WISDOM TEETH EXTRACTION SPECIAL
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The wisdom of wisdom teeth removal
Wisdom teeth removal is a traditional practice verging on a rite of passage for many Americans. The procedure is so common, in fact, that in any given year over 10 million wisdom teeth, or third molars as many dentists refer to them, are extracted from patients in the United States alone.
That’s a lot of teeth.
Conventional wisdom, however, on the efficacy and necessity of removing these troublesome molars has faced some questions in recent times.
What are ‘wisdom teeth’ and why do we have wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the third and final set of molars located at the very back of a person’s mouth. Most people have two sets of wisdom teeth - two teeth in the upper jaw and two in the lower - for a total of four wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of modern human beings, these extra molars are nothing but vestigial teeth from a far distant past. For most of us, they are nothing but trouble.
Once upon a time, our strong-jawed hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on these change molars to grind up tough roots, hard nuts, and sinewy meats. Once we learned how to farm staple grains such as wheat, barley, and rice, and discovered that cooking food was a great idea, our need for such strong jaws and extra teeth disappeared. Our mouths have been shrinking ever since resulting in jawbones that simply don’t have enough space to accommodate all our teeth.
Wisdom teeth symptoms
The result of having too little real estate for all of our teeth is dental havoc. Due to the lack of space, wisdom teeth will often collide with adjacent teeth as they grow out in a troublesome process known as impaction.
There are three broad classifications of impacted wisdom teeth:
- Soft tissue impaction
- Partial bony impaction
- Complete bony impaction
During the first, the crown of the tooth has penetrated through the bone, but still covered by the gums.
In the case of partial bony impaction, part of the tooth remains submerged in the jawbone.
Finally, during complete bony impaction, the wisdom tooth in question remains entirely encased in the jawbone.
In all three cases, impaction can result in dental crowding, localized pain and swelling known as pericoronitis, bleeding, and periodontitis. Other problems associated with wisdom teeth include partial eruptions in which a third molar only partially emerges resulting in a flap of tissue that can become a hotbed for food debris, bacteria, and potentially, the site of severe infections. In rare cases, cysts and tumors can also form as a result of wisdom teeth emergence.
Conventional wisdom in question
Despite universal agreement that removal is the best course of action for impacted wisdom teeth, there is less consensus about what to do with wisdom teeth that are not impacted or partially erupted. Research suggests that only 12 percent of impacted teeth result in any pathology. To put that in perspective, the appendix, another seemingly useless vestigial body part, has an incidence rate of pathology at 10 percent. Yet, most people don’t submit themselves to inherently risky medical procedures to have it preemptively removed. Surgery can itself have unintended negative consequences including infection, bleeding, numbness, and in extremely rare cases, paresthesia due to nerve damage. As a result, there are some in the medical community who suggest that the same caution doctors and patients apply to an appendectomy should apply to the practice of removing wisdom teeth. It is important to remember, however, that it is wise to have a consultation to determine whether or not they should be removed. Ultimately it is a judgment call by both the dentist and patient to determine the benefits or impact of removal.
When should I consider wisdom teeth removal?
Generally speaking, if the wisdom teeth are impacted or otherwise causing pain and distress, they should be removed. Many doctors, dentists, and dental professionals recommend removing wisdom teeth even before impaction occurs or other issues arise. For many in the field, it is far better to remove them before they cause problems. Generally speaking, most people who opt to have their wisdom teeth preemptively removed have their third molars extracted between the ages of 18 and 25, before the wisdom teeth become completely embedded. Ultimately, whether or not to extract and remove one, two, or even all of a patient’s wisdom teeth will have to be a conversation between a patient and their dentist. At the end of the day, it’s a judgment call.
Wisdom teeth removal cost
The costs of removing wisdom teeth will vary from patient to patient, from one office to another, and across geographical locations. What each patient pays out of pocket will also vary depending on what insurance, or lack thereof, he or she has. One strategy many patients pursue is to opt to have all their wisdom teeth, even those that aren’t causing any issues at the moment, removed in one session in order to pay for the administration of local anesthetics once. Broadly speaking, extraction costs can vary depending on the complexity or the job and many other factors. To get a better idea of the costs of such a procedure, check out our special here.
Do you need your wisdom teeth removed? Dr. Navid Senehi of Facial and Oral Surgery Institute is regarded by many as "The Third Molar Master." Schedule a consultation with Dr. Senehi by calling us at 818-805-0557 or check out our special price here.