Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that erupt in the back corners of the upper and lower normal adult mouth. Wisdom teeth, come in behind the 2nd molars (if there is room for them and they are aligned properly) usually during a person’s late teens or early twenties.
Wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned.
Often, however, problems develop that require their removal. When the jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate wisdom teeth, they can become impacted. In dental terminology “impacted” means that a tooth has failed to emerge fully into its expected position. This may occur either because there is not room enough in the jaw for the tooth, or else because the angulation of the tooth is improper
Wisdom teeth may grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is generally recommended when:
• Wisdom teeth only partially erupt. This leaves an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. Pain, swelling, jaw stiffness and general illness can result.
• There is a chance that poorly aligned wisdom teeth will damage adjacent teeth.
• A cyst (fluid-filled sac) forms, destroying surrounding structures such as bone or tooth roots.
It is now recommended by specialists that impacted wisdom teeth be removed between the ages of 14 and 22 years whether they are causing problems or not. Surgery is technically easier and patients recover much more quickly when they are younger. What is a relatively minor operation at 20 can become quiet difficult in patients over 40. Also the risk of complications increases with age, and the healing process is slower.
Patients should ask the dentist about the health and positioning of their wisdom teeth. The dentist may make a recommendation for removal.