Words of wisdom If you’ve got a teen complaining of tooth pain, don’t be too quick to write it off as an excuse to miss class. Wisdom teeth – the third set of molars in the jaw – start to erupt between the ages of 17 and 20. And, while they’re not always bothersome, the majority become impacted, meaning they’re trapped under the gums due to insufficient space to erupt. This can cause food trapping and eventual tooth decay, and can even lead to infection, pain and swelling. If left untreated, an impacted tooth can also cause damage to the surrounding teeth and gums, explains DR SHAWN GOH who is a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery – meaning, he treats disorders of the mouth, teeth, jaws and facial structures. Dr Goh recommends taking a teen to be assessed by an experienced dentist any time after they turn 17 to check for impacted teeth. A dental x-ray called an orthopantomogram (OPG) will show any impacted teeth and the directions they are growing in. If impacted teeth are found, Dr Goh says it’s advisable to remove them before they start causing any problems. This can be done surgically as an outpatient procedure. Of course, no parent wants to put their kid through an elective surgery. So, while it certainly might not be easy to agree to it, there are key benefits behind surgical extraction at a younger age.

“Removal of lower wisdom teeth at any age always carries with it certain risks. However, between the ages of 17 and 24, it’s easier to remove wisdom teeth, as the jawbone is not as dense compared to patients of older age groups,” explains Dr Goh. “Also, the roots of the wisdom teeth may not have been fully formed yet. This results in a much lower risk compared to removing wisdom teeth during adulthood.” A typical recovery period, he says, is about one week. “Patients experience some pain and swelling in the cheek region, and will usually have some limited mouth opening abilities. A soft diet is usually recommended for the first three to four days, and patients are advised to avoid rigorous activities.” What’s more, Dr Goh says that waiting to remove impacted wisdom teeth only when problems arise can cause greater discomfort and even lead to a slower recovery – another reason why he recommends removal at a younger age, even if wisdom teeth are asymptomatic. The Oral Maxillofacial Practice #11-55/56 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, 38 Irrawaddy Road 6737 1649 |

165 DECEMBER2022

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