wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth, also called third molars, are the last teeth to develop in your mouth. They most commonly erupt between ages 17-25. Wisdom teeth commonly affect other teeth, are a source of infection, and can cause other oral health complications.

Why are they called wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth eruption occurs with the attainment of maturity. This is a time associated with attainment of wisdom, hence the name “wisdom teeth.”

What does impacted mean?

A tooth is said to be “impacted” when it is unable to fully erupt properly into the oral cavity. Wisdom teeth are often unable to break through the gums, or only partially able to do so, because there is not enough room for them. Nine out of ten people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.

What problems can wisdom teeth cause?

Your oral health is very important. Teeth that do not erupt properly, such as wisdom teeth, can be very detrimental to your oral health. Potential problems include:

Damage to adjacent teeth: When not properly erupted, wisdom teeth can cause problems with the second molars, including root resorption, periodontal bone loss, cavities, and tooth displacement.

Infection: The third molar area of the mouth is very difficult to clean, which invites the bacteria that lead to cavities, and gum disease. This potential for infection is compounded when teeth are not properly erupted. If your wisdom teeth are not in the appropriate position, you will not be able to adequately clean them, but bacteria can still get to them and cause severe infections around the crown of the tooth, called pericoronitis. Additionally, the inflammation and infection harbored around wisdom teeth carry the potential to invade the bloodstream and cause infections to other organs throughout your body.

Cysts and tumors: When the wisdom tooth does not fully erupt, then the tissue that formed the tooth, called the “follicle”, does not dissolve during eruption as it does with normally erupting teeth. Instead, the follicle persists in the bone. This follicle carries with it a lifetime risk of developing into cysts or tumors that can be very damaging to your jaw, adjacent teeth, nerves and other structures.

Do I need my wisdom teeth extracted?

Although not all wisdom teeth need to be extracted, the majority will require removal. It is recommended that each patient be evaluated by an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon by the time they are a young adult, to assess if they need to have their wisdom teeth removed. It is preferable to take out the wisdom teeth before they cause problems, as some of the complications could be irreversible or have long lasting effects. Additionally, as the patient ages the roots of the wisdom teeth complete growth and become more firmly embedded in the bone. As this takes place, the teeth become more difficult to remove, increasing the risk of complications, including risk of injury to adjacent nerves. Ideally, all patients who do not have room for their wisdom teeth, should have them removed when their roots are ½-2/3 formed.

Generally, if the wisdom teeth have the potential for any of the following problems, they will need to be removed:

· Infections
· Periodontal disease
· Cavities
· Cysts or tumors
· Damage to neighboring teeth

Wisdom teeth do not need to be removed if they meet all of the following criteria:

· Completely and properly erupted and functional
· Painless
· Cavity-free
· In a hygienic environment with healthy gum tissue
· Disease-free

If all these conditions are met, then they will still require regular, professional cleanings, annual check-ups, and periodic radiographs to monitor for any changes.

Schedule an exam with Dr. Jenkins today to find out if your wisdom teeth need to be extracted.

What can I expect from surgery?

Before the procedure, Dr. Jenkins will explain the procedure, risks and benefits to you. If you have any questions, this is a great opportunity to ask them. Dr. Jenkins makes sure to spend the time you need to get all the information that you need, in order to be comfortable with the procedure. Most of the time, Dr. Jenkins is able to accomplish the consultation and procedure in the same day.

Wisdom teeth can usually be extracted in the clinic setting. Wisdom teeth can be extracted under local anesthetic, or IV sedation. Most patients choose IV sedation, as it is a very comfortable way to have the teeth extracted. When sedated, most patients have no recollection of the procedure, and they wake up comfortable, and relaxed, and pain free.

Dr. Jenkins uses the most cutting edge techniques, and medications, and takes the time to be careful and conservative when extracting wisdom teeth. Still, most patients do have some soreness, and swelling after the procedure, and most will require 2-3 days off of work or school. Dr. Jenkins will see you one week after the procedure, to make sure that you do not have any problems.

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

There are many theories as to why we have wisdom teeth. Two of the leading theories are:

· Due to changes in diet along with natural selection, jaws have decreased in size and wisdom teeth have persisted, which causes a mismatch in size of jaws versus size of teeth. Thus, wisdom teeth do not have room for eruption.

· The diets of our ancient ancestors were more “gritty” causing a lot of grinding of teeth, especially between the teeth. With this attrition, the teeth would eventually decrease in size. By the time our ancient ancestors were in their early twenties, all the teeth would shift forward, and they would have room for the wisdom teeth.

Regardless of the reason, most wisdom teeth today do not have room for proper eruption, and will require extraction for optimal oral health.


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