Wisdom on Wisdom Teeth

Our third molars are commonly referred to as our wisdom teeth. Most people get their wisdom teeth and have three permanent molars in each corner of their mouth, but a small percentage of people are born without some or all of their wisdom teeth.

The first molars erupt into our mouths at around age 6. The second molars erupt around age 12. The third molars or wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come into our mouth, somewhere between the ages of 17-21.

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Removed Sometimes?

Often times, the wisdom teeth do not erupt properly into the mouth and thus become impacted. Dentists usually recommend the removal of impacted wisdom teeth, because of the problems that they often create, such as infection, discomfort, decay of adjacent teeth, gum or periodontal disease, and potential for cyst formation.

Some wisdom teeth that do erupt into the mouth may also be recommended for removal if they are nonfunctional, decayed badly, interfering with your bite, contributing to gum or periodontal disease or creating problems for their neighboring teeth.

When Should I Get the Wisdom Teeth Out?

Most Dentists and Oral Surgeons recommend their removal during high school or early college. Younger patients have slightly softer jawbones which makes the removal of the teeth easier. The roots of the teeth are also not as well developed which makes for easier and less traumatic removal. Younger patients also recover and heal quicker from the procedure.

What Are Some Indications for the Removal of Wisdom Teeth?

There are usually multiple criteria that help dentists or Oral Surgeons determine if your wisdom will need to be removed:

  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Swelling
  • Extensive or inaccessible decay
  • Lesions around the tooth on x-ray
  • Lack of room in the mouth for the teeth to erupt
  • Severely tilted or rotated tooth which would be unlikely to erupt into the mouth
  • Upon the recommendation of an Orthodontist during or at the conclusion of Orthodontic treatment

Removal of the Wisdom Teeth

If the removal of the wisdom teeth is not expected to be complex and the patient is not requesting sedation, then we may be able to remove them at our office; but the majority of wisdom teeth are removed at an Oral Surgeon’s office, since they are best equipped to use full sedation, which optimizes patient comfort.

The patient typically has an examination and consultation with the Oral Surgeon and then returns on a separate day for the procedure; which involves sedation along with local anesthesia. The Oral Surgeon then carefully elevates and removes the problematic wisdom teeth and the patient is discharged the same day. A one or two day recovery period following the extractions is recommended, where the patient rests and things begin to heal.

Can Some People Keep Their Wisdom Teeth?

There are times when there is adequate room in the mouth for the wisdom teeth to fully erupt into a functional and hygienic position. These wisdom teeth are typically left alone and allowed to function like the other teeth in the mouth.

Sometimes we may decide to monitor an impacted wisdom tooth if the surgical complications for removal are greater than the risk of leaving the wisdom teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth that are retained should be monitored regularly with x-rays, in order to address them properly if a cyst or problem should become evident in the future.

Everyone’s mouth is different and the best advice would be to examine and x-ray the wisdom teeth to help predict whether they are going to be functional, or cause problems in the future.