Wisdom teeth are also known as third molars, and generally will be the last four of the 32 teeth that erupt in the mouth. Wisdom teeth will usually appear between the ages of 17 and 25, and are located in the back of the mouth on the top and bottom. They are referred to as “wisdom” teeth due to the fact that they will usually appear around the same time that a person is becoming an adult, or gaining wisdom.

Due to the typical spacing of the mouth, the lack of room will usually make wisdom teeth not erupt properly and therefore not become functional. When this happens, it potentially can cause the tooth to become impacted in a harmful position causing cysts, pain and tumors. These impacts must be removed in order to maintain good oral health, and the severity of the removal will usually fall into one of three types of impacts:

Soft Tissue Impaction: This happens when the upper portion of the tooth (crown) has made it through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part of the crown, causing infections as a result of improper ability to clean the area.

Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has made it partially out, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. This is a common producer of infections due to an inability to keep the area clean.

Complete Bony Impaction: The most difficult impaction, where the tooth is completely encased by the jawbone.

Reasons to remove wisdom teeth

Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed, but they are commonly taken out in order to prevent future problems with pain or impaction.

  • Damage to nearby teeth: The second molars can be damaged if the wisdom teeth are impacted. Infection and jaw problems can occur.
  • Disease: Cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Infection: Bacteria and food can cause infections if not properly removed. Impacted wisdom teeth are difficult to keep clean and are prone to infection.
  • Tooth Crowding: There are theories that crowding as a result of wisdom teeth being allowed to remain cause misalignment of teeth, leading to jaw pain and potential issues.

Wisdom teeth examination

A thorough examination of the mouth as the wisdom teeth begin to come in, combined with extensive xrays will allow the dentist to make an accurate determination if the wisdom teeth can pose a potential danger to oral health or the surrounding teeth. Many wisdom teeth are removed as a precaution if it is determined that the risk of jaw bone loss exists, or that they are coming in with potential issues surrounding them.

What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?

Local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia by a specially trained dentist is typically all that is necessary in order to have a removal process be completely painless. The wisdom teeth are removed using specialized instruments, and generally there will be no need for any type of overnight stay. Post surgical instructions will be provided, and pain medication will be prescribed based upon the severity of the extraction.