Wisdom Teeth Extraction
Wisdom teeth are to the mouth what tonsils are to the throat, or gallbladder is to the gut. While gallbladders or tonsils rarely need to be removed unless they produce a physical problem, wisdom teeth nearly always have to be removed. So, extraction is routine and there's nothing to fear. However, you should know a few things about the procedure so that you're prepped up and ready to handle the recovery as efficiently as possible.
Wisdom teeth, also known as the third molars, are the farthest most teeth at both the upper and lower jaws. The term 'wisdom' was coined in the 1600s to characterize these teeth. They were initially called 'the teeth of wisdom' and by the 1800s, the name had changed to 'wisdom teeth.' Of course, the teeth don't make you any smarter, though they tend to appear much later in life compared to other teeth, typically during mid-teens and mid-twenties. Since a person is wiser when they have reached this age, presumably, the name was coined.
Many anthropologists believe that the wisdom teeth were very useful to the early man. This is because the diet was much different than what we're used to today. Back then, they didn't sit down with a spoon and a bowl of soup or eat mashed potatoes with a fork. It was more common to grind roots, rib meat, and chomp on nuts, which resulted in extensive wear of the teeth, making wisdom teeth a valuable tool. With time, the human jaw has become comparatively smaller, which is believed to be the cause of wisdom teeth coming in at odd angles or remaining impacted, resulting in overcrowding.
Interestingly, oral surgeons and dentists altogether may encourage the removal of wisdom teeth even if they grow perfectly well and don't overcrowd the existing teeth. This is because it's generally more difficult to clean these teeth due to their hard-to-reach location. So, bacteria often build upon them, leading to infection. That's why an estimated 85% of the total population requires wisdom teeth extraction.
But when is the ideal time for wisdom teeth extraction? In general, the sooner the better. Keep in mind that just like trees, teeth usually grow a more extensive root system as they grow. As such, they will be much easier to extract when you're young. When the roots eventually reach and connect with the sinus tissue or bone, the procedure will become more difficult and significantly more painful.
Extracting wisdom teeth is a bit more complex than simply pulling out a tooth. It requires some form of sedation that involves a local anesthetic, general anesthetic, or an intravenous sedative. The actual procedure should not be painful. However, after the anesthetic wears off, that will be another story. Based on whether the wisdom teeth have been impacted, usually below the gum line, the procedure may involve cutting and stitching.
Recovery from Wisdom Teeth Removal
For most people, it's all about how it will feel and how long it will actually take to recover from the extraction, and less about how the process is performed. It's quite unlikely that you'll experience any pain during the extraction process because you will be sedated the whole time. However, although the tooth extraction process is a routine, you have to take the recovery seriously to avoid painful and unpleasant consequences.
Your dentist will probably give you some pain medication to help with the post-extraction discomfort. In the first 24 hours following the removal, bed rest is necessary. Avoid exercising for at least three or four days after the procedure. A few hours rest combined with pain medication will be effective in making the recovery process faster and can make you overly optimistic about going back to your normal activities soon. While this is common, you will only be asking for trouble if you get tempted to return to your normal activities in less than 24 hours. The more active you are, the more the blood will pulsate to these already sensitive areas.
Within the first few days of wisdom teeth removal, bleeding can occur, and swelling in the cheeks and mouth can be apparent for a couple of days. Your dentist or oral surgeon will give you a gauze to place on the area or sutures where the extraction occurred. Additionally, your face might be bruised. Keep ice packs handy as they can help with the recovery process too.
During the recovery process, your mouth will be very sensitive, so go for soft foods like soups, mashed potatoes, or cool nutrition sources like smoothies. Of course, you want to avoid hard foods like seeds and nuts for as long as six weeks following the extraction.
If you want to speed up the process and prevent possible infection, keep up a good oral hygiene. Even the night after surgery, brush your teeth and remember to avoid touching the extraction area. Remember to be attentive to the doctor's recommendations and follow them to the letter for an uneventful and swift recovery.
Wisdom teeth Extraction Complications and Infection
Complications resulting from wisdom tooth removal are very rare. In fact, unexpected health issues only occur in less than 2% of the people who get their wisdom teeth removed. Infection is perhaps the most common potential complication.
Some people are generally more prone to infection than others are. If you have a pre-existing health condition that weakens your immune system, then your doctor might have to prescribe some antibiotics before and after the wisdom teeth extraction. If you're not guarded against possible infection, there's a small chance that bacteria could penetrate the bloodstream during the extraction process, and this could lead to some serious health conditions, some involving vital organs like the kidneys or the heart.
Women who take oral birth control should be aware that the prescribed antibiotics could disrupt its effectiveness. As such, your doctor may prescribe a second form of birth control until the entire course of antibiotic treatment is complete.
For those that don't have a weakened immune system, a great deal of the potential for infection are within your control. Smokers, for example, should avoid smoking for at least the first 24 hours after the extraction. Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and tongue will go a long way in preventing the risk of infection.
Avoid engaging in any strenuous physical activity for a few days following the extraction process will make the healing process faster and prevent complications. Also, leaving the wounds alone as much as possible can help to avoid complications from an infection. Touching the area where the tooth was extracted by your tongue or finger might be tempting, but it won't help with your recovery. Besides, when you're changing out the gauze, avoid touching the sutured area.
Remember to gently rinse your mouth with warm water, and avoid spitting or sucking on a straw, as these can interrupt the healing process. In most cases, it's a good idea to have wisdom teeth removed. Working with a trained dental professional with the right knowledge and care should make the wisdom tooth extraction and recovery process smooth and uneventful.