Wisdom teeth are known for causing problems rather than bringing wisdom.  These third molars, located near the entrance to the throat, are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth.  They generally appear between ages 17 and 25, a traditional time of increased maturity or “wisdom,” though now they tend to just generate stress.

In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth doesn’t allow the tooth to fully erupt and become functional.  When this happens, the tooth can become impacted—stuck—in an undesirable or potentially harmful position, which can lead to infection, damage to other teeth, or possibly cysts or tumors.

Impaction

Soft tissue impaction occurs when the upper portion of the tooth, known as the crown, penetrates the bone but not the gum.  It’s difficult to keep the area clean, and food trapped below the gum can cause infection and decay.  Partial bony impaction is when the tooth has not fully emerged from the bone, frequently leading to painful, swollen infections.  Complete bony impaction is the term for a tooth completely encased by jawbone, which requires more complex removal techniques.

Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?

Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed, but they are the common cause of pain, swelling, decay, or infection, and therefore are generally best taken out.  Even if there are no active symptoms, wisdom teeth can lead to serious issues.  The second molars, next to the wisdom teeth, are liable to decay or periodontal disease from impacted wisdom teeth, and the wisdom teeth themselves may become infected or even diseased.

Wisdom Teeth Examination

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will thoroughly examine your wisdom teeth, using panoramic or digital x-rays to achieve a full understanding of the teeth’s placement.  Early evaluation and treatment, typically in the mid-teen years, is recommended in order to identify potential problems.  After a thorough examination, your dentist can provide you with the best options for your particular case.

Wisdom Teeth Removal

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under local anesthesia, IV sedation, or general anesthesia by a specially trained dentist in an office surgery suite.  The surgery does not require an overnight stay, and you’ll be released with post-operative instructions and medication to help manage any swelling or discomfort.