Wisdom teeth are also known as third molars. Typically, they are the last teeth to develop and are located behind the second or twelve year molars. Wisdom teeth have a high degree of morphologic variability, meaning that they often are not shaped like other molar teeth. They derive their name from the time they normally appear, which is usually during the late teens or early twenties, which has been called the age of wisdom.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When a wisdom tooth is blocked from erupting into the mouth in its normal position, it is termed impacted. Research has shown that nine out of ten people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth resulting from a lack of space. Impacted teeth can lead to a multitude of problems which include pain, infection, crowding, or injury to adjacent teeth, difficulty maintaining hygiene, as well as possible cyst formation around the wisdom tooth. Impacted wisdom teeth are classified as either completely impacted, partially impacted, or soft tissue impacted, depending on their position within the jaws and gum tissue.
The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) and The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation (OMSF) have conducted an extensive research project to assess every aspect of third molar/wisdom tooth surgery. Their findings strongly suggest that wisdom teeth should be removed by the time the patient is a young adult. It is preferable to assess and if needed, remove wisdom teeth before they become symptomatic. As wisdom teeth develop, their roots become longer and more fully formed and the jawbones become denser, thereby making their surgical removal more difficult. As a patient grows older, it becomes more challenging to surgically remove wisdom teeth.
Surgery to Remove Wisdom Teeth
Most wisdom tooth surgery is performed in the office setting at Berks Oral Surgery. Each surgical suite is equipped with state of the art monitoring to ensure patient safety. Surgery is performed under local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Your doctor will discuss which anesthetic option is right for you.
The relative ease with which a wisdom tooth is removed depends on the position and orientation of the tooth within the jaws and the amount of root development of the tooth to be removed. Some wisdom teeth are more difficult to remove than others. When indicated, dissolvable stitches are typically used to close the surgical site. Normally these stitches will dissolve within four to five days. Most wisdom tooth surgery takes about an hour with an equal time reserved for the recovery area.
Preparing for Surgery
The staff of Berks Oral Surgery realizes that this procedure can be a stressful experience for anyone. We strive to do our best to allay your fears and anxieties and make your surgical experience a positive one. On the day of surgery you should wear loose, comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be easily rolled up. Any intraoral jewelry should be removed as well as large hoop or dangling ear rings. Long hair should be pulled back and away from your face. For those patients receiving intravenous anesthesia, you should not eat or drink for 6 hours prior to surgery. You should adhere to any medication schedule prescribed by your surgeon prior to surgery. Having a driver to transport you home is mandatory for those receiving intravenous anesthesia.
After Wisdom Tooth Surgery
You should count on spending 30-60 minutes in the recovery room immediately after surgery. Your driver or other responsible party is welcome to be with you during this time. During the recovery room experience you will be cared for by a nurse or other surgical assistant who will monitor your recovery and provide a detailed, printed list of post operative instructions. In addition you will receive a take-home care package that contains an ice pack and extra gauze. After wisdom tooth surgery you may be asked to bite on gauze to help control post operative bleeding. In addition an ice pack applied to the sides of your face for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling. Your surgeon will prescribe medication to help alleviate discomfort. Patients are advised to have at least 2-3 days of rest and can typically resume their normal activities within a week. Dietary considerations include clear liquids initially followed by a soft diet for the first few days postoperatively. Fluids are to be taken without a straw. Gentle cleansing of the mouth can begin the next day by use of saline rinses. Tobacco products, hard and crumbly food, and vigorous rinsing or exercise are to be avoided during the first few days as these will interfere with and /or delay normal healing. You will also be given an appointment for a post operative check, returning within a week.