The Facts about Wisdom Teeth

Beginning in infancy and continuing throughout childhood and into adolescence, a lot of teeth erupt in your mouth. First you acquire baby teeth, only to lose them as those new adult teeth come in, which will need daily care and cleanings for the rest of your life. As your incisors, canines, pre-molars, and molars come in, the last type of teeth to arrive are your wisdom teeth. But what exactly are wisdom teeth? They’re actually a third set of molars, and they appear in the very back of your mouth. For some people, wisdom teeth don’t have enough room to come in or erupt at an odd angle, causing pain. Others have their wisdom teeth erupt with no problems at all. Wisdom teeth can cause unique issues in the mouth, so why do we have them? Flintlock Dental will take a closer look at wisdom teeth and the problems that can arise from their arrival below.

Wisdom Teeth Timing

Your third set of molars will usually start to appear between the ages of 17 and 21, depending on the development of the mouth (although erupting significantly earlier or later is perfectly normal too). These teeth are often called wisdom teeth because they appear later in your life, when you’re more mature. When these teeth come through correctly, they can help you chew. As with any tooth eruption, it’s normal to feel some discomfort when they break through the gums, especially since they’re bigger teeth and there’s not as much space for them to grow. If you feel a significant amount of pain, however, you should contact your dentist.

Room to Grow

How wisdom teeth interact in the mouth is different for each person, and it’s common for problems to arise. This is why it’s important to track how they’re developing to determine if they’ll be able to stay in your mouth without issue or if they’ll need to be removed. These teeth are large and need plenty of room to grow. If there’s not enough space for them to come to the surface, they can be impacted. This means that they get stuck in your jaw or trapped under the gums. Your dentist can determine whether or not these teeth are trying to erupt out of the gums and as time goes on, he or she will monitor them to see if anything needs to be done. Some examples of troubles that can arise with wisdom teeth include:

  • Inability to floss between your teeth properly because of tooth crowding.
  • Food becoming trapped between badly positioned teeth.
  • Wisdom teeth that have only partially come through can allow bacteria to get underneath your gums, causing infections.
  • A lack of space when the wisdom teeth erupt can cause alignment issues with the other teeth.
  • Wisdom teeth that are impacted can lead to gum and nerve damage under and around your teeth.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Your wisdom teeth will likely need to be removed if any of the following symptoms or problems occur in that area:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Cysts
  • Damage to neighboring teeth
  • Overcrowded teeth

If any of these symptoms arise, you’ll probably need to have your wisdom teeth removed as soon as possible. Their removal could also be necessary for upcoming dental work or braces on the teeth. Before any decisions are made, your dentist will take an x-ray to see what exactly is going on with the wisdom teeth and determine when and how they’ll be removed.

Once it has been decided that your wisdom teeth will need to be removed, there are a couple of different ways to go about it. A tooth that has fully erupted through the gums is relatively easy to remove. However, an impacted tooth sitting in your mouth at an odd angle will require a surgical procedure. When the tooth is under the gum or trapped by the jaw, an incision will be need to be made and part of the bone may need to be removed to get the tooth out. If a tooth is in this situation, it will likely be removed in pieces instead of all at once in order to remove less of the bone around it. Depending on the situation, wisdom tooth removal may only require local anesthesia or you might need to be put under general anesthesia.

Recovery after Wisdom Tooth Removal

How your wisdom teeth are removed will determine the severity and length of the recovery period. If all you needed was a simple extraction like any other tooth, it will just take a bit of time to let the gums heal. If you had to have the teeth surgically removed, then you can expect a longer recovery time. Do everything your dentist tells you to do, so that the surgical site heals quickly and without complications.

If you have a tooth removed, you might see some bleeding up to several hours after the procedure. Have some gauze on hand and change it out regularly to keep the location clean. Your face will probably swell due to the tooth extractions. To help ease this swelling, keep a cold press on it for 10 minutes then off for 20 minutes. While you recover, stick to a liquid diet for that first day or two. This will lessen the pressure on your gums, allowing them time to heal.

If caught early, trouble with your wisdom teeth can be dealt with quickly by your dentist and can be easy to manage. If you start to feel discomfort at the back of your mouth, get to your dentist as soon as you can, so those teeth can be monitored. It’s better to get a potential problem checked out early than to wait until more significant dental work needs to be done.

Another health concern that your dentist can help with is sleep apnea. Learn more here!

Dr. Wolfgang Schaller

Dr. Wolfgang Schaller was born in Germany, but he moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1975 and has been here ever since. He loves this area! After graduating from Rockhurst High School, he went on to pursue extensive higher education. Dr. Schaller really values continuing education and training because that’s how he is able to be the most qualified that he can to care for you and your family’s dental needs!

Dr. Schaller completed his undergraduate studies at Kansas State University. He then obtained both an MS degree in biochemistry and his DDS degree at the University of Iowa. Dr. Schaller has worked as a DDS in a group office in Kansas and a solo practitioner in Independence for almost 10 years.

Studying at the University of Iowa was a great experience not only for education, but that’s also where Dr. Schaller met his wonderful wife, Monika. They moved to theNorthland area of Kansas City after graduation, where they now live with their two beautiful daughters, Natalie and Gabrielle. Monika Schaller works at North Kansas City Hospital as an oncology pharmacist.

In addition to dentistry and spending time with his family, Dr. Schaller’s other interests include gardening and photography. He looks forward to getting to know you and your family, too!