What are wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth, which are often referred to as third molars, are the last set of teeth that come through (erupt) – usually during the late teens or twenties.
Sometimes, there is insufficient space for the wisdom teeth to erupt into their normal position, forcing them to erupt at an angle (impacted) or only come through partially (partial eruption).
Impacted wisdom teeth
An impacted wisdom tooth may cause no problems at all, in many cases however impaction can make effective oral hygiene around the area very difficult, leading to the build-up of food and bacteria. This can lead to several complications:
- Pain and discomfort
- Decay of the wisdom tooth
- Decay of the molar in front of the wisdom tooth
- Gum inflammation and soreness (pericoronitis)
- An incorrectly angled wisdom tooth may also damage the molar in front of it.
Wisdom tooth removal process
Generally, the more impacted the wisdom tooth is, the more complex the procedure to remove it is likely to be. An important nerve in the lower jaw can sometimes be very intimately related to the wisdom tooth which will make its removal riskier.
Before the procedure, your dentist should take an x-ray of the wisdom tooth to determine the level of risk – they may then decide to refer you to a specialist oral surgeon. In cases where there is a nerve lying in close relationship to the wisdom tooth, a coronectomy may be the preferred treatment option in order to eliminate the risk of injury to that nerve.
The removal of wisdom teeth is usually performed under local anaesthetic; an incision is made in the gum and the bone encasing the wisdom tooth is carefully removed. In some cases, the wisdom tooth is divided into smaller pieces and each piece is removed – in both cases, you are likely to need some stitches afterwards.
You may experience some discomfort and swelling for a few days after the procedure, and your dentist should advise you on measures that can be taken to alleviate any symptoms, and to help prevent an infection from developing.
Possible complications of wisdom tooth removal
Wisdom tooth removal complications can include:
This common complication is an infection in the empty tooth socket, and is more likely to occur if the procedure was lengthy and/or difficult, if you smoke and in the absence of appropriate socket after-care.
Damage to the adjacent molar tooth
Sometimes, due to the fact that impacted wisdom teeth push on the other teeth, the adjacent teeth can get damaged – often leading to further complications.
In some cases, removing a wisdom tooth can cause damage to the nerves that are positioned close to the roots of lower wisdom teeth. This can result in debilitating temporary or permanent numbness in the tongue, teeth, gums, lower lip and chin.
Careful planning and excellent technical skill by your dentist will reduce the risk of complications, however complications can occur – especially if you dentist has failed to take the due care expected.
If you feel that you have been a victim of dental negligence, contact a member of our team today for free initial legal advice.