The Wisdom Tooth

The wisdom tooth is the third molar and it’s the last tooth in the mouth to erupt, right at the back of the dental arch. Why do we get problematic wisdom teeth so often? One theory is that the wisdom tooth is meant to support our other two molars which would have worn down by the time we reach 18. However, modern humans eat refined foods which wear out the other two molars too slowly, causing insufficient space for the wisdom tooth to erupt. This theory is supported by the fact that apes and other primates in the wild rarely have impacted wisdom teeth.

As you can see from the x-ray above, an impacted wisdom tooth can be a serious liability. It can cause swollen gums and/or food trap, leading to the decay of the tooth in front. If there is bone loss along with deep cavity, the second molar may need to be extracted as well. The purpose of doing the wisdom tooth surgery is to rescue the second molar from further damage. Procrastination may lead to irreversible damage.

The wisdom tooth can be embedded in a variety of depths and angles and depending on these and other factors, the task of removing a wisdom tooth can range from simple to extremely challenging. For the complex cases, you may need the services of a specialist oral surgeon or an experienced GP.

a challenging case

After the surgery, the cheek becomes swollen and mouth-opening becomes difficult. Pain and swelling levels vary widely between individuals. These can be mitigated with appropriate medication and the use of cold compress. With adequate rest and soft diet, most patients are back to normal in a week or less.

another challenging case

The risks and complications include bleeding, and prolonged numbness of the lip, chin or tongue due to nerve damage. Complications like nerve damage are rare. Even when it occurs, recovery can take place over a few months. Permanent numbness is possible but very rare.