Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Wisdom teeth, or technically, third molars, are the last teeth to develop in your mouth. They are behind the upper and lower second molars. They are called “wisdom teeth” because they typically appear in a person’s late teens or early twenties, which has been called the “age of wisdom.”

Why Are Wisdom Teeth A Problem?

Wisdom teeth erupt in the mouth to varying degrees for each individual. When a tooth fails to erupt normally into the mouth, it is called “impacted.” Most people have either impacted wisdom teeth or an inadequate space for their wisdom teeth to be healthy, cleansable, and functional.

Wisdom teeth, whether under the surface of the gum, partly through the gum, or erupted into the mouth, are prone to overgrowth of bacteria and the development of dental disease. These conditions include:

1. Inflammation and infection of the gum (pericoronitis). A wisdom tooth that partially erupts through the gum tissue can accumulate food and bacteria under the flap of gum tissue, causing pain and swelling. These infections, in rare instances, become very serious.
2. Cyst development. Cysts and tumors can develop from the follicle that the wisdom teeth form in. These cysts and tumors can destroy jawbone and teeth.
3. Gum disease (periodontitis). Studies show gum disease often starts around wisdom teeth and then progresses throughout the mouth. This is a painless condition that you are unlikely to be aware of as it is developing. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults, and having wisdom teeth removed gives you a head-start at preventing it.
4. Tooth decay. A wisdom tooth may be hard to clean due to partial gum tissue coverage or lack of space, causing it or the second molar to become decayed.
5. Poor position. A poorly positioned wisdom tooth may rub on the cheeks, causing irritation and pain.

Only 2% of adults at retirement age have a healthy wisdom tooth that has not been affected by disease. In addition, waiting for pain or other issues to set in may leave you with permanent or serious dental disease.

Not everyone needs his/her wisdom teeth removed. Removal may not be recommended for patients who have adequate space in their mouth for teeth to erupt properly and allow access for cleaning. In general, surgical risks increase with age. Your oral surgeon may recommend scheduled periodic clinical and radiographic examinations if the risks of removing the wisdom teeth outweigh the risks of monitoring.

When Should Wisdom Teeth Be Removed?

There is no single answer to the correct age of having wisdom teeth removed, as everyone’s situation is different. In general, patients without symptoms should be screened by their dentist between the ages of 17 to 21 to discuss the risks of developing disease and to consider wisdom tooth removal. Studies have shown that having wisdom teeth removed prior to your mid-20’s helps ensure complete healing and a smooth recovery. Anyone experiencing pain or swelling should be seen immediately for consultation. Only a consultation with your dentist can determine if the timing is right for you.

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