Wisdom Teeth, also known as third molars, are the
last teeth to erupt in your mouth. This generally
occurs between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life
that has been called the "Age of Wisdom."
Anthropologists note that the rough diet of early
humans resulted in the excessive wear of their teeth.
Normal drifting of the teeth to compensate for this
wear ensured that space was available for most wisdom
teeth to erupt by adolescence. The modern diet, which
is much softer, and the popularity of orthodontic
tooth straightening procedures produce a fuller dental
arch, which quite commonly doesn't' leave room for
the wisdom teeth to erupt, thereby setting the stage
for problems when the final four molars enter the
What is an Impacted Tooth?
A tooth is termed 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.
A tooth may be partially impacted, which means a portion
of it has broken through the gum, or totally impacted
and unable to break through the gum at all.
How Serious is an impacted tooth?
Impacted and partially impacted teeth can be painful
and lead to infection, gum disease, and bone loss.
They may also crowd or damage adjacent 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 extensive surgical procedures may be required
to remove it.
When Should I have my Wisdom teeth Removed?
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 process.
If excision of wisdom teeth is indicated, earlier
removal can result in a less complicated healing process.
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 a 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
Must the Tooth Come Out if it Hasn't Caused Any
Not all wisdom teeth require removal. Your oral and
maxillofacial surgeon will help you determine what
is best for you. Not all problems related to third
molars are painful or visible. Damage can occur without
your being aware of it. As wisdom teeth grow, their
roots become longer, the teeth become more difficult
to remove and complications become more likely. In
addition, partially or totally impacted wisdom teeth
may cause problems as patients age.
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 illnesses you have and medications you are taking.
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 process. Cold compresses may help decrease
the swelling, and medication prescribed by your Oral
and Maxillofacial Surgeon can help manage the discomfort.
Please follow your post-operative instructions closely,
as they will help you to be most comfortable during
the first few days after surgery. The majority of
patients begin to feel improvement in 3-5 days. If
deemed necessary by your doctor, a post-operative
visit will be scheduled.