You’ve probably heard before that your teeth are the hardest structure in your body. This is why fossil records often find teeth more intact than the rest of the bones in the body. This has led to the common misconstruction that teeth are bones. This is not exactly the case.
What Are Teeth Made Of?
Teeth are made of Enamel, Dentin, Pulp, and Cementin. These are the layers of your teeth. Enamel is the outermost protective layer of your teeth. It is made of calcium phosphate.
Our bones have this same compound in them which is why they are similar but not the same. This outer layer of our teeth is made solely of this compound giving them their hard, rigid structure. Bones have more collagen because if they were as hard as our teeth they would be too brittle.
The next layer, dentin, is a hard tissue. This tissue has small microscopic tubes within in it that allow us to sense temperature through our teeth. When we have a tooth where the enamel has been eroded we can feel temperature changes much more strongly and often as pain.
Pulp and Cementum
The pulp and cementum are the next layers. The pulp is a soft inner layer in which resides in the blood vessels and nerves. This is where you can feel the pain from a cavity or in the case of a “sweet tooth” when you breathe in on a cold day.
The cementum is the layer of roots that grounds your teeth to your gums. These roots go down through your gums and actually bind the tooth to your jawbone.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Different?
Wisdom teeth are a special type of structure called a vestigial structure. It’s interesting to note that our tail bone is also a vestigial structure. These are anatomical parts of our body that still exist but no longer serve a purpose.
Our tailbone was the start of our ancestors’ tails. As we evolved and learned to walk the trail became less useful but its remnants are still within our bodies.
What Was The Purpose of Wisdom Teeth?
Your wisdom teeth are actually 3rd molars that humans used to need but now really don’t. Those 3rd molars were needed for our earliest human ancestors to eat a much harder diet filled with nuts, roots, and uncooked meat that were far more difficult to chew.
Our first sets of molars emerge in our mouths when we are around 6 years old. The second set come in around 12 years of age. These “wisdom” teeth typically come in around 18-21 years of age.
Also, our ancestors’ mouths were actually larger than what we have now. One theory is that, as the human brain grew larger, the space inside the skull for teeth grew smaller. Unfortunately, the presence of wisdom teeth didn’t go away and now tend to cause more problems than they are worth.
Do Wisdom Teeth Actually Have a Purpose Nowadays?
Now wisdom teeth don’t really serve a purpose. They can actually be more of a problem than something helpful because sometimes they start trying to force their way down when there is no room left in the person’s mouth. When this happens it can cause an impaction which in turn damages the other teeth they are trying to force out.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is actually quite common in younger adults and teenagers. Millions of wisdom teeth are removed annually around the world.
How Do I Know If My Wisdom Teeth Need To Be Removed?
There are a few symptoms that are associated with the necessity to have your wisdom teeth removed. These range from:
- Sensitivity in your gum area, especially when eating or drinking
- Bad breath
- Ear pain
It is important to have these issues checked out by your dentist or your doctor who can refer you to a dentist if the issue is your wisdom teeth.
It’s curious to note headache and earache are listed in the symptoms for your wisdom teeth. This is because your sinuses are all connected from your ears to your mouth to your temple. Your sinuses are small cavities in those regions.
Because of their inter-connectivity, a problem in one area can lead to symptoms in another area. This is why it is important to have any issues checked out by a professional and not try to diagnose the problem yourself.
How Are Wisdom Teeth Removed?
The extraction of wisdom teeth will be done by an oral surgeon. In some cases, this could be your dentist. In most cases, a small incision will be made in your gum to allow access to the wisdom tooth or teeth. Before this, however, a local anesthetic will be applied.
If you are getting all your wisdom teeth removed the oral surgeon may recommend general anesthesia to keep you under for the entire process. Either way, the process will not start until the surgeon or anesthesiologist has verified the effectiveness of the anesthesia.
If the tooth is starting to come through the gum line, an incision may not be necessary but anesthesia will still be applied for the process. The tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces in order for it to be removed during the process.
You will likely feel some pressure as the tooth is being removed but if at any point you feel pain let your surgeon know so that the anesthesia can be reapplied. Once the tooth is out the incision will be stitched back up with dissolvable stitches.
How Should You Care For Your Mouth After Wisdom Teeth Removal?
Your dentist will give you very specific instructions on how to care for your mouth in the hours and days to follow after wisdom teeth removal. Some general recommendations will include:
- Take all recommended medications unless they cause unpleasant side effects (in this case, call your dentist right away).
- Rest the day of your wisdom teeth removal. No exercising until at least the next day.
- Don’t suck on a straw for at least a week as the sucking action could remove the blood clot sitting in the space where your wisdom teeth was. This could slow down healing and cause you more pain.
- Eat only soft foods for the first 24 hours.
- Don’t brush your teeth for at least 24 hours!
- If you’re a smoker then you need to wait at least 72 hours before you begin smoking again.
Are There Any Complications With Removing Wisdom Teeth?
As with any surgery, there is the possibility of infection even if small. If your wisdom teeth are being removed due to an infection that was occurring an antibiotic will likely be prescribed to prevent the infection from spreading further now that you are healing in that area. In most cases, the incision will heal in a few days and the stitches will dissolve in a little over a week.
However, when complications can occur. If any of the below symptoms develop, please call your dentist right away!
- Severe pain that is not controlled by your medications
- Bleeding that continues or worsens after the first 12 hours
- Nasal discharge
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Persistent numbness
- Pus in the empty sockets of your mouth
- Pain and difficulty in opening your mouth