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Wise up about wisdom teeth

“You need to get your wisdom teeth taken out.” If you’re like many Canadians, you’ll hear these words from a dentist at some point. Read on to find out why dentists recommend wisdom tooth extraction—and what to expect during and after the procedure.

What are wisdom teeth, anyway?
Wisdom teeth the third and last set of molars to come in, usually in the teens or early twenties. As it happens, nature doesn’t always get it right: wisdom teeth are often misaligned, and their position at the back of the mouth makes brushing and flossing difficult.

When do wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Unless your (or your child’s) wisdom teeth come in perfectly, there’s a good chance your dentist will suggest extraction. If wisdom teeth erupt at the wrong angle, they can crowd out nearby teeth and damage the jawbone or nerves. A wisdom tooth may also get impacted, meaning it only partially breaks through the gum. This leaves an opening for bacteria to sneak in, raising the risk of cavities and gum disease.

But my wisdom teeth look fine and don’t hurt. Do I really need to have them removed?
For one thing, your mouth may be too small to make room for the teeth once they’ve fully come in. When looking at X-rays, your dentist may notice other signs (such as the root system touching on nerves) that the wisdom teeth could cause problems later on.

But why the rush?
As people get older, their jaw bones harden, making it more difficult to remove wisdom teeth safely and raising the risk of complications.

What to expect when extracting
Before removing a wisdom tooth, the dentist will freeze the area with a (usually local) anesthetic. Next, the dentist will open up the gum tissue over the tooth, pry the tooth away from surrounding bone and tissue, and finally pull it out. Some cases require stitches. A gauze pad over the wound will stop the bleeding.

How much and how long will it hurt?
After the operation, you may experience some pain and swelling in your gums and tooth socket. Painkillers prescribed by the dentist or oral surgeon will help manage the pain. Recovery generally takes just a few days.


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