Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth in the jaws to develop. Typically they come through the gums (erupt) in the late teens or early twenties. Frequently we find that there is not enough room for them to erupt in a way that makes them functional and easy to clean. A blockage of the wisdom tooth to erupt is called impaction. The amount of impaction can vary from gum tissue blockage, to partial bone, to complete bone coverage.

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How do I know if my wisdom teeth need to be removed?

Your dentist and/or orthodontist should evaluate your jaw structure and wisdom tooth status with regular oral exams and X-rays. Frequently routine dental X-rays are not enough to fully evaluate the wisdom teeth, jaw, and surrounding structures like the sinus and nerves. A special full jaw and mouth X-ray (Panoramic X-ray) is usually necessary. This X-ray will be taken at your oral & maxillofacial surgeon’s office if you do not have one already.

Every patient is unique, but in general, wisdom teeth may need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as: pain, infection, cysts, tumors, damage to adjacent teeth, gum disease, or tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to restore the tooth). Your dentist or specialist may also recommend removal to prevent problems or for others reasons, such as when removal is part of an orthodontic, restorative or periodontal treatment plan.

When there are present or potential problems with the wisdom teeth we often recommend early removal. Removing them at an earlier age is easier because of less dense jawbone, and if done before the root develops it involves less surgery. Recommendation for removal can be as early as age 12, or may not be until age 17 or 18. Patients older than 30 tend to have higher complication rates and lengthened healing time.

In addition, the condition of your mouth changes over time. Wisdom teeth that are not removed should continue to be monitored, because the potential for developing problems later on still exists. As with many other health conditions, as people age, they are at greater risk for health problems and that includes potential problems with their wisdom teeth. Regular dental visits are important so your dentist can evaluate not just your wisdom teeth but your overall oral health to help you prevent and manage dental disease and achieve optimal oral health.

For more information on wisdom teeth, please visit the American Dental Association website to view a short video at http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth.aspx.

http://www.wboms.com/images/wisdomteeth.jpgWhat is involved with removing wisdom teeth? Your first appointment with your oral & maxillofacial surgeon will be a consultation appointment. A detailed health history review, oral exam, and X-ray review will be done. This will allow the surgeon to review any special health concerns, amount of surgery necessary, and your anesthetic options. Frequently patients with impacted wisdom teeth choose intravenous anesthesia (“go to sleep”), therefore the consultation will review this option and important pre-anesthetic instructions with you further.

What can I expect after surgery? A surgical procedure will usually involve varying degrees of swelling and discomfort. The muscles of the jaw often feel stiff for several days and some bruising may also result. The majority of patients feel better in 3 to 5 days after the surgery. Everyone’s response to surgery will differ, however with modern anesthetic techniques and medications your Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon will try to make your experience as comfortable as possible.

** Information is provided from the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Specialists, P. A.