Do Your Wisdom Teeth Require a Coronectomy?

Posted on: 17 February 2021

The wisdom tooth is an irritating evolutionary throwback. They once served a function, but as the human diet has changed over the millennia, they're now just an inconvenience. It's an inconvenience that is usually remedied with surgical wisdom teeth extraction, and while this is a straightforward procedure, it's still a significant procedure. However, depending on the root system beneath the wisdom tooth, standard extraction can be unwise. This doesn't mean that your wisdom teeth can be left in place. So what are your options?

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Most problematic wisdom teeth are impacted. This means that they have not fully erupted from your gums, and are partially submerged. Some surface area has emerged, but the impaction of the tooth means that this surface area cannot easily be cleaned using traditional dental hygiene methods (such as brushing and flossing). This can lead to some issues.

Decayed Wisdom Teeth

Decay and general degradation of the wisdom tooth are likely, no matter how diligent you might be with your dental hygiene. This can result in infection around the margin of the impacted tooth (where the gum meets the dental crown), as well as an infection in the tooth's nerve (the dental pulp), and the state of the nerve determines the best solution for your problem. A surgical extraction is certainly an option, but when the tooth's nerve is unaffected by infection, there is another course of action. 

Criteria for a Coronectomy

When there are no secondary complications beyond the impaction, you might be a candidate for a coronectomy. This procedure can be recommended when the wisdom tooth is in an acceptable condition, and also when its position means that removal of the wisdom tooth's root could damage your inferior alveolar nerve (which supplies sensory information to your lower jaw). But what is a coronectomy, and how does it differ from surgical extraction?

The Coronectomy Process

A coronectomy involves the removal of the impacted tooth while leaving its root system intact, thus avoiding damage to the inferior alveolar nerve. This root can only safely be left intact when its pulp is not infected. The process (and recovery time) is comparable to a standard surgical extraction (which also removes the root), and it's crucial to follow the aftercare instructions you will be given. This will help you to avoid an infection in the remaining root system, which is still possible even when the tooth has been removed. 

In most cases, a straightforward surgical extraction will remove your problematic wisdom tooth. But when there are concerns for your inferior alveolar nerve and its relationship to the roots of your wisdom teeth, then a coronectomy can have clear advantages.