To Keep or Not to Keep: Wisdom Teeth
If your child has a mouthful of healthy teeth, it may come as quite a surprise to hear that your dentist wants to remove your child’s wisdom teeth. After all, why would you remove perfectly healthy teeth? But even healthy wisdom teeth can cause big problems if they’re not extracted. Here’s why.
Wisdom teeth are the flat molars in the very back of your mouth. They usually erupt when you’re in your late teens to early 20s. These are your last set of teeth to grow in, but believe it or not, they serve no real purpose. So, why do we get them? Well, nobody really knows for sure, but scientists believe that early man used them to break down tougher-to-chew foods like nuts, roots and meats. Today, however, we don’t really use these teeth, and some people never even get them. But for those who do get them, wisdom teeth can often cause more trouble than they're worth. That’s because these underutilized teeth can cause many problems, including crowding or impacting.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it can be extremely painful. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause cysts or even damage to the jawbone and nearby teeth, so even if they aren’t causing problems just yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually. They also may be difficult to reach during flossing and brushing, making them more prone to cavities and decay. That’s why rather than wait for damage to occur, your dentist may decide to take them out sooner rather than later.
Whether you or your child’s wisdom teeth are impacted or not, if your dentist suggests removing them, you should certainly take that recommendation seriously. Here are a few things to remember when deciding whether to remove wisdom teeth.
There Are Many Anesthesia Options
While you or your child may be fine with local anesthesia and a sedative like nitrous oxide for a wisdom tooth extraction procedure, if you are concerned that level of sedation may not be enough, there are many oral surgeons who will perform this procedure under general anesthesia. This is a useful option for patients who are very scared or who do not feel relaxed enough with nitrous oxide. Speak to your dentist about which options are available in-office, or for a referral to a surgeon.
You may remember having puffy, bruised cheeks for a few days following your own wisdom teeth extraction procedure. Well, unfortunately, not much has changed. You can expect your child to come home from his or her procedure with that same chipmunk-cheeked look. This is totally normal and part of the natural healing process from removing these teeth. The good news is that your cheeks should reach peak puffiness about 24 hours after surgery, and they should return to their normal size within about three to four days after surgery.
As for the rest of the pain, that will subside with time as well. Be sure to take your prescription medications as prescribed to help alleviate pain in the meantime
Beware of Dry Socket
Dry socket is a condition caused by the open wound left behind from the removal of your wisdom teeth. When your teeth are removed, a clot is formed in that space. When it heals, the clot will break apart and go away - but sometimes the clot will loosen and become detached before the socket is done healing, causing what is known as dry socket, or aveolar osteitis.
This condition causes extreme pain when the exposed nerves in the socket are exposed to food or drink, or even air.
The good news is that dry socket will eventually go away, but the even better news is that you don’t have to suffer needlessly until it does. If you look in your mouth and see the blood clot has disappeared from your wound, give Dr. Abelar a call and he can treat the condition with a special medicated paste used to seal the socket and stop the pain.
You can even lower your risk of developing dry socket by avoiding hot or cold fluids, smoking cigarettes and using straws.
Let Dr. Abelar know if you are using oral contraceptives, as this may also increase your risk of developing dry socket.
If you have any questions or concerns about wisdom teeth, or like to schedule an appointment, please give Dr. Abelar’s office a call at 858-866-9692.