft foods you will be able to eat.
A lot of people worry about the amount of pain they will feel during the procedure. You will be completely numb and will not feel anything. Some dentists will perform the surgery under general anesthesia which means you will not only not feel anything but you will be out cold and unaware of what is happening.
There are a few reasons why people choose not to use general anesthesia for this procedure. First, it is more expensive. If you do not have dental insurance it may be cost-prohibitive. Second, any time you are put under using general anesthesia there is a greater risk of complications. Third, recovery from general anesthesia takes longer.
Ultimately, you and your dentist should make the choice together. In some cases, when the teeth are seriously impacted, your dentist may highly recommend that general anesthesia is administered.
If your dentist does not offer general anesthesia, or if you choose not to be “put under” and remain awake, you won’t feel any pain but you will:
- Feel pressure on your jaw.
- Hear crunching noises as the tooth is pulled from the jaw.
- May feel a burning sensation.
There are a few things you can do to deal with the process better if you are not going to be under for the procedure. Wearing headphones and playing your favorite music can help to relax you and drown out some of the noises.
Meditation can help prepare you for the procedure. On the day of the surgery, bring someone with you to drive you back home, wear comfortable clothing, and be sure that you follow your dentist’s recommendation for pre-surgery activities.
You cannot cry medical malpractice if your dentist told you not to eat or drink anything after midnight and you did anyway and wind up getting sick after the surgery. It is vital that you follow the instructions both before and after to a Tee.
About Wisdom Teeth and After Care
Plan on relaxing for a few days after the procedure. No strenuous activities like heavy lifting, or other physical activities. This is not the time to go dirt biking or run those miles in the morning. Your body needs to heal, and the body heals through rest.
If you have stitches you will have been given instructions for caring for those areas. Follow all the instructions. If you were given pain medication be sure to take it around the clock. Pain medication is far more effective when taken around the clock instead of waiting until the pain flairs up.
To eat or not to eat is usually the question. Immediately following the surgery your mouth will be the least sore it is going to be for the next couple of days. While it can be hard to get anything down with a mouthful of gauze, you could technically eat soft foods as soon as surgery is over, you likely will not want to, but you could.
For the next three or four days you will want to make sure that everything that enters your mouth is soft and easy to swallow without chewing. When you go back to a normal diet, you do want to work your way up to that cheeseburger.
Some food ideas after wisdom teeth extraction include:
- Eggs cooked just about any way except hard-boiled.
- Pureed foods. Yes, you can throw some roast beef in a blender and call it a meal.
- Ice pops, ice cream, puddings, yogurts, and other soft-serve type foods, however, don’t forget about rinsing your mouth thoroughly after the sugar-laden foods to help keep the cavities down.
The key to quick healing is to follow the dentist’s instructions and rest. Do not overdo it, or you will delay healing. Even if you feel great after a few days, you still want to be conscious of the fact that your body needs all the energy to heal that extraction site.
About Wisdom Teeth and When You Can Keep Them
The good news about wisdom teeth is that they do not always become impacted, and they do not always need to be removed. Of course, there is a far higher chance they do become impacted and they will have to be removed, but you may be in that slimmer margin of people that can keep their wisdom teeth without consequence.
What situations do wisdom teeth not cause problems? There are several situations where wisdom teeth erupt and it is uneventful:
- If your second molars are missing. If you have had to have molars removed, you should be happy about wisdom teeth, they will take their place effortlessly. For you what you need to know about wisdom teeth is that they are like bonus teeth.
- If you have spaces and gaps in your teeth. If you have a large gap between your front teeth and have some space between your lower teeth than your wisdom teeth will be like wearing braces. They will close those gaps up.
- If you have just enough room for the teeth to come in. In some cases, your jaw bone can support a few more teeth. Wisdom teeth will come in without a problem.
Of course, even when the stars align properly and you are one of the lucky ones that get these bonus teeth, there can be problems keeping them healthy. These teeth are way back in your mouth, which can make cleaning them properly difficult.
You have to consciously make an effort to get back there and clean and care for these new teeth. Remember, these newcomers showed up about eight years after you got your last new molars. It can be easy to forget that you have to reach a little further with your toothbrush and wrangle the floss a little deeper in your mouth.
The Moral of the Story About Wisdom Teeth
The bottom line when it comes to your third molars is you don’t need them, you can keep them if they are not causing you problems, but only a handful of people are able to. Over the next hundred years or so, the likelihood that these evolutionary throwbacks disappear entirely is pretty good.
When you think about it, it is said that the body puts so much effort into creating something that we just do not need anymore. Considering that tooth enamel is the hardest surface in the human body, it must take a lot of energy for the body to create teeth that we will never use.
While the ancient dentists believed that because we are older when these third molars show up that we must be wiser and therefore could tolerate the discomfort easier, the fact is, this bothersome set of teeth are likely to cause more pain. Unlike an infant for a young child that is easily distracted from the pain, as an adult, it is all you can think of.
If you have a problem with your wisdom teeth, keep in mind that you are in the majority. Many, many people, have either already had their wisdom teeth removed or will at some point in their life. The most amazing thing about wisdom teeth is that no one really needs them.