Wisdom Teeth

Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?

The average mouth is made to hold only 28 teeth. It can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit in a mouth that holds only 28 teeth. These four other teeth are your third molars, also known as "wisdom teeth".

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt within the mouth. When they align properly and gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not have to be removed. Unfortunately, this does not generally happen.

The extraction of wisdom teeth is necessary when they are prevented from properly erupting within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, and even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. Impacted teeth can take many positions in the bone as they attempt to find a pathway that will allow them to successfully erupt. These poorly positioned impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the teeth allows bacteria to grow and will eventually cause an infection. The result: swelling, stiffness, pain, and illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom teeth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal is recommended to avoid such future problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.

Implants

Of all the ways modern dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants are by far the best. There is no tooth-replacement option that will give you a longer-lasting result. Implants also help preserve tooth-supporting bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost. Loss of bone is one of the major hidden consequences of losing teeth.

A dental implant most often takes the form of a small, screw-shaped titanium post that replaces the root-part of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure Dr. Pihlstrom uses to place an implant is actually quite minor and routine, requiring only local anesthesia in most cases.

After a healing period, the implant is topped with a lifelike crown custom-made to match your existing natural teeth. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95%, which is significantly higher than any other tooth-replacement option.

How Implants Work

During a minor surgical procedure, your dental implant is inserted directly into the jawbone in the space vacated by the missing tooth. It will then be left to heal for a period of months before the final crown is attached. During this healing period, the implant actually fuses to the bone surrounding it.

Tooth Replacement Options Using Dental Implants

Implants can replace missing teeth in a variety of ways. They can be used to:

Replace One Tooth — When you have one tooth missing, a single implant is inserted into the bone to replace the root part of that tooth; a crown then goes on top to simulate an actual tooth. This treatment choice has the highest success rate, making it the best long-term investment for replacing a single missing tooth. Even if the initial cost is slightly higher than other options, it is the most cost-effective solution over time. An implant will never decay or need root canal treatment, and feels just like the tooth that was there.

Replace Multiple Teeth — When you have more than one tooth missing, implants provide an ideal replacement mechanism. You don't even need one implant for every missing tooth. Instead, implant teeth can act as supports for fixed bridgework. For example, if you are missing three teeth in a row, we can place two implants, one on either side of the gap, and a crown in between that has no implant underneath. That way, you won't need to use any of your remaining natural teeth as bridge supports, which could weaken them and make them more susceptible to decay.

Replace All Teeth Permanently — Implants can support an entire arch of upper or lower replacement teeth that are fixed into the mouth and are never removed. Sometimes the new teeth can be supported by as few as 4 implants. It's comparable to the structure of a table, which only needs 4 legs to hold it up. In cases where jawbone density and volume have deteriorated, 5 or 6 implants might be needed to support a row of 10 to 12 teeth. Dental implant replacement teeth protect your jawbone, won't slip, and should last a lifetime.

Support Removable Dentures — Implants can even make removable dentures more comfortable, effective and healthier to wear. Traditional dentures rest on the gums and put pressure on the underlying bone. This accelerates bone loss so that the jaw shrinks and the dentures slip, particularly on the bottom. But today dentists can attach a removable denture onto implants, transferring that pressure into the bone structure rather than the bone surface. This prevents the dentures from slipping while you eat and speak, and preserves the bone directly beneath them.

Implant Care and Maintenance

There are only two ways an implant can lose attachment to the bone and fail once it has successfully fused: poor oral hygiene or excessive biting forces. Poor oral hygiene and/or a lack of regular cleanings can lead to a destructive bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Flossing and brushing your teeth on a daily basis, along with regular professional cleanings, can prevent this. Excessive biting forces can come from either a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, or an insufficient number of implants to handle the forces generated by your bite. You should receive the correct number of implants so this does not happen. And if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, a nightguard will be recommended to protect your implants. After all, implants are a long-term investment in your smile, your health and your well-being, so it's best to protect your investment.

Sinus Surgery

If you want to replace a missing or failing tooth with a state-of-the-art dental implant (watch dental implant video) , your dentist will first need to make sure that you have sufficient bone in your jaw to anchor the implant. This is true no matter what type of tooth is being replaced. However, if it is an upper back tooth and there is not enough bone under the gum where the implant needs to go, the base of the implant could end up poking through an air space (located to the side of the nose) called a sinus cavity. Since you can't anchor a dental implant to air, this presents a problem — but it is one that can often be solved with a minor in-office surgical procedure called a “sinus membrane lift.”

A sinus membrane lift, or sinus augmentation, involves adding bone to fill in the bottom of that air space, essentially raising the floor of the sinus cavity. Why wouldn't there be enough bone there already? For some people, it's simply a matter of how large their sinus cavities are, and their shape. In other cases, bone has actually been lost from the area. For example, if your tooth has been missing a long time, the bone that used to surround it may have begun to deteriorate. Bone in general needs stimulation to stay strong; in the case of the jawbone, that stimulation comes from the teeth. When teeth are lost, the bone loses stimulation and the body ceases to make new bone cells in that area. This leads to a reduction in bone volume and density. Also, if your tooth loss was due to periodontal (gum) disease, your tooth-supporting bone may have been reduced as a result of the disease. No matter what the reason is for insufficient bone, a sinus membrane lift can create more bone where it is needed.

Where does this additional bone come from? It can be bone from elsewhere in your body, such as another part of your jaw or your hip. But most often, it will be bone-grafting materials that are processed in a laboratory for these kinds of purposes. The original source may have been a human or animal donor (usually a cow). Synthetic products can also be used. All grafting materials must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and prepared according to their guidelines. The materials are specially treated to render them completely sterile, non-contagious, and free of rejection factors. For the most part, bone grafts act as scaffolds that the body will eventually replace with its own bone.

The Procedure

Prior to scheduling surgery, your dentist will assess the shape, location, and health of the sinus using x-ray imaging. Your options for anesthesia will also be discussed. The surgery itself is usually carried out under local anesthesia by numbing the area, just as is done for a routine filling. Some people require additional sedation or anti-anxiety medication, which can either be administered orally (by mouth) or by intravenously (through a vein) via injection.

When the area has been completely numbed, an incision will be made in your gum to expose the bone that used to contain your missing tooth or teeth. A small opening will be made in the bone to reveal the membrane that lines the sinus. This membrane will be raised and the space beneath it will be filled with bone grafting material. The gum is then stitched back up. In some cases, the implant(s) can be placed directly into the grafting material before the gum is closed, eliminating the need for a second surgical procedure later on to place the implant. Often, however, the surgical site is allowed to heal for approximately 6-7 months before an implant is placed.

What to Expect After Sinus Surgery

You may experience moderate swelling and some minor discomfort that generally lasts a few days — about the same as having an upper impacted wisdom tooth removed. Sometimes a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (prescription or over-the-counter) is recommended to help minimize this. A course of antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection. If the sinus membrane becomes a bit inflamed, leading to a feeling of minor congestion, a decongestant can be helpful. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, make sure to schedule your surgery for a time when this will not be an issue.

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