November 17th, 2018
Just three days ago, I was sitting in an oral surgeon’s office awaiting wisdom teeth removal surgery. As I sat there drifting in and out of consciousness, I began to think about what wisdom teeth are, and why they had suddenly decided to grow into the side of my cheek. Why are they called wisdom teeth and what purpose do they actually serve?
Anthropologists seem to believe that wisdom teeth in today’s time have come as a result of our ancestor’s diet. Rough foods like nuts, roots and meat would excessively wear down teeth to a point where a third set of molars were required to increase chewing power. Similarly, due to the absence of technologies such as forks and knives, the eating habits of our ancestors did not make it easier for them to withstand damage to their teeth. Therefore, the modern diet with its softer foods and technologies have made the need for wisdom teeth almost nonexistent, which is why many teenagers/young adults decide to remove them. Symptoms such as overcrowding, bone and nerve damage, and infection can all result from the growth of wisdom teeth.
They often serve no benefit in our lives, but rather, cause pain and discomfort by emerging into neighboring teeth or even into our cheeks, as seen in the x-ray above. While there isn’t a clear reason why wisdom teeth are named in such a way, one theory suggests that they get their name from appearing in our late teenage years. This is typically around the point where we become more mature and “wiser”. I was experiencing discomfort for about 6 months, and knew that removing my wisdom teeth would be the best choice.
As soon as I awoke from the surgery, I was told that I had dissolvable stitches in my mouth. I was confused and shocked at the same time. How could the things that are literally holding parts of my cheek and gums together be dissolvable?
After doing some research, I came to find out how these incredible things function. Dissolvable stitches, also called absorbable sutures, are loops of thread made from natural/organic materials, which our bodies break down over time. Our bodies are programmed to destroy foreign substances, but since dissolvable stitches are made from things like processed collagen, hair and silk proteins, our bodies can close them over time, naturally healing our wounds. This happens due to the work of our enzymes, which are substances in our bodies that speed up biochemical reactions, such as the breakdown of foods. The enzymes located in our body’s fluids, like saliva, absorb the natural materials in the stitches, eventually dissolving the threads, and patching up the wound.
Problems with Dissolvable Sutures
After my surgery, I was told of the various things I had to do in order to prevent any more pain in my mouth. One of these things was to use prescription mouthwash in order to kill any bacteria that would lead to an infection near the recently sealed wounds. Dissolvable stitches sometimes lead to infection when they are not properly absorbed in the body, or if they are rejected for some reason. Typically, these stitches are absorbed within six months, but sometimes stay longer as each body responds differently. It is important to not pick at the sutured areas of your mouth as this could pull the sutures causing scarring or greater risk of an infection.