Everything you need to know about wisdom teeth.
A wisdom tooth refers to the third molar in each quadrant of the mouth. Wisdom teeth tend to erupt later in life when a person is in their late teens to early ’20s, not always in correct alignment, and often causing more harm than good. Wisdom teeth were named as such because they make their appearance when a person has matured, and in theory, has gained more wisdom in life. Some would say this is not an accurate view of a 17-20-year-old, but it makes for a great name for a tooth nonetheless.
A wisdom tooth would have to be the most unreliable and unpredictable tooth that forms in humans. Some people might grow all four and they come through perfectly, as they are expected to do – although this is rarely the case. Others may have only one, or two, or three wisdom teeth and be missing the other/s for no reason whatsoever. And some fortunate people may never develop them at all.
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Most people are not even aware they have wisdom teeth until they visit the dentist and have a full mouth x-ray called an OPG (Orthopantomogram). This diagnostic 2D radiograph shows the internal facial features from the chin to the bottom of the sinus and of course every tooth in a person’s jaw, including any wisdom teeth that might be buried below the gumline out of sight. For the more unfortunate, the discovery of wisdom teeth is when they develop pain towards the back of the mouth, often brought on by rot (dental decay) inside the wisdom tooth due to difficulty in reaching the area to clean, or the soft tissue around the wisdom tooth becomes infected with gum disease – again due to inability to maintain the cleanliness of the tooth and surrounding gum.
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The cost of wisdom tooth removal will depend on who performs the treatment ie: general dentist or maxillofacial surgeon, the complexity of the process needed to remove the wisdom tooth safely and any additional sedatives you may like to assist in your comfort and anxiety levels.
As a rough guide, a straightforward wisdom tooth extraction will cost between $170 – $300. A wisdom tooth that requires surgical removal of soft tissue and/or bone in order to gain access to the tooth will cost a few hundred dollars more to extract per tooth. If you decide to have I.V. sedation or a general anesthetic, this, of course, will add to the overall cost of wisdom teeth removal treatment.
When a wisdom tooth is unable to complete its transition into the mouth successfully because there is not enough room on the jawline for it to fit, or it’s growing on an angle forcing it to head in the wrong direction, we class this tooth as being an impacted wisdom tooth. Often, removal of an impacted wisdom tooth is the only treatment option to prevent an emergency situation in the future and damage to the adjacent teeth.
Many people have lived through a week of sleepless nights with severe dental pain from an infected wisdom tooth and have managed to live to tell the torturous tale. So yes, the pain may go away on its own, if you can withstand the intense throbbing and swelling pain while the body attempts to fight the infection without medical intervention, however, most often the infection becomes so bad and makes the person extremely unwell – and in severe cases, will require hospitalisation to prevent it from becoming fatal. Therefore, waiting out the pain is of course not our suggestion! If you are experiencing wisdom tooth pain and infection, you are wise to seek medical assistance from your local GP or Dentist as soon as possible.
A dry socket is a name given to a secondary infection in the gum socket after a wisdom tooth has been extracted. Patients sometimes describe the pain of a dry socket infection as being more painful than the tooth pain they were experiencing prior to having the tooth removed. Pain, swelling, pus and a hot face are all common symptoms of a dry socket. A dry socket normally occurs 2 – 3 days after a tooth is removed. Those at higher risk of developing a dry socket are smokers, those who drink alcohol and medical conditions and medications that slow the blood flow to the area needed to clot and close off the open socket.
If you are experiencing pain 2 – 3 days after having a tooth removed it’s likely you have a dry socket. This can become very painful and very dangerous to your health if left untreated. This secondary infection must be treated by a dentist or GP (if a dentist is unavailable) by flushing out the area with a medicated solution to clean out the socket, placing a medicated gel of butamben and eugenol (that doesn’t taste very nice!) which eases the pain of the socket and iodoform which helps to kill any micro-organisms that are present. The dentist will then prescribe you with antibiotics to fight the active infection. You should start to feel better within 24 – 48 hours of taking the first lot of antibiotics.