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What are Wisdom Teeth?

Also known as your third molars, wisdom teeth are the last four teeth to erupt. This most commonly occurs during your late teens or early twenties. Many people living on modern diets have jaws that are too small to accommodate the wisdom teeth and when these teeth try to erupt, they often cause gum swelling and pain.

Why are Wisdom Teeth removed?

Some people do not need to have their wisdom teeth removed; this happens when the teeth are correctly positioned in your mouth and are not causing pain or oral health problems. However, in many people, wisdom teeth only partially erupt (impaction) and can cause gum infection and severe pain. In fact, in the days before antibiotics, wisdom tooth infection could be very serious with the swelling blocking the airway.

When a problem with your wisdom teeth is detected, dental practitioners will advise you to have them removed as soon as possible. Wisdom teeth are removed due to:

  • Tooth decay,
  • Gum infection,
  • Pressure pain,
  • Orthodontic reasons,
  • Prosthetic reasons, and
  • Cyst formation.

Finding out when your wisdom teeth need to be removed

Each patient is unique, so depending on your jaw size and how your teeth are developing, you may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed. Your dentist will complete a professional evaluation and assessment. This entails:

  • Reviewing your dental history,
  • Taking x-rays of your teeth and jaw – typically an “OPG”,
  • Examining the general health of your mouth, and
  • Assessing the condition of your wisdom teeth.

If there is any evidence of potential issues with your wisdom teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may recommend removal. Many dental practitioners recommend early removal to avoid issues or complications down the track.

Do I need my wisdom teeth removed if I have braces?

The short answer is no. You do not need to have your wisdom teeth removed if you have or have had braces. However, this is something that needs to be considered unique to the patient, their oral health and orthodontic needs.

There is a common misconception that wisdom teeth (when erupted) will push all your other teeth causing them to move and overlap. However, research shows that wisdom teeth do not have enough pressure to cause misalignment. Therefore, we often take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach before making any serious decisions. There are many facts that your orthodontic team and general dentist will consider before recommending removal.

How are wisdom teeth removed?

If your dentist foresees your wisdom teeth causing issues or complications to your oral health, your dentist will begin discussing how these teeth can be removed. Depending on the angulation and degree of eruption of the wisdom teeth, your dentist will either be able to remove them under local anaesthetic (with or without additional sedation), or may choose to refer you to an Oral Surgeon for a general anaesthetic.

Some wisdom teeth can be difficult to remove due to their angulation or degree of impaction in the surrounding bone in which case your dentist or oral surgeon may need to divide the tooth into several pieces to assist removal. After extraction, the gum is sutured and your dentist or surgeon may apply gauze to help control bleeding and assist in the formation of a blood clot.

What can you eat after having your wisdom teeth removed?

For the first four to seven days, you should only be eating soft and protein-rich food, such as yoghurt, ice cream and cottage cheese. Apple sauce and fruit smoothies are also a great way to increase your vitamin intake when food options are restricted. Other healthy and easy to chew foods include scrambled eggs, some types of fish, mashed potato, porridge and soups.

Depending on the anaesthetic used, your mouth may remain numb for a short period. Therefore, hot foods or drinks are generally discouraged during this time. You are also more likely to bite your tongue, lips and cheek during this period so chewy foods should also be avoided. Unfortunately, spicy foods are also known to increase irritation and can delay the healing of your mouth, so these cuisines should be avoided for the first seven days. Hard, crunchy, sticky or sharp foods should be avoided.

Recovering from wisdom tooth surgery

Recovering from this type of surgery can take several days, and in some cases, you may experience swelling or discomfort for a week or more. Remember to use ice packs, eat soft foods and keep the healing area clean by using warm salt-water rinses. If you notice unusual symptoms such as pus discharge, severe pain or fever, call your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.

If you are concerned about how your orthodontic treatment will be impacted by your wisdom teeth, please speak with your friendly Ethos Orthodontic team or general dentist.