2975 Westchester Avenue, Suite G02, Purchase, NY 10577
Let’s Talk About Wisdom Teeth THE SMARTS!
I have a confession to make: I still have my wisdom teeth in.
“Ideally, wisdom teeth should be removed before patients turn 25.” “
Now, since I’m an oral surgeon, this might come as a bit of a shock. It can be even more of a shock for people who have heard Dr. Graffeo or myself recommend extracting wisdom teeth before patients turn 25. I promise that I’m not ignoring my own advice. While most people need to get some if not all of their wisdom teeth removed, around 10% of the population actually have enough room in their jaw to fit all 32 teeth. I’m part of that lucky crowd. Fun fact, Dr. Graffeo did have his wisdom removed when he was a teenager, and the extraction was performed by his uncle, the late Dr. Sanford Blecker. I’ve been thinking a lot about wisdom teeth recently, partly because we tend to do more evaluations and extractions at the beginning of summer. Once the school year is over, high school and college students — or, more likely, their parents — use that free time to schedule dental appointments. This is the perfect time to have school kids evaluated for their wisdom teeth. If their third molars need to be removed, scheduling the surgery for early summer gives them plenty of time to recover without missing school. The third molars tend to erupt around the age of 16. Once they start to erupt, there’s a nine-year window for the safest time frame for extraction. Ideally, wisdom teeth should be removed before patients turn 25. After this point, the risk of post-op complications increases. The recovery is usually much easier when patients are still young. A 24-year-old might only spend two days in bed with swelling. Meanwhile, if I needed mywisdom teeth out today, I’d be laid up for at least a week. Bone healing is also more efficient at a younger age. If I need to extract a tooth from the lower jaw, that bone will fill out from the bottom up. After 24, the bone isn’t going to fill the gap completely. Without the bone support, the next tooth over is at risk. Next to root canals, wisdom tooth surgery is one of the dental procedures that make patients the most anxious. They don’t knowwhat to expect, and sometimes that fear can make them put off getting treatment. This is why we want to do consultations. It gives us the opportunity to build a rapport with the patients, see how they are in the chair, and answer any questions.
Patients feel less anxious when they aren’t going into a procedure blind, so Dr. Graffeo and I want to give patients all the information they need.
Many patients are under the impression that wisdom teeth shouldn’t or can’t be removed until they cause pain or begin shifting the other teeth in the mouth. But we recommend wisdom teeth be taken out prophylactically. Once they become a problem, it becomes much more difficult. Impacted or poorly aligned wisdom teeth can lead to:
• • • • •
Decay of second molars Resorption of second molars Formation of cysts or tumors
Patients who believe that wisdom teeth don’t have to come out until they’re “a problem” need to understand that these complications are far more difficult and costly to address than preventive wisdom teeth extraction. As parents rush to get their high school and college kids to the dentist this summer, I encourage general dentists to speak to their patients about wisdom teeth extraction, if applicable. The summer is the best time for kids to have a wisdom teeth evaluation, so they have plenty of time to schedule and recover from surgery — if they’re not part of that lucky 10% like I am, of course.
–Dr. Harrison Linsky
Westchester Office • 914-251-0313www.oralsurgeryofwestchester.com
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