Steve Price interviewer: Larry joins us every Monday night, good evening Dr. Larry.

Dr. Larry Benge: Steven, how are you?

SP: I’m well. In the old days when you sat down at Christmas lunch of course and Grandma served up Christmas pudding it had thrupences in it. Not great for your teeth Larry! Bite one of them and you’re in trouble.

LB: Exactly. You’d need a visit to the dentist.

SP: You’d need a very quick visit to the dentist, and they’re never open on Christmas, on Christmas day!

LB: No, no exactly.

SP: You can never get in, that’s when you need to get in, that’s when everyone has problems with their teeth, when it comes to Christmas day.

LB: Well we have an emergency service Steve, in our clinic.

SP: Oh very good.

LB: So you can always ring up and get an emergency appointment there.

SP: Now I’m not all that wise, I’ve had my wisdom teeth removed, why do we have to have those things by the way?

LB: They are just, everybody was originally thirty two teeth, was actually what we were all blessed with, but as we’ve marched down the evolutionary tree, we don’t need those crushing molars as much as we used to. Because of our diets, and the jaws have shortened, and some people get wisdom teeth, and other people don’t.

SP: So not everybody gets them?

LB: No, no, no. Some people get four, some people get three, some two, some none.  A bit of genetics comes in there.

SP: So over the years, over the generations, that’s whats happened?

LB: Yeah, yeah.

SP: Our jaws have got smaller! Because we’re not gnawing on raw bits of meat.

LB: Exactly, or crushing. Diets changed.

SP: That’s unbelievable.

LB: Yes genetics.

SP: Now, when you get a wisdom teeth problem how do you know?

LB: Usually you suffer, well commonly what happens is…

SP: Toothache.

LB: Well, yes it’s painful but more it’s swelling at the back of your molars, you might get limited movement of your mouth, not be able to open it. Yeah it gets sore obviously, because you get a thing called periocoronitis. Peri, meaning around, coron, meaning the crown of the tooth, and you get inflammation around the crown of the tooth. And basically, what happens, generally,  if the wisdom tooth does not have enough space to come up, it breaks through the gum just a little bit, and then a bit of bacteria gets down, underneath the flap of the gum at the back and then causes severe pain.

SP: Are people, am I right in saying that some people think, oh yeah that’s alright I can put that off?

LB: Yes sure, for sure. I always have an adage, and I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years. If you have your wisdom teeth out, and you have them out in your teens, it’s relatively easy, in your twenties it’s not bad, in your thirties, it gets difficult, and in your forties and fifties you wish you’d done it in your teens.

SP: Yeah I went early twenties.

LB: The longer you leave it, the harder it gets, you know, the bones harder, the roots may have formed more, and it becomes very difficult to take out.

SP: Yeah I actually had to go in and go under.

LB: Yeah well most people do, particularly if you had four wisdom teeth taken out.

SP: I had four wisdom teeth taken out.

LB: Yeah to have four taken out, the common thing would be to go to sleep and to have them out. Predominantly done by oral and maxillofacial surgeons, or oral surgeons, to hospital stay, generally a day stay, that would be the common thing. If they’re not impacted, the word impacted you may have heard that, means they are jammed up against the back molar, so they’re not easy to come out. If they’re not jammed up against the back of the molar, then you can have them out relatively easy.

SP: And if you leave them, they can cause you ongoing problems.

LB: Well some people have them and have lived their whole life and they don’t cause them any problems. But predominantly most people have issues with them. And if it’s not pain and discomfort it makes it very difficult to clean, so cleaning can be an issue and some people actually have to have them out because they can’t clean around them satisfactorily.

SP: And if you go under, and you spend the night in hospital, and you have them taken out, all four, and it’s a straightforward procedure, is there a quick recovery? Does it take you long? I mean what’s left, if there a gap in your tooth line?

LB: Yeah there would be some holes where the teeth come out, usually there would be a couple of stitches that go in, and most surgeons would use dissolvable stitches so you don’t have to them out again. But you would have, I would say three of four days of some swelling and some discomfort- that would be the normal trend.

SP: And then full recovery after that, that’s it, you’re never going to get them again?

LB: Yeah exactly.

SP: They’re gone for good.

LB: Gone for good.

SP: Can you have that done during pregnancy, someone asked me?

LB: Yes you can, yeah definitely. Generally what we do with pregnancy is we always like to work during the middle trimester, rather than the first or the third trimester, because most of the things, the major systems that are being laid down are in the first trimester and it’s generally safer. And we always consult with obstetrician or a gynecologist and say look this is a procedure that we need to have done, and they’ll say usually that’s under local anesthetic it’s fine in the middle trimester. But we always consult with them!

SP: Yeah would you be unlucky wouldn’t you to be in the last stage of your pregnancy and you get wisdom teeth.

LB: It can happen.

SP: You would be not very happy!

LB: It can happen.

SP: You would be very unhappy wouldn’t you?

LB: Well you wouldn’t be sure which pain was the worst pain.

SP: Well not being a woman I’m not sure about birth but I imagine it would be, my wife tells me it is anyway. You and I wouldn’t cope with that pain at all, would we?

LB: We wouldn’t cope. Not at all.

SP: Larry, thank you for your help this year. I’m taking a couple of weeks off so I’ll talk to you in the New Year.

LB: No problem, I look forward to it.

SP: Good on you. Dr. Larry Benge there, from the Clinic.