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Wisdom teeth are the third molars in the back of your mouth and the last permanent teeth to erupt. While most permanent teeth erupt when a person is between six and twelve years old, wisdom teeth don’t emerge until someone is in their late teens or early 20s. By that age, people have started to become wiser, so the third molars are called wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth don’t always need to be removed. They can be left alone if they have grown in completely, are healthy, positioned properly, and if their owner can clean them. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Wisdom teeth should be removed if they cause any of the following problems:

  • Pain
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Damage to neighboring teeth
  • Repeated infections
  • Cysts
  • Tumors

What goes wrong with wisdom teeth?

Many of the problems associated with wisdom teeth stem from the fact that they do not always have room to grow properly. They can, therefore, grow at odd angles, and sometimes even emerge horizontally.

Other times, the wisdom teeth do not emerge at all. If that happens, they become trapped or impacted within the jaw. A hidden wisdom tooth can push against a neighboring tooth and eventually damage it. It can also affect the alignment of the other teeth and thus undo the work of orthodontic treatments such as braces or bridges. A wisdom tooth can also get too close to a nerve and thereby cause pain.
Wisdom teeth can also sometimes emerge only partially. These teeth are hard to clean and become havens for bacteria that cause tooth decay or infections.

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

Generally speaking, the younger the patient is, the better. Wisdom teeth develop in the jawbone, and they develop crown (top) first. As the roots develop, the crown is pushed upwards and eventually through the gums. The roots are not fully developed in teens and young adults, which means it is easier for a dentist to remove the tooth. That ease of removal also makes the surgery less risky and less likely to result in complications. Dentists can remove wisdom teeth in older people, but as their teeth have fully developed roots, the procedure will be more difficult.

Dr. Jamie Sands recommends having a panoramic x-ray taken at age 16 to determine if wisdom teeth are present. If they are, the patient can be referred to an oral surgery for further treatment and evaluation. A CBCT can also be taken to determine the exact position of the wisdom teeth.

What happens during an extraction?

The dentist will sedate the patient, usually with an intravenous anesthetic. After the local anesthetic is administered, the tooth is extracted. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
The recovery period will depend on the severity of the tooth impaction and the age of the patient.

What are the risks of wisdom tooth extraction?

The most common complication is called “dry socket,” and it is caused by the dislodging of a blood clot that formed in the tooth socket after the extraction.

For more information about wisdom teeth extraction, call the office of Dr. Jamie Elizabeth Sands today. Dr. Sands is dedicated to ensuring patients receive the highest quality dental care. Everyone deserves their perfect smile. Schedule a consultation today.