“My Wisdom Teeth are Coming In and It Hurts!”

 

How often does a dentist hear this? This situation usually occurs in the 17-22 age group. Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth. As long as there is enough room for them to come in, there is no problem. But lack of space for these teeth is more the situation.

 

An early indication of wisdom tooth troubles is when the flap of tissue covering the tooth can get infected. This condition is known as “pericoronitis.” “Peri-“ means around, “coron” refers to the crown of the tooth, and “-itis” means and infection. When I was a dentist in the Army I would see several of these daily.

The short term emergency treatment is to give the patient some antibiotics and a prescription for pain medicine. This should make the patient comfortable. A home remedy is to place a wet tea bag over the gum and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Tea has tannic acid which is an astringent and will shrink the gum tissue a little bit. This does work in a few instances.

 

The normal recommended treatment is to simply remove the wisdom tooth and problems won’t recur.

However, I have a 50 year old patient who has had a consultation to have her wisdom tooth removed because the gum tissue is giving her trouble. She was told from the oral surgeon that the tooth could not be removed because it’s sitting on the nerve and could damage the nerve if extracted. The result could be a permanent parasthesia, which means that the lower right side will remain numb permanently. This is no good at all! What can we do for her?

One treatment is to remove gum tissue from around the tooth. If the gum tissue is not there, it can’t get infected. The only other situation is if someone packs food or debris along the side of the tooth into the gum, then that would need to be cleaned out. That is usually easily accomplished without much trouble.