Dr. Vibha Jain
Extracting decayed teeth and replacing them with dentures were the prime areas of focus for dentists and their patients in India until a few decades ago. As these treatment methods prevailed for the longest time, so have the myths surrounding them. Today I would like to clarify some of the myths surrounding extraction, especially of wisdom teeth.
Wisdom tooth is one of the molars (last teeth) in each side of both of the jaws. It typically erupts or comes out between 17- 25 years of age. It’s not used for chewing, but can pose problems as it comes out and afterwards and typically needs to be removed.
Misinformation about extractions is common in India. Therefore, some facts need to be established before we talk about wisdom teeth in detail.
Tooth extraction does not cause loosening of adjacent teeth.
Extractions do not affect the eyesight.
On a lighter note, there is no loss of wisdom when “wisdom” teeth get removed
Signs to Watch Out for When a Wisdom Tooth is Erupting
Pain and Swelling
When a wisdom tooth is in the picture, pain that comes and goes repeatedly and swelling should not be considered normal. The best thing to do is to visit a dentist, and avoid popping pills from pharmacy. Pain is your body’s way of signaling a problem, and pain relieving medicine only masks the problem instead of solving it.
Many people do not have sufficient space in their jaws for the wisdom tooth, due to which it is tilted and cannot come out straight. In such cases, removal of the tooth is advised. Delaying the procedure is not a wise decision since ease of removal decreases with age. This is because younger the patient, the bone that surrounds the tooth is softer and yields easily. There is less discomfort after the procedure and recovery is very good at a younger age.
Gums Covering the Tooth
Another condition which needs a mention is pericoronitis, where gums cover the partly erupted wisdom tooth in lower jaw. Its extremely difficult to keep the area clean with brushing in such a situation. This leads to an infection in the area, causing pain, swelling and an inability to close the mouth. The pain is worsened after having a meal.
If you have pericoronitis, a dentist can clean the area with a disinfectant and prescribe the right medications to relieve the pain. However, if this problem keeps repeating at short intervals, it might be due to lack of space for the tooth to come out. Extraction (removal) is the best treatment and should not be postponed to avoid the infection from getting worse.
Food Getting Stuck
Many a times the wisdom tooth is not in line with the neighboring tooth. Food gets lodged between the two and might decay either or both of the teeth. As the decay progresses it involves the nerve chamber of the tooth, causing pain.
The tooth next to the wisdom tooth is functional and plays a big role in grinding the food. To preserve this important tooth, it’s wise to fix the decay and get the wisdom tooth removed early in this situation. Delayed treatments become complicated, expensive, time consuming and bring discomfort. It is better to be safe than sorry.
If your dentist thinks that the tooth might erupt in the oral cavity with time and does not need intervention it is good news. However, It can sometimes get difficult to clean wisdom teeth with brush, or to take a good look at the problems affecting it without the help of a dentist. Awareness and regular dental visits can make us aware of these problems before they multiply and cause loss of health, finances and time. The saying – a stitch in time saves nine is never too old to practice.
-Vibha Jain is a general dentist and practiced in Jamshedpur for many years after her graduation. She believes that talking about myths surrounding oral health and dental treatments is important for improving India’s health.
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