What You Need to Know About Wisdom Teeth
By Mina Levi, DDS 03/20/2014

When your wisdom teeth grow in properly, they are just like all of your other teeth and help in the act of chewing. However, most of the time they become impacted or erupt at a strange angle in the mouth, which can cause pain and discomfort. In this article, we discuss wisdom teeth and the necessity of their removal.

What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are another name for the third molars, or the third of the larger teeth that are in the very back of the mouth where you chew most of your food. Most people have three (including the wisdom teeth) permanent molars in each quadrant of the mouth, twelve all together. The first molars usually erupt around age six or so, while second molars erupt around the age of twelve. Third molars, or the wisdom teeth, are the last to erupt if they erupt at all. They are called wisdom teeth because they tend to develop later in life, between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one.

Why do wisdom teeth sometimes need to be removed?
Horizontally Impacted Wisdom Tooth San Francisco
Some wisdom teeth may become impacted or prevented from erupting properly, mainly due to the lack of space in the mouth to fit them. Dr. Mina Levi normally recommends extracting impacted wisdom teeth because they can cause many problems, such as infection, decay of neighbor teeth, gum disease, and tumors. Wisdom teeth that do successfully erupt are often times very difficult to reach and keep clean and may become badly decayed and need to be removed. Other times that erupted wisdom teeth need to be removed include when they are nonfunctional, interfering with your bite, involved with or at risk of gum disease, or causing problems with neighbor teeth or dental restorations. Sometimes wisdom teeth areextracted in order to prevent these things from happening.

How do I know if I need my wisdom teeth removed?
Individuals whose wisdom teeth need to be removed may experience a variety of symptoms, such as pain, infection, and swelling of the face or gums. Dr. Mina Levi will determine whether you need your wisdom teeth removed by taking X-rays and examining your mouth. Wisdom teeth that are not removed will be monitored, as they can cause problems later in life. Extraction is usually an outpatient procedure and can be performed either by a dentist like Dr. Mina Levi or an oral surgeon using local sedation or a general anesthetic.

Are there any complications associated with wisdom tooth extractions?
The most common complication associated with wisdom tooth extractions is called a “dry socket”, a painful condition that occurs when the blood clot at the extraction site does not develop properly or is lost prematurely. This blood clot serves as the foundation for new tissue and bone to develop around the extraction site, so dry socket delays the healing process. To prevent dry socket from occurring, do not smoke, consume carbonated beverages, or drink through a straw after a wisdom tooth extraction. Rinsing with salt water can help keep the area clean after an extraction, but excessive spitting or rinsing can be harmful in the healing process. Normally, using a syringe to rinse the area is sufficient. Before your tooth extraction, make sure to tell Dr. Mina Leviand her dental team about any medications you are taking, as they could interfere with the healing process. To avoid complications, follow Dr. Levi’sinstructions regarding eating and drinking, pain management, and keeping the extraction site clean.

Everyone’s mouth and teeth are different, and only a dental professional can determine whether or not your wisdom teeth need to be removed. If you have concerns regarding your wisdom teeth or would like some more information, give Dr. Mina Levi a call at (415) 513-5066 or visit us on the web to schedule an appointment.