Wisdom Teeth (Third Molars)
What are wisdom teeth?
The average adult normally has 32 teeth; 16 teeth in the upper jaw and 16 in the lower jaw. Each tooth in the mouth has a specific name and function. The teeth in the front of the mouth (incisors, canines and bicuspids) are ideal for grasping and biting food into smaller pieces. The back teeth or molar teeth, are used to grind food up into a consistency suitable for swallowing.
Frequently, there is not enough room in the mouth for all of these 32 teeth to erupt and become functional. Wisdom teeth (or “third molars”) are the last teeth in the jaws to develop and grow, and because of this timing, they are usually the teeth that have inadequate space for eruption behind the six- and twelve-year molars.
Wisdom Teeth Presentation
To provide you with a better understanding of wisdom teeth, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to wisdom teeth are discussed.
Do you or your teenager need your wisdom teeth removed?
Why should I remove my wisdom teeth?
When they are able to erupt into proper alignment and the surrounding gum tissue is healthy, wisdom teeth do not always need to be removed. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. The extraction of wisdom teeth is often advisable when they are unable to properly erupt within the mouth. They may grow sideways, partially emerge from the gum, or even remain trapped beneath the gum and bone. They are then referred to as impacted or poorly positioned (malposed) wisdom teeth.
These poorly positioned or impacted teeth can cause many problems. When they are partially erupted, the opening in the gum tissue around the tooth allows bacteria to accumulate and grow. This may eventually result in an infection that can become severe and can result in destruction of gum tissue and jaw bone structure. Pressure from an impacted wisdom tooth may move other teeth and disrupt the orthodontic or natural alignment of teeth. The most serious problem occurs when tumors or cysts form around the impacted wisdom tooth, resulting in the destruction of the jawbone and healthy teeth. Removal of the offending impacted tooth or teeth usually resolves these problems. Early removal of impacted teeth is often recommended to prevent these problems and to decrease the surgical risk involved with the procedure.
What does an oral exam entail?
With an oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, our doctors can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if problems are present or may develop in the future. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a superior outcome for the patient. Evaluation of wisdom teeth is usually advisable in the mid-teenage years by the patients dentist, orthodontist or by one of our oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
How are wisdom teeth removed?
In most cases the removal of wisdom teeth is performed in the office using local anesthesia, usually in conjunction with laughing gas (nitrous oxide) or IV anesthesia. These options, as well as the surgical risks involved, are discussed at the initial consultation appointment. Appropriate medication prescriptions as well as post-operative instructions are provided for each patient. Our procedures are performed in an environment of optimum safety that utilizes modern monitoring equipment and staff that are experienced in our anesthetic techniques.