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Wisdom teeth: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are the four third molars, including 2 mandibular(lower jaw) third molars and 2 maxillary(upper jaw) third molars. They are generally thought to be called wisdom teeth because they appear so late – much later than the other teeth, at an age where people are presumably wise.

Wisdom teeth are vestigial .Human ancestors used to grind plant tissue with them. The common postulation is that the skulls of human ancestors had larger jaws with more teeth, to help chew down foliage. As human diets changed, smaller jaws gradually evolved, yet the third molars, or "wisdom teeth", still commonly develop in human mouths.

Wisdom teeth: Incidence, age and sex

They usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25 (although they may appear when older, younger, or may not appear at all. Wisdom teeth commonly affect other teeth as they develop, becoming impacted or "coming in sideways". They are often extracted when such problems occur.

Signs and symptoms/common problems of wisdom teeth: Diagnosis

Common problems with wisdom teeth are impaction, pain due to infections and crowding of the other teeth, which are typically due to tooth growth into inadequate space. If wisdom teeth are not visible, they are impacted. Impacted teeth will lay beneath the gums and may or may not cause a problem.Potential problems include infections caused by food particles easily trapped in the jaw area behind the wisdom teeth where regular brushing and flossing is difficult and ineffective.

Wisdom teeth: Treatment/extraction

Wisdom teeth are extracted for two general reasons: either the wisdom teeth have already become impacted, or the wisdom teeth could potentially become infected. Such infections may cause considerable pain and medical danger. Other reasons wisdom teeth are removed include misalignment which rubs up against the tongue or cheek causing pain, potential crowding or malocclusion of the remaining teeth (a result of there being not enough room on the jaw/ in the mouth), as well as orthodontics.

Wisdom teeth: Complications/post-extraction problems

There are several problems that might occur after the extraction(s).

Bleeding and oozing

Bleeding and oozing is inevitable and should be expected to last up to three days (although by day three it should be less noticeable). Rinsing the mouth during this period is counter-productive, as the bleeding stops when the blood forms clots at the extraction sites, and rinsing out the mouth will most likely dislodge the clots.

Dry Socket

The extraction site will become irritated and painful, due to inflammation of the bone lining the tooth socket (osteitis). The symptoms are made worse when food debris is trapped in the tooth socket. Generally dry sockets are self limiting and heal in a couple of weeks without treatment. Some ways of preventing dry socket are to schedule extractions during the last week of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are inactive, to avoid drinking through a straw; the suction will interfere with healthier clotting. To avoid smoking, it can contaminate the extraction site and to avoid excessive mouth rinsing, which may interfere with blood clotting.

Nerve injury

Such injuries can occur while lifting teeth but are most commonly caused inadvertently by the surgical drill. Such injuries are rare and are usually temporary. Depending on the type of injury they can be prolonged or permanent.