Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Here’s what you should know

Chances are if you’ve made it to our website you’re probably looking for a little wisdom when it comes to your teeth. While we hope that you’ll excuse our terrible joke, deciding what to do about incoming wisdom teeth is no laughing matter. Will they affect your otherwise straight teeth? Should you be worried that they will come in and move your other teeth? Do they need to be removed, and if so, when should that happen?

These are all very normal questions that we field daily at our Asheville and Hendersonville dental practices from new and existing patients alike. While wisdom teeth removal will be the answer for some patients, others may not need to have them removed. Continue reading to learn more about impacted wisdom teeth and what can be done about them.

Woman experiences pain from her wisdom teeth in Asheville, NC

Here’s The 101 on Your Wisdom Teeth

Most adults have at least four wisdom teeth naturally. They are usually the third and last molars found at the very back of the upper and lower jaws. These are the final teeth to go through the gums in a process called eruption, though nearly 20% of people never develop at least one of these teeth.

They are called ‘wisdom’ teeth because you only get them once your older; they usually appear in the mouth when a person is in their late teens or early 20s. Most wisdom teeth erupt without issue, however, sometimes a tooth has insufficient space to erupt and thus becomes impacted.

Why Do We Have Them?

According to anthropologists, our wisdom teeth originally evolved to help our ancestors get the most from their diets. Historical diets involved a lot of roughage, including coarse leaves, nuts, roots, and meats, all of which required large, powerful jaws to chew. Modern human jaws have evolved to be much smaller than our Neanderthal ancestors, which means that wisdom teeth simply don’t fit for many of us anymore.

Most evolutionary biologists consider wisdom teeth to now be vestigial organs, meaning they no longer serve a specific purpose. This is due to the dramatic change in our diet which has led to an evolution over time: wisdom teeth are no longer necessary for our survival.

Do Wisdom Teeth Hurt When They Come Through?

Each smile is different, but the short answer to that question is no, they won’t always hurt when they erupt. Wisdom teeth that are aligned are able to erupt with little to no pain, though there will likely be some teething and tenderness around the teeth for a period of time. In instances such as these, wisdom teeth removal is probably not necessary.

For some people, however, the process of incoming wisdom teeth can be a painful one.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Hurt for Some People?

There are a number of reasons that can account for why the eruption of wisdom teeth can be uncomfortable or painful for some. If there’s not enough room for them in your mouth, pressure will be applied to the adjacent teeth to shift their position.

Additionally, wisdom teeth can sometimes come in sideways or have become impacted behind the last tooth in either the top or bottom rows of teeth.

In instances such as these, the gum covering the wisdom teeth can become swollen or infected, which would make the area around your jaw or ear hurt.

How Long Does the Discomfort Usually Last?

While it varies between individuals, wisdom tooth discomfort can last anywhere between one to two weeks. The pain often increases and decreases at different times throughout the day. Since wisdom teeth grow in stages rather than all at one time, it’s likely for a patient to experience a few waves of discomfort before their wisdom tooth has fully erupted.

Can You Reduce Discomfort Associated with Wisdom Teeth?

Over-the-counter pain relief medicine such as Ibuprofen can be beneficial if you are experiencing pain while your wisdom teeth are coming through. Additionally, you can try using heat and ice to help relieve pain. Wrap an ice-pack or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and place on the irritated side of your face, or suck on an ice cube, holding it over the painful area in your mouth.

Swishing your mouth with warm, salty water is a great way to relieve some discomfort and keep your mouth clean, as is drinking a cup of warm herbal or black tea. If the pain that you are feeling from your wisdom teeth is severe or you notice swelling around your face or jaw, make an emergency appointment to visit to visit us–this is usually a sign that the area around the erupting tooth has become infected.

Woman comes in for oral surgery consultation in Asheville, NC

Should You Get Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

This is a very common question, but the answer usually depends on the severity and frequency of a person’s symptoms, as well as the effects that the wisdom teeth are having on the rest of the mouth.

There are a couple of reasons why dentists routinely remove wisdom teeth, including:

  • Recurrent infections in partially erupted teeth that are impossible to clean properly
  • Potential damage to the healthy molars adjacent to incoming wisdom teeth

At BRO, we’ll consider all the specifics to your case before making a final decision, and we’ll take a thorough x-ray examination of your mouth to see how your wisdom teeth are coming through.

Is It Difficult to Remove Wisdom Teeth in Asheville?

This answer, like the above, is not a definitive one. Each wisdom tooth removal procedure depends heavily on the length of the roots as well as the proximity of the teeth to other structures, such as the nerves and blood vessels in the jaw.

Generally speaking, wisdom teeth in the lower jaw are more likely to be “impacted,” meaning they are harder to remove than the wisdom teeth in the upper jaw. Like any surgical procedure, there are certain risks, though they are generally low. Post-operative infection, nerve damage, and delayed healing can occur.

Our surgeons have two choices when removing a person’s wisdom teeth: general or local anesthesia, which depends on the number of teeth that need to be taken out, the level of difficulty, and personal preference. All options will be explained to you by a member of our surgical team and a decision will be made that suits your individual needs.

If teeth are removed via local anesthetics, the immediate area surrounding your tooth will be numbed, similar to how it is when you are getting a filling. Removal of teeth under general anesthetic is possible at our offices as they are equipped to offer all levels of sedation.

Following removal, it is common to experience swelling and discomfort for a number of days. There may be stitches to keep the wound closed and help with healing. We will advise you on the best care practices following the procedure, including whether you should be using any particular mouthwash to aid in recovery.

If you are using retainers from orthodontic care, there will likely be a few days where it is too uncomfortable to wear them, but it is important to return to wearing your retainers as soon as your mouth is comfortable enough to do so.

Though there are no strict dietary restrictions such as those involved in the braces diet following your wisdom teeth removal, it’s best that you avoid hard or crunchy foods such as nuts, popcorn, or chips until your mouth has healed. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid alcohol and smoking for at least 24 hours after your procedure.

What Happens If You Ignore the Pain?

Ignoring painful wisdom teeth can turn into a more serious problem, like an infection. Soreness surrounding wisdom teeth and pain in the jaw, ear, or side of your face can all be symptoms of infection, which if it goes untreated, can spread to the surrounding areas of your face. In severe cases, the spreading infection can cause facial swelling and restrict your airway, comprising your ability to breathe and swallow.

Wisdom teeth that haven’t properly erupted can also be difficult to clean due to their location at the very back of the mouth. In that spot, they’re much more prone to a build-up of plaque and food particles, which can cause infection around a tooth and lead to decay. This not only has a negative impact on the tooth itself but the surrounding gums as well.

Removing painful wisdom teeth allows you to avoid these potential risks and complications, keeping your mouth healthy and happy.

Visit BRO If You’re Concerned About Wisdom Teeth

While each case is different, visiting BRO when you start to feel your wisdom teeth coming through is a good idea. Doing so will allow us to examine your teeth and decide what treatment options may be necessary based on the way that your wisdom teeth are impacting the rest of your teeth.

Some measures may be recommended to ensure newly straight teeth stay in the same place. Some patients get a fixed orthodontic retainer, which is placed behind the front teeth, while others may be encouraged to continue wearing removable orthodontic retainers in the long term.

Even for those who aren’t dealing with changes from wisdom teeth, wearing their orthodontic retainer is a good idea for a long-term solution. Retainers help you maintain your orthodontic alignment despite natural changes that may result in shifts in your teeth.

BRO is proud to be your provider for quality orthodontic care in Asheville and Hendersonville. Whenever you feel in doubt about your smile, you know you can come to us. We are here to answer all of your orthodontic questions, whether they are related to wisdom teeth or otherwise. Every person is unique, and so no two cases are exactly alike. While the above information is a good guideline, it’s important that you contact us to make an appointment if you have any issues or questions regarding your wisdom teeth.

If you are new to the Asheville area and looking for a new orthodontist, stop by for a complimentary consultation to get a feel for our office. We are always looking forward to welcoming new members into our BRO family.

Make an appointment for a free new patient exam today!

We’ll help you take the first step toward a new smile.