Wisdom Teeth

[IMG id="458" size="medium" class="size-medium wp-image-458"] Caveman hunters lost teeth early in life, allowing room for wisdom teeth.

Why can they be problematic?

Life expectancy (at birth) in the stone age was between 20 and 30 years old. Wisdom teeth or third molars appear much later than other teeth. Their name stems from the presumption that they arrive when a person has the “wisdom” of age.

Ten to fifty thousand years ago, the average person’s diet included leaves, roots, dirt and gravel. This diet resulted in severe wear on the biting surfaces and between teeth. If a Paleolithic man were to develop a new tooth in their teens, the tooth wear on the other teeth in his mouth acquired throughout his first 15 or so years of life created enough space for the new tooth to erupt. Receiving a new tooth at the ripe old age of 18 became a distinct selective advantage.

In our modern world where lifespan in the US hovers around 80 and where most eat a soft diet, receiving a new tooth in the teenage years is not longer beneficial. In fact, without the wear cause by a caveman’s diet, most jaws are not large enough to accommodate third molars and the teeth become impacted. An impacted tooth is one that cannot erupt because something such as gum tissue, bone or another tooth blocks its path.

Teeth begin to form from a small pea sized tooth bud. Unfortunately, an impacted forming tooth does not stop developing. Instead of using the growth of the tooth from the bud to erupt, the tooth continues to grow, enlarging in the reverse direction towards anatomic structures such as the nerve that gives feeling and movement to the lower third of the face or towards the sinus. An impacted tooth left to grow to full size can be difficult to remove and may result in damage to adjacent structures upon removal.

If you live in the Alexandria area and would like more information about wisdom teeth or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Van Stralen, call our office at Alexandria Office Phone Number 703-317-3900.

Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen.

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of wisdom teeth, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to wisdom teeth are discussed.

Wisdom Teeth Presentation

As discussed, one reason the extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary may be if they are prevented from properly erupting into the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to successfully erupt.

These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection resulting in swelling, stiffness and pain. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. A serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.

Oral Examination

With an oral examination and radiograph (x-rays) of the mouth, Dr.Van Stralen can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and predict if there are or may be future problems. Early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. The best time to evaluate a patient’s wisdom teeth is in the mid-teenage years.  All outpatient surgery is performed under appropriate anesthesia to maximize patient comfort.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

The removal of wisdom teeth can be performed under local anesthesia or IV sedation. These options, as well as the surgical risks (i.e., sensory nerve damage, sinus complications), will be discussed with you before the procedure is performed.After tooth removal, you can rest under our supervision in the office until you are ready to be taken home. Upon discharge, you will receive post-operative instructions, a prescription for pain medication, antibiotics and a follow-up appointment in two weeks for suture removal. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at Alexandria Office Phone Number 703-317-3900 .


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