That dreadful, agonizing pain at the back of the mouth!
Almost everybody gets them at some point of their lives and wise old parents attribute it to the wisdom teeth.
What really is the wisdom teeth and why do they sprout so late in our lives?
More importantly, why are they associated with pain, nerve damage and misalignment?
Here’s the low down on it.
The Evolutionary relic
The Wisdom teeth were once considered to be extremely important for our ancestors who had a diet that comprised of rough food. Chewing on plants, raw or semi cooked meat, nuts, reeds and sticks needed a strong set of rear teeth that allowed these to be torn and broken to smaller pieces.
However, as we evolved, so did our dietary habits and the food we ate got softer and more palatable. Gradually, we started relying lesser and lesser on the wisdom teeth.
But these relics continued to sprout as they do today. There are two sets of wisdom teeth, one each on the upper and lower jaws. And in most cases, they can push the other set of teeth vying for space and cause misalignment for all the teeth in the mouth.
In worst cases, they get inflamed and infected and cause root damage.
How to know that you have wisdom teeth coming in
The symptoms are pretty ominous as long as the teeth erupt normally. Here are some of them.
- There will be redness, mild to severe pain and some amount of swelling around the site where the teeth erupt.
- If the teeth are growing sideways and pressing on the other teeth or some nerves, the pain will aggravate until the teeth and the roots continue to grow
- In extreme cases, the teeth may get impacted. When this happens, the other teeth or the jaw bone stops the teeth from erupting normally. So, they get trapped within the gums while their roots continue to grow. This can lead to severe complications like forming cysts, severe infection and in rare cases, tumor.
- Wisdom teeth infections are extremely common and you must seek immediate treatment from your dentist
How can it be treated?
Most dentists recommend that removing the wisdom teeth is the easiest way to treat an infection, especially because the teeth are technically functionless in our body. The removal procedure is nothing lesser than a small surgery and may require local and/or general anesthesia. The site may be swollen for up to 48 hours after the surgery and you may be put on painkillers to help ease the pain.
Dentists recommend a lot of rest post the surgery and while resting, keeping your head in an elevated position, like a pillow will help to ease the swelling.
Until the wound heals fully, you will be restricted from eating solid foods and will have to make do with soft foods like soups and juices.
Despite sounding like a very difficult procedure to endure, the fact is that wisdom tooth removal is one of the commonest procedures that dentists recommend and you should resume your normal life in a couple of days.