Having Pain in Your Wisdom Teeth?
You may have seen teething babies with their red-hot cheeks and their drooly smiles and thought: I’m sure glad that uncomfortable phase of my life is over! But, wouldn’t you know it, nature has one more surprise up its sleeve. Toward your later teens or early adult years you may begin to feel some discomfort toward the back of the mouth. Soreness in the gums and discomfort when you eat may just signal the emergence of your wisdom teeth.
Wisdom teeth are also known as the third molars. These teeth are the furthest back in the mouth and are typically singular in each quadrant, though they can be absent in some portions of the population. Similarly, it is possible to have several molars per quadrant which is known as having supernumerary teeth. Wisdom teeth typically have large root systems and can present significant discomfort as they emerge.
Why Would I Want to Extract my Wisdom Teeth?
While some portions of the population are able to safely and comfortably retain their wisdom teeth, it is common for wisdom teeth to have negative effects on neighbouring teeth or to become impacted. Due to their size, many patients do not have the required amount of room to accommodate emerging wisdom teeth. The resulting impaction can occur in one of several ways. Some wisdom teeth become impacted in the jaw bone and never emerge into the gums. Others emerge partially into the gums but may not emerge from the gum line. Wisdom teeth that do emerge from the gums can remain partially covered by gum tissue and it is also possible for teeth to over-emerge (beyond the height of their neighbours.
Since wisdom teeth are so far back in the mouth, they can be difficult to adequately clean. This can lead to an accumulation of plaque bacteria and food debris which then puts the patient at risk for developing periodontal disease or decay. When these teeth remain partially covered by gum tissue, food debris is packed under the flap of tissue during eating which can lead to the development of painful infection.
Teeth that remain in the jaw bone may not cause immediate concern such as in the case noted above, but they are at risk of developing dentigerous cysts. These cysts are not typically associated with complaints of pain, but they may show signs of their presence in swollen gum tissue around the tooth or shifting of neighbouring teeth. Since these cysts begin beneath the surface, they do require X-ray to be confirmed. Since dentigerous cysts continue to grow when left unchecked (like a balloon as it fills with air), it is important to treat them before damage to surrounding bone or tooth roots result.
How Will I Know if My Wisdom Teeth are Causing a Problem?
The best thing you can do to ensure that you are decreasing the potential risk factors associated with your wisdom teeth (or all your teeth for that matter!) is to schedule regular checkups and cleanings with your general dentist. Your dentist is well attuned to the potential concerns that may arise between visits and will be watching for changes that indicate a potential concern, whether apparent visually or with the help of digital X-rays. If, however, you are encountering symptoms between visits, these may indicate that it’s time to revisit your dentist to investigate:
- Swelling along the gumline and/or shifting of teeth
- Pus around the site of the emerging tooth
- Pain or difficulty opening or closing the jaw
- A metallic or sour taste weeping from the site of the emerging tooth
- Severe pain
Can My General Dentist Remove my Wisdom Teeth?
In most cases, removing a wisdom tooth is well within the scope of your general dentist and can be determined during the consultation process. The process to remove a wisdom tooth would be similar to the removal of any other tooth. First, your gum will be numbed with a topical gel, followed by the injection of a local anesthetic which will keep you comfortable throughout the brief procedure. If necessary, a small incision will be made in the gum tissue to allow access to the wisdom tooth. Once the tooth has been removed, your dentist may place some sutures in the gum tissue to aid in healing and to promote the formation of a protective clot over the exposed nerve.
Your dentist will provide you with instructions about how to care for your incision and will encourage you to take precautions to avoid dislodging the clot. This includes avoiding drinking through a straw or any other sucking motion for several days following the extraction. Be sure to follow your dentist’s care instructions carefully, including taking pain medications as prescribed.
To learn more about this or any of the services offered by our general dentists, contact Sherwood Park Dental Clinic in Sherwood Park. We look forward to serving you.