By the age of eighteen, the average adult has 32 teeth, 16 teeth on the top and 16 teeth on the bottom. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canine and bicuspid teeth) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molar teeth are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.
The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your third molars, also known as wisdom teeth.
Why Should My Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen.
When the wisdom teeth are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth, wisdom teeth surgery becomes necessary to extract the crowded teeth before they can cause serious problems. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to erupt successfully.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and may eventually cause an infection. The result is swelling, stiffness, pain and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, the doctors of Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there may be present or future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or by an oral surgeon. Wisdom teeth surgery, and all other outpatient surgery, is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort and safety.
In most cases, the removal of wisdom teeth is performed under general anesthesia. Once the teeth are removed, the gum is sutured. You will rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home.
At Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, we share the healthcare community’s concern about the potential abuse of opioid pain medications following surgery. Our approach to post-surgical pain management is conservative. Patients are encouraged to manage pain with over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen as the first line of defense. Some patients may require prescription pain medications due to the nature of their surgical procedure and they will receive a clinically appropriate, yet limited, prescription for an opioid.
We also offer Exparel, a long-term local anesthetic which is injected at the surgical site intra-operatively. The numbing effects of Exparel may last for up to 72 hours and can reduce or eliminate the need for opioids. Although it is not covered by most dental insurance plans, Exparel is a good alternative to traditional pain management.
Prior to any surgical procedure, discuss post-op pain management with your oral surgeon to determine what is appropriate for you or your loved one. Be aware of the risks and benefits associated with opioid use and understand the safer alternatives.