Wisdom tooth extraction is the most commonly-performed emergency dental procedure in our Mt Gravatt Dental Clinic. On average, 3 out of 4 of our dental emergency patients have at least one impacted wisdom tooth. Wisdom tooth problems affect women more than men because on average the jaw bone is smaller in women.
Impacted wisdom tooth problem is often a consequence of lack of space in the jaw bone. In other words, lack of space to accommodate a normal eruption of third molars leads to wisdom teeth problem. It is a common problem for many women (including myself) mostly when they are at ages 16 to 25.
According to statistics, people with impacted wisdom tooth, lose one to three work days due to wisdom teeth symptoms and the discomforts associated with it. When normal eruption of the third molars is obstructed, it can lead to infection, inflammation and swelling that are manifested by dental pain. If an impacted wisdom tooth is not treated it can lead to serious infections or lead to the destruction of the adjacent teeth or bones.
Let’s divide people who need wisdom tooth surgery into two groups. In group (1), people need dental surgery because the wisdom tooth is already diseased. In group (2), people have no symptoms yet but their dental examination reveals need for removal of their wisdom teeth. According to Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, the adverse impacts of wisdom teeth on quality of life in group (1) is three times more than group (2). So, if your dentist has identified issues with your wisdom teeth, it would be wise to treat them before they become symptomatic.
If not treated, an impacted wisdom tooth can lead to:
• Nerve damage
• Adjacent teeth damage
• Bone damage
• Other health issues
Diagnosis of Impacted Wisdom Tooth
Your dentist can diagnose an asymptomatic or disease-free wisdom teeth using dental radiography (dental X-rays).
With a dental x-ray (OPG), your dentist can determine:
• Presence of an un-erupted wisdom tooth
• Presence of disease in the surrounding tissues
• Anatomy of the root system of the wisdom tooth
A symptomatic or diseased impacted wisdom tooth can be diagnosed by its symptoms: pain, swelling, infection, inflammation of the gum around the tooth, pressure or by dental examination: probing, visual diagnosis. If you are concerned about your or your family’s wisdom teeth health, it is best to consult with your family dentist. Dentists can monitor the movements of wisdom teeth and advice weather you should remove your impacted wisdom tooth or there is no need to worry and they will grow in ok.
The risk of wisdom teeth extraction is low (less than 5% to 10% according to studies). Risks associated with removal of wisdom teeth increase with patient’s age or when the tooth is diseased. The risks include:
• Post-removal infection
• Development of painful dry tooth socket
• Temporary or permanent damage to tongue nerves or lip nerves
If you have had your wisdom teeth removed and you are concerned about these complications, you can return to your dentist or any emergency dentist near you.
Removal of Trouble-Free Wisdom Teeth
A trouble-free or disease-free wisdom tooth may or may not need to be removed. For some people, including myself, wisdom teeth do not fulfil a functional role in the mouth but for others they do play a positive role in chewing food. The best strategy for a disease-free wisdom tooth is to have its movements monitored by your dentist and only remove it when it is recommended. If your dentist finds your wisdom teeth to be completely trouble-free, it is possible that you can live your entire life without wisdom teeth problems.
On the other side, if your dentist recommends removal of a disease-free impacted wisdom tooth, you should consider removing it as soon as possible. You need to know that the risk of wisdom tooth removal complications increases with age. So, it is better to remove them when you are young and your body has good healing abilities. Moreover, it is normally easier to remove the wisdom tooth in young ages when the root system is still short and it is relatively easier to pull the tooth out.
Removal of a healthy functional wisdom tooth is not favoured or recommended unless it justifiable, for example, when it is preventing the eruption of other teeth (2nd molar). If your dentist finds out that problems are expected, they will usually recommend removal of the wisdom teeth. Need for a dental surgery will depend on the wisdom teeth being erupted or being deep inside the jaw and other factors that your qualified dentist will be able to advise.
Removal of healthy functional wisdom teeth may be justifiable in some cases including:
• Prior to some planned medical procedures e.g. heart valve surgery, jaw radiotherapy
• Prior to prescription of bone resorption modifiers e.g. bisphosphonates
• For certain people living or working in remote areas with limited access to dentistry
Wisdom Teeth Surgery
Normally wisdom teeth surgery is a relatively quick procedure. For one tooth, it usually takes less than 45 minutes. Most of this time is spent by the dental team to prepare your mouth for the dental surgery. The surgery may be performed on all four third molars or less and that changes the length of appointment. The surgery is done under anaesthesia and if the area is numbed successfully, you would not feel pain during the surgery. It is not always painless and quick but for many people, the removal of wisdom teeth may be a quick painless procedure.