Did you know why wisdom teeth are called such? Some say that it's because they appear in your late teens to early twenties when you know better. Unlike the other teeth that appear very early in your childhood, these ones come out when you already have "wisdom". The only problem with the third and final set of molars that come out is that they are often misaligned and more often than not, they require extraction.
For most people, these teeth erupt in awkward positions. They are usually positioned horizontally or angled towards or away the other molars. When these teeth grow out in this manner, the adjacent teeth can be crowded or damaged. The nerves and jawbone can be affected too.
When a wisdom tooth grows toward the second molar, it has the tendency to trap food particles, debris and plaque. It therefore becomes vulnerable to tooth decay. Other than that, it can also be trapped entirely within the soft tissue or the jawbone or only partially grow out. This is referred to as "impacted tooth".
Impacted tooth makes way for bacteria to enter and infect the tooth. As a result, pain, swelling and stiffness of the jaw are experienced. A person may also have fever. Impaction doesn't only bring about tooth decay but also gum disease as it makes the tooth difficult to brush and floss.
Oftentimes, people don't even notice that they have wisdom teeth growing out until they feel the pain and swelling or when they have a fever. The first response of most people is to go to the dentist. He/she may recommend extraction to ease the pain and treat the infection.
It's also possible to extract the wisdom tooth even before problems occur. This is actually the better route since it saves you from the painful and complicated process of extraction that is to be done some years later. It's also easier to remove the wisdom teeth in younger people when the roots are not yet fully formed. Older people often have a harder time recovering and healing.
This makes it important to constantly monitor the growth of your wisdom tooth. When you go to the dentist for a regular checkup, you can ask him/her about how your tooth is and if it's bound to be misaligned. The dentist will perform an x-ray to see the alignment of the wisdom tooth. He/she may recommend extraction of the wisdom tooth before it erupts and causes problems.
An oral surgeon performs the wisdom tooth extraction. He/she will first numb the teeth and surrounding tissue using a local anesthetic. You may also be given a sedative (nitrous oxide, oral sedative or intravenous sedative) to tone down your anxiety.
After the wisdom tooth has been removed, control any bleeding by putting clean gauze over the empty tooth socket. Bite on this firmly. Apply constant pressure for about an hour. Contact your dentist or oral surgeon if there is heavy bleeding. Avoid spitting, rinsing, smoking or drinking beverages through straws 24 hours after the tooth extraction.