Dental & Oral Health

Wisdom Tooth: Do I Need to Save It?

Written by Dr. Divya Banu M and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

 

Third molars, also called as wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. They are placed most posteriorly and there are four wisdom teeth in total, two in the upper and two in the lower jaw (one in each quadrant). There are no predecessors for molars in your milk teeth sequence. So, any permanent molar will not be replaced once lost.

When can you expect it to pop into your oral cavity? Well, it has an average age range of 17 to 21 years, but it can extend to 23 or more years.

Checking your wisdom teeth? Alright, so it is there. In a normal position, like other teeth. Cool. Maintain your oral hygiene properly and there, you save your teeth. Just check if you have any cavity or gum swelling there. If yes, visit the dentist and get the treatment done.

Now comes the situation that it is not there or not fully erupted or improperly placed, and you are already within that age range or beyond. There comes the culprit. Let us get into the details.

If your wisdom teeth are not there, or partially erupted, it is called an impaction. Now, chances are that it is missing because it has not developed at all too. What should you do in such a case? Any symptoms? No issues or emergency. Just for your satisfaction, get an OPG X-ray done to check for the presence and position and condition of teeth and then further management can be decided upon. Prevention is better than cure, right? Consult a dentist with your OPG for guidance as to whether there is any future complication associated with it or not.

Now comes, if you have pain. Wisdom teeth cause severe pain while erupting and sometimes the inflammation of gums covering the tooth or any other pathology associated with it might cause pain and sometimes swelling too. It can reduce your mouth opening as well. Nothing to panic. Consult your dentist with an OPG and he/she will prescribe you analgesics, antibiotics, and other medicines if required, for symptomatic relief and explain to you the treatment.

For medicines, do not go for over-the-counter ones; please consult the dentist as it is necessary to give proper medicine based on the condition and medical history to prevent drug resistance or any other complication.

Treatment for such cases is the removal of the tooth. I will explain the reason further down into the article.

Now, coming to the improper position and condition of the teeth. It can either be tilted towards your cheek like the upper ones causing frequent ulcers or there can be severe cavity or infection.

What can be done for this? If the cavity is mild, you can get it filled, if the position and eruption are proper and complete. For mild gum inflammation, cleaning/scaling can be done. Sometimes, the tooth is covered by thick gum/flap which might stop the potential eruption of the teeth and you can have frequent inflammation of that (pericoronitis). It is better to get it removed. Sometimes, removal or cutting of that flap may help in the eruption of teeth. Again, all this will be decided by your dentist.

Now, in which case should it be removed and not saved like the other teeth? The reason it is often advised to be removed is that these wisdom teeth do not help in chewing function as evolution has led to decreased function of these and more impaction cases. The maintenance of these teeth is also difficult in most cases as they are placed at the very back, and maintaining it becomes difficult. This leads to frequent problems. So, keeping all this in mind, it is better to get it removed. It can require either surgical removal or normal extraction based on its position, and both the procedures will be explained to you by your dentist. Mostly, they are done under local anesthesia, Only if all four wisdom teeth have to be removed in a single appointment, then general anesthesia is preferred.

Kindly follow all the instructions properly after extraction or surgical removal, given by your dentist like mouth opening exercises, gargling, suture removal, food intake, etc., to avoid complications like dry socket or reduced mouth opening, etc., and also give complete medical and dental history to the dentist.

Golden Rule: When in doubt, consult your dentist. Gaining information from the internet is good but do not confirm or assume anything based on what you read. For further in-depth details and information, only a dentist can help you.

Until then, keep chewing and keep smiling.

Last reviewed at: 09.Nov.2018

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