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Wisdom Teeth Extractions

Wisdom teeth are generally the final teeth to erupt in your mouth. This usually occurs between the ages of 17 to 25. Originally known as the third molars, the term wisdom teeth came about because of the age at which they appear, when you are no longer a child, and are considered to be “wiser”.

Wisdom teeth are commonly associated with becoming impacted (stuck) in a position in the mouth that is often potentially harmful and prevents the teeth from being fully functional. If left untreated, this problem can lead to others such as cysts or tumors, infection, and damage to surrounding teeth.

Wisdom teeth impaction can be separated into several types, based on the depth of the teeth within the jaw:

Soft Tissue Impaction: The crown, or upper part of the tooth, has broken through the bone, but all or part of the crown is covered by the gum (gingiva). This causes improper positioning around the tooth or teeth, making it difficult to clean them effectively. As a result, tooth decay and/or infection can occur as food becomes trapped below the gum, causing pain and swelling.

Partial Bony Impaction: This occurs when the wisdom tooth is partially erupted, but part of the crown remains below the jaw and gums. Infection often occurs in this situation as it is difficult to maintain good oral hygiene and keep the teeth clean.

Complete Bony Impaction:  In this instance, the tooth is totally encased by the jawbone and requires removal by more complex techniques.

Reasons for removing wisdom teeth

Your wisdom teeth will most likely erupt without a problem. However, extraction will be necessary if problems exist such as decay, infection, pain, swelling, or for preventative reasons in order to prevent issues that might arise later. If untreated, wisdom tooth impaction can result in numerous harmful outcomes such as:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth: Impacted wisdom teeth can easily affect the second molars, which are those located in front of the wisdom teeth. Problems such as periodontal disease (gum disease), tooth decay and bone loss can arise.
  • Disease: Cysts or tumors sometimes manifest in areas around the impacted teeth, though this is not a common occurrence.
  • Infection: Infection can result when food becomes trapped under the gums, causing extensive pain and even a dangerous situation.
  • Tooth Crowding: One theory that has been put forward is that impacted wisdom teeth can cause other teeth to become misaligned. Scientific studies have not confirmed this, thus it is not widely accepted by dental professionals.

Wisdom Teeth Examination

Initially, your dentist will conduct a comprehensive exam of the wisdom teeth as well as those surrounding them. This will include the use of panoramic or digital x-rays to determine the exact position of the teeth. Once a determination has been made as to whether a current problem exists, or there is a possibility of a future issue, your dentist can discuss the various options available. Potential problems can often be prevented with early evaluation, especially in the mid-teens. Early attention to wisdom teeth can often prevent extraction later or provide greater results if extraction is necessary.

What is the procedure for removal of wisdom teeth?

This procedure is actually quite common and is usually completed under local anesthesia, IV sedation, or general anesthesia.  It should be performed by a dentist trained in oral surgery. If your dentist is not, he will likely provide a referral. It is an out-patient procedure and you will not be required to remain overnight. Post-operative instructions and necessary medication will be provided to reduce swelling or discomfort.