Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. This generally happens between the ages of 17 and 25.
Complications such as infection (fig. a) , damage to other teeth (fig. b) and the formation of cysts (fig. c) may arise from impacted teeth.
(b) Crowding, damage
A tooth becomes impacted when there is a lack of space in the dental arch and its growth and eruption are prevented by overlying gum, bone or another tooth.
How An Impacted Tooth Can Be Serious
Impacted teeth can be painful and lead to infection. They can crowd or damage other teeth or roots.
More serious problems may occur if the sac surrounding the impacted tooth becomes filled with fluid and enlarges to form a cyst. As the cyst grows it may hollow out the jaw and permanently damage adjacent teeth, the surrounding bone and nerves. Rarely, if a cyst is not treated, a tumor may develop from its walls and a more serious surgical procedure may be required to remove it.
Even though some people can live with their Third Molars and be healthy, Dr. Reed recommends that most people have them removed.
Do I need to have my Wisdom Teeth Extracted if They Haven’t Caused Any Problems Yet?
Not all problems related to third molars are painful or visible. Damage can occur without your being aware of it.
As Third Molars grow, their roots become longer, the teeth become more difficult to remove and complications become more likely. In addition, impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to cause problems as patients age.
No one can predict when third molar complications will occur, but when they do, the circumstances can be much more painful and the teeth more difficult to treat. It is estimated that about 85% of third molars will eventually need to be removed.
When Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?
Wisdom teeth are easier to remove when the patient is younger, since their roots are not completely formed, the surrounding bone is softer, and there is less chance of damaging nearby nerves or other structures. Removal of Third Molars at a later age becomes more complicated as the roots have fully developed (may involve the nerve), and the jawbone is denser.
It isn’t wise to wait until your wisdom teeth start to bother you. In general, earlier removal of wisdom teeth results in a less complicated healing procedure.The AAOMS/OMSF study strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed by the time the patient is a young adult in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.The researchers found that older patients may be at greater risk for disease, including periodontitis, in the tissues surrounding the third molars and adjacent teeth. Periodontal infections, such as those observed in this study, may affect your general health.
What Happens During Surgery?
Before surgery, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss with you what to expect. This is a good time to ask questions or express your concerns. It is especially important to let the doctor know about any illness you have and medications you are taking.
The relative ease with which a wisdom tooth may be removed depends on several conditions, including the position of the tooth and root development. Impacted Third Molars may require a more involved surgical procedure.
Most wisdom tooth extractions are performed in the oral and maxillofacial surgery office under local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss the anesthetic option that is right for you.
What Happens after Surgery?
Following surgery, you may experience some swelling and mild discomfort, which are part of the normal healing procedure. Cold compresses may help decrease the swelling, and medication prescribed by your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon can help manage the discomfort. You may be instructed to modify your diet following surgery and later progress to more normal foods.