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Get your wisdom teeth checked before pregnancy or radiotherapy

"Pregnant patients with wisdom tooth problems are treated only if their teeth cause problems during pregnancy. Doctors will give serious consideration to any medication, such as painkillers or antibiotics, before prescribing them to pregnant or breastfeeding mothers," explains Dr Leonardo Saigo, Consultant from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery from National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

The department also advises women planning for pregnancy to have regular dental check-ups, to avoid undergoing complicated dental procedures during pregnancy as far as possible.

For patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer, who need radiotherapy, they should preferably have dental screenings weeks before starting treatment, to avoid post-radiotherapy dental surgery. Dental extractions and surgery after radiotherapy can give rise to unfavourable healing or even osteoradionecrosis (bone infection).

Fact or myth?

The department throws light on some frequently-asked questions about wisdom teeth.

1. Do all adults have four wisdom teeth?

Not everyone has four. Some have fewer.

2. Do only young people have problems with wisdom teeth?

No, and some people never develop problems with their wisdom teeth, even through old age.

3. Are wisdom teeth completely useless?

If a wisdom tooth erupts ideally into the jaw arch, has an opposing tooth and can be used when chewing , it serves a purpose and does not need to be removed. In some cases, a wisdom tooth can be used as a substitute for a lost tooth, but this is usually applicable only to young patients.

4. Is it best to remove all one’s wisdom teeth in a single procedure?

There are no hard and fast rules. Various options and patients’ preferences will need to be discussed. It depends on whether the patient is going to the procedure done under local anaesthesia, sedation or general anaesthesia. This also depends on a patient’s comfort level and whether they prefer to be awake or asleep during the procedure. If the patient will be undergoing general anaesthesia, we usually advise removing all the wisdom teeth during that procedure.

5. Is wisdom tooth extraction always painful?

If you have regular check-ups, or visit a dentist immediately upon feeling slight discomfort around your wisdom tooth, any problems can be addressed before infection sets in or decay occurs. Adequate pain relief medication will be available to support patients during the post-operation phase.

Ref: K21

Check out our other articles on oral care:

Tips for Fresher Breath

Tips for Cleaner Teeth

How to Choose the Right Toothbrush

Wisdom Tooth: When to Extract

Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Am I Too Old for Braces?

Do You Wear Dentures? What You Need to Know