Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that typically erupt in teenagers and young adults. Because they are the last set of teeth to erupt, there is often little or no room left and they can cause all sorts of problems such as crowding and poor bite. For many adults, wisdom teeth will come in sideways and become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth cause pain, swelling, and infection. They can also cause the surrounding teeth to shift and affect the patient’s bite.
In addition, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to the formation of tumors and cysts in the bone and gum tissue. There is also some indication that wisdom teeth aggravate sinus congestion and cause headaches. There are a few advantages to keeping wisdom teeth, but in most cases the problems caused far outweigh any advantage and they need to be removed.
Removing impacted and un-erupted wisdom teeth is much more difficult than removing an erupted tooth and most dentists do not handle the procedure. An oral surgeon has the equipment, training and skill necessary to remove impacted and un-erupted wisdom teeth. In most cases, the patient will be kept comfortably sedated or under a light general anesthesia during wisdom teeth extraction.
After the wisdom teeth are extracted, the patient can expect some moderate pain and swelling. The pain can usually be controlled with acetaminophen or ibuprofen and the swelling will subside after 3 to 5 days. In the meantime, applying an ice pack to the affected area will help reduce the swelling.
The patient may have stitches and if so, will need to return to the dentist’s office to have them removed. Most patients are fully recovered in 5 to 7 days except for the gum area which may take up to 4 weeks to completely heal.
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