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Be Wise: What You Need to Know About Wisdom Teeth

wisdom teeth

3 Fun Facts About Teeth

You probably take them for granted, but teeth are one of the most fascinating structures in your body. These fun facts explore a few of the more interesting aspects of oral health.

Teeth Are Stronger Than Bones

Enamel and dentin, the layer of the tooth just under the enamel, have to be strong to endure the forces involved in biting and chewing. Although your bones are softer, they do have one important advantage: they can repair themselves when broken, unlike teeth. Once tooth decay eats away at your tooth's enamel, the only option is a filling. Regular brushing, flossing and dental exams will help you keep your teeth strong and healthy.

Your Mouth is a Petri Dish

Approximately 20 billion bacteria are present in your mouth right now. Bacteria are a problem because it attacks enamel and causes cavities. Fortunately, your saliva helps wash away some of this bacteria, but if you fall asleep without brushing, the number of bacteria in your mouth begins to multiply significantly.

Toothbrushes Are an Ancient Invention

People have been concerned about oral hygiene since the beginning of time when early man cleaned his teeth with frayed tree branches. By the 1400s, the Chinese had invented the first toothbrush, which consisted of bristles made from a pig's neck attached to a bamboo handle. The modern toothbrush has only been around since the 1930s, when the invention of nylon made it possible to create softer bristles.

Unfortunately, wisdom teeth do not make you any smarter, but they can cause considerable pain if there is not enough room for them in your jaw. Wisdom tooth removal is one of the most common types of oral surgery. In fact, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons estimates that 90 percent of people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth removed.

What Is the Purpose of Wisdom Teeth?

You may not need your wisdom teeth, but your ancestors certainly did. Back in the days when a gourmet meal consisted of roots and leaves, wisdom teeth were a necessity. This third set of molars helped early man gnaw through a variety of tough foods. Because these teeth usually erupt in your late teens or early twenties, a time when you have hopefully gained a little wisdom, they are called "wisdom" teeth. Since you already have two sets of molars, you do not absolutely need your wisdom teeth.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?

Many people do not have enough room in their mouths for an extra set of molars. When there is nowhere for these teeth to go, they become impacted and remain below your gum line. Unfortunately, impacted teeth continue to try to push through your gums, causing pain and jaw stiffness. In some cases, a tooth may only be partially impacted, but this can lead to problems too, especially if tiny bits of food and bacteria collect around the tooth and cause an infection. If the teeth do erupt, they may grow at an angle and push against your other teeth, damaging them and even causing them to shift and become crooked.

Does Everyone Need Their Wisdom Teeth Extracted?

Some people never have problems with their wisdom teeth. The teeth erupt fully and grow in perfectly straight. If your wisdom teeth grow in without a problem, you'll benefit from having an extra set of molars for biting and chewing.

What Does Wisdom Teeth Removal Involve?

Impacted wisdom teeth are often removed during an oral surgery procedure. Extracting impacted teeth is a little more complicated than removing erupted teeth because your dentist must cut through your guns to expose the teeth. In some cases, a small section of bone must also be removed before the tooth can be extracted. Many people choose general anesthesia for wisdom tooth removal, although local anesthetic may also be an option. Removing erupted wisdom teeth is usually not much different than extracting any of your other molars, as long as the teeth are straight and have erupted fully.

How Long Does It Take to Recover?

You will experience some pain and swelling during the first few days after oral surgery. Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter or prescription pain killers to help reduce pain and swelling. Ice packs help decrease swelling during the first 24 hours. After two or three days, you'll probably notice a significant reduction in pain and swelling. Initially, you will be restricted to liquids and soft foods, such as soup, yogurt or applesauce. As you heal, you can gradually return to eating your favorite foods.

Whether you are concerned about your wisdom teeth, or it's time for your next dental exam, we can help. Call us today and make an appointment.

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