“They just wanted to be a part of my body, and I said, ‘No! Get out!’ I didn’t mean it. You can come back if you want,” sobbed Abbie Kritz, a 19-year-old, who turned hysterical after her wisdom tooth was removed, according to a report in ABC news (March 2013).
Ask a person who has suffered the bouts of pain with the wisdom tooth trying to pierce its way out, or randomly growing in different angles, the story will be different. Though it isn’t sure whether it would be story of pain and torture, but sympathy would be the last emotion it would invoke.
Wisdom tooth, the late comer, plans to grow when a person is already in his or her late teens or early twenties with the other 28 teeth neatly aligned and comfortable. Now, asking for space to include four fat molars in the jaw, is asking too much. No wonder, it grows in weird angles, sometimes peeping halfway out or sometimes pushing its neighbour away so as to become a part of the alignment. This tooth has a name -‘impacted’.
NHS choices, United Kingdom’s biggest health website explains the different types of impactions depending on the position of the emerging tooth. It is as Mesial impaction if the wisdom tooth grows at an angle facing the front of the mouth. If the tooth grows straight,but then is unable to pierce out because it is stuck to the tooth which is immediately beside it, then it is called vertical impaction. When it grows horizontally, it is called horizontal impaction and when it grows somewhere distant from the immediate tooth, it is distal.
It is the most natural thing for someone to hesitate meeting a dentist. While one may ignore the partial growth, or the abnormal twist in its position, it is important to note that these hideous molars, if ignored, can lead to serious problems in the long run.
Dr Ravindran, BDS, M.D.S., Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery says, “With the tooth-brush hardly able to pamper the deposits in the interiors, the wisdom teeth are mostly left with the food particles and bacteria which fester the growth of plaque.”
Plaque, like the locust affecting the fields, slowly breaks up the surface of the tooth and imparts the cavity to the adjacent tooth as well. It also releases toxins that affect the gums, making them red and swollen. In few rare cases, the wisdom tooth which still hasn’t burst through the gum can produce cysts.
While many of the problems mentioned could be treated by antibiotics and antiseptic mouthwash, there are cases where the removal becomes mandatory, according to a report in NHS choices.
In such cases, an appointment with the doctor might follow a X-ray, with an appointment for the surgery in a week or two. After the sedatives are given, the patient is allowed to lie down in the chair and wait till the area around the wisdom tooth is numb. If the tooth has still not emerged out, then the bone immediately surrounding the tooth is cut. Also, the visible area of the tooth is cut into small pieces for easy removal. A significant amount of pressure is applied to finally take the molar out.
Mani K G, a 30-year-old patient, who recently underwent the surgery says, “The whole process took an hour to complete, after which I found myself with a swollen cheek, with the flesh around the removed area stitched with a dissolving suture and a cotton stuffed into the now empty space where the tooth once resided.”
Though one wouldn’t experience significant pain, the swelling might prevail for a couple of days to a week’s time.
According to a study by Cochrane in 2005, the number of extractions could be reduced by 60 percent if they were done only when patients were in pain or developed a condition related to wisdom teeth. The group also said there is “reliable evidence” that suggests that removing wisdom teeth does not prevent or reduce crowding of front teeth.
Opposing this, the “Oral surgeons have long argued that if you don’t have your wisdom teeth removed at a young age, you are simply postponing the inevitable”, as mentioned in report in The New York Times (September 2011).
Dirk Van Tuerenhout, the curator of anthropology at the Houston museum was quoted saying in the Red Orbit (August 2007)that in a few years time “Our little toes were once vital for climbing trees, but might soon disappear, along with our appendices and wisdom teeth, vestiges of our vegetarian past”
Now, that would be a solace to the Homo sapiens who have to endure the pain of birth and removal of something which is absolutely unessential for survival.