About Your Wisdom Teeth

What are “wisdom teeth”?

Your wisdom teeth are the four molars at the very back of your mouth that often grow in between the ages of 17 and 25. Since human mouths have evolved to be smaller than they were at one time, many people don’t have room for their wisdom teeth, and they don’t come in properly – they become impacted, which means they come in sideways and have to be removed.

Wisdom Tooth Impaction

There are four types of impaction:

  • Mesioangular is when the tooth is tilted forward, toward the front of the mouth.
  • Vertical is when the tooth doesn’t fully erupt through the gum line.
  • Distoangular is when the tooth is tilted backward.
  • Horizontal is when the tooth is angled ninety degrees sideways and grows into the roots of the molar next to it. Thankfully, this is the least common form of impaction.

Mesioangular impactions are harder to extract from the upper jaw, but easiest to extract from the lower jaw, while distoangular impactions are actually the opposite. Impactions can also be classified by whether or not they’re completely encased in the jawbone – if they are, they’re referred to as a “bony impaction”. If they have erupted from the bone but not the gumline, they’re called a “soft tissue impaction”.

History Time: The Oldest Impacted Wisdom Tooth

As far as we know, the oldest impacted wisdom tooth belonged to a European woman from somewhere between 18,000-10,000 BCE.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Extracted?

Usually a wisdom tooth (or multiple teeth) will be extracted because it’s impacted or could cause problems in the near future. Wisdom teeth that have grown in properly can cause infections, too. How? Sometimes food particles get behind the teeth at the very back where it’s difficult to brush or clean. Misalignment that causes teeth to brush against the tongue or cheek, which causes pain, is also a problem that causes these teeth to be removed.

What Are the Side Effects of Tooth Extraction?

After a wisdom tooth has been extracted, there will sometimes be bleeding and oozing. This is totally normal and should last for up to three days. It’s a bad idea to rinse your mouth during this time because that can actually wash blood clots – which stop the bleeding and help the wound heal – away, and we don’t want that.

A dry socket can sometimes occur, too, which is caused by blood clots being dislodged, falling out before they should or just failing to form. A dry socket can also be caused by smoking, blowing your nose, spitting, drinking with a straw, among other things. This will often heal on its own.

Swelling, not to be confused with a dry socket, will also occasionally happen, as can nerve injury.

Always make an appointment for a few days after your surgery so that the surgeon can make sure everything is progressing as it should be! If you are ever concerned, bring it up with your dentist, they can put your mind at ease and make sure that any extra treatment is given if needed.

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