By the age of 18, 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 (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 I remove my wisdom teeth?
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. The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. 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 successfully erupt.
These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth 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 teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.
Oral Examination for Evaluation of Wisdom Teeth
With an oral examination and X-rays of the mouth, Dr. Brent Porter can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there are present or may be future problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient.
Removal of Wisdom Teeth
All options, as well as the surgical risks (i.e., potential sensory nerve damage, sinus complications), will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed. Once the teeth are removed, the gum is sutured. To help control bleeding, patients are asked to bite down on the gauze placed in their mouth. You will rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, your postoperative kit will include postoperative instructions, a prescription for pain medication, and a follow-up appointment in one week. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
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Following these directions is important to avoid complications and aid your healing process. Please read them carefully:
- 24 Hour Rule – Do not rinse your mouth, spit, use a straw, chew food, brush your teeth, or look in your mouth for 24 hours. After 24 hours, begin rinsing your mouth gently with salt water. Use ½ teaspoon of salt per cup of warm water. Rinse for one minute 5-6 times per day for four days.
- Take medication as directed. Take 800 mg ibuprofen and 500 mg amoxicillin three times a day until all medication is gone. For example, take both medications when you wake up, when you go to sleep, and once in between.
- Use ice the day of surgery. Swelling normally increases for three to four days following surgery and then gradually decreases. Ice may be applied for 15 minutes and removed for 15 minutes, alternating on and off the day of surgery.
- Eat soft foods. Avoid all foods that require chewing for the first 24 hours. Ensure, Jamba Juice (no straw), ice cream, yogurt, soups (broth only), and similar food is recommended.
- Sleep is recommended after surgery. Most patients will want to sleep after sedation if they are placed in their bed. Blood pressure decreases when sleeping, and bleeding will decrease. Upon waking, remove the cotton gauze, begin using ice, and eat something if hungry (no chewing).
- Use cotton gauze to control bleeding. Slight bleeding, oozing, and redness in your saliva is normal following the removal of impacted teeth. Cotton gauze should be should be left in place for 30-60 minutes. Frequent changing of gauze will increase bleeding. If bleeding is excessive, wipe away any old clots and bite firmly on gauze or a tea bag placed on the surgical site. Talking and movement of your mouth and tongue will increase bleeding.
- Patients should not be left alone the day of surgery.
- Do not smoke for 48 hours after surgery.
- Use the irrigation syringe after one week. Fill the syringe with warm water. After each meal, place the syringe tip into the lower sockets and flush out debris until clean. Continue until the socket is closed, usually 2-3 weeks.
You can learn more about wisdom teeth removal in Santa Cruz, California, when you contact the office of Brent J Porter DDS at 831-459-9802 and schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist.