Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Thousands of wisdom tooth extractions are performed around the world each year by dentists or oral surgeons. Wisdom tooth extraction is a surgical procedure where one or more wisdom teeth — the four permanent adult teeth located at the very back of your mouth — are removed.
What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are also known as third molars and are located at the back corners on the top and bottom of your mouth. These teeth are the last to appear in the mouth and typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 25.
Why do we even have wisdom teeth?
Most anthropologists and other scientists think that the purpose of wisdom teeth is related to our ancestors’ diet. Early humans consumed a lot of raw, unprocessed foods such as nuts, seeds, and tough meats. Consequently, by the time these humans reached their late teens or early twenties, their first and second set of molars would have experienced much damage. Evolution ensured that the human body compensated for this wear by producing a third set of molars — the wisdom teeth.
In the current era most humans cook their food rather than eating it raw and use cutlery rather than relying on their teeth. As a result, we don’t really need wisdom teeth anymore. Future generations may not develop wisdom teeth and in some humans some or all wisdom teeth are already absent.
As such, wisdom teeth, much like the appendix, are often considered to be unnecessary parts of the human body. They are also removed because most modern mouths are too small to fit these four extra teeth. So not only are they no longer necessary, but they can also result in oral health problems. As such many dentists recommend that wisdom teeth should be extracted during adolescence or early adulthood.
When is surgery required?
While there is no ideal age for wisdom teeth removal, people between the ages of 16 and 19 should have their wisdom teeth evaluated by a dentist to check if removal is necessary. Panoramic and digital X-rays help dentists see things that might be missed with a simple visual exam and allow any individual risks to be identified. The use of technology also helps the dentist to determine the best approach for the removal procedure.
Your dentist may suggest that your wisdom teeth be removed if your teeth are crowded, misaligned or impacted. Crowding occurs when your teeth are too close together and pushing against other teeth which can cause damage. This can cause pain and lead to infection caused by the bacteria growing between the crowded teeth. Due to a lack of space, impacted teeth can grow sideways or crooked and lead to bigger problems. Atypical facial pain can occur if impacted wisdom teeth are not dealt with timeously.
In many people, wisdom teeth are already affecting the health of their mouths before surgery is required. However, to prevent potential problems, some dentists and oral surgeons recommend wisdom tooth extraction even if the teeth aren’t currently causing problems.
Your dentist will likely recommend wisdom tooth removal to avoid the following outcomes:
· Tooth pain at the site
· Trapped food that can cause decay
· Damage to nearby teeth and gums
· Damage to the jawbone
· Irritated gums
· Bacterial growth in the gumline of partially impacted teeth
· Development of a cyst or tumour near the tooth
· Shifting teeth
· Jaw and gum disease
Are there any value in wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth can provide the support needed for a dental bridge and can fill in gaps left after the loss of another molar tooth. Of interest, a study has shown that wisdom teeth contain tissue for the creation of stem cells. In the future, experts are hoping that stem cells become a source of replacement cells to treat things such as heart disease, stroke and burns or even to create a new tooth.
Your dentist may perform the wisdom tooth extraction procedure in the office under local anaesthetic. In addition to making the area numb with local anaesthetic, sedation may be suggested to allow you to be more comfortable during the procedure. However, if your teeth are deeply impacted or if the extraction requires an in-depth surgical approach, your dentist may suggest you see an oral surgeon as general anaesthesia might be more suited to you.
Crown Dental Studio is one of the few truly 24-hour dental practises in Durban as this is not limited to emergency dentistry treatment.
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