Wisdom Teeth Removal and Evaluation
We generally recommend an evaluation in the mid to late teen years. This evaluation should consist of an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth (a specialized x-ray referred to as a panorex is necessary to fully evaluate the clinical picture). This is the most opportune time in which to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and discuss any present or future problems that you may be subject to. Studies have demonstrated that early evaluation and treatment of malposed or impacted third molars will result in much improved oral health for the patient.
A wisdom tooth that is deemed problematic is normally extracted to avoid any oral complications. To have a wisdom tooth removed, a small incision is made to open up the gum tissue over the tooth and remove any bone that is covering the tooth. Once the tooth is in view, it is gently grasped with a dental instrument, known as a forcep, and gently rocked back and forth to loosen it from the jaw bone and surrounding ligaments. Sometimes the tooth may need to be cut into smaller pieces to make it easier or removal. Stitches may be necessary after the removal of a wisdom tooth.
There are three sets of molars that erupt sequentially into our mouths beginning with the first molars (6 year molar), followed by the second molars (12 year molar) and finally the third molars, 18 year molar or the infamous wisdom teeth. “Wisdom teeth “are generally the last teeth to erupt and are the teeth least needed for good oral health. Often times they do not erupt, or emerge from your gums and remain impacted or trapped in your jawbone. If these teeth remain impacted (or buried), you may be unaware they are even present. In this position they may be the cause of any one of a number of problems. If they do erupt into your mouth the wisdom teeth may position themselves in such a position that they cause damage to your existing healthy dentition.
Common Questions Regarding Wisdom Teeth
Why should I remove my wisdom teeth?
Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt. In fact you may be aware of the phrase “6-year molar” and “12-year molar”, wisdom teeth are nothing more then “18-year molars”. They are the last set of molars to erupt and they usually erupt between the ages of 16 and 20 (around the time we allegedly attain more knowledge/wisdom). Wisdom teeth may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, or even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone (impacted). These poorly positioned, impacted teeth can be responsible for a wide range of problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening around the tooth allows bacteria to grow and may eventually cause a localized infection or perhaps a severe facial cellulitis.
The result may be swelling, stiffness, pain and possible systemic illness. The pressure from the erupting wisdom tooth may move or shift your other teeth, disrupt previous orthodontic work and the natural alignment of the surrounding teeth. The most serious problems occur when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and otherwise healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted teeth will usually resolve these problems. Early prophylactic removal is recommended to avoid such problems and to decrease the surgical risk associated with the procedure.
Do all wisdom teeth need to be removed?
Wisdom teeth may not require removal if they are aligned properly and the surrounding gum tissue is healthy. This however is generally not the case. The removal of wisdom teeth is recommended when these teeth are prevented from properly erupting into the mouth.
When should I have my wisdom teeth evaluated?
Whether you have obvious symptoms or not, we strongly recommend that your Wisdom teeth are evaluated between the ages of 16 and 20. If treatment is indicated, this age represents the most ideal time for surgical intervention.