Oral Surgery

Extraction of Wisdom Teeth

What people generally call wisdom teeth are actually the third set of molars that appear at some point between 17 and 25 years old. They emerge on both the bottom and top near the hinge of the jaw. They are called wisdom teeth because they show up at a stage of life commonly understood to be the start of adulthood and wise maturity.

A majority of people do not have sufficient space in their jaw for the wisdom teeth to appear correctly and grow into straight and functional teeth. Instead, they can get stuck behind or underneath other teeth, become impacted and cause pain, alignment problems and possible damage to the entire mouth and jaw. The potential issues include a misaligned bite, tooth damage, infections, cysts and even tumors.

Impaction can occur in varying degrees with different severities of risk involved. These are often caused directly by the depth and position of the wisdom tooth when the problem arises.

Soft Tissue Impaction — If a wisdom tooth exits from the bone properly but does not emerge from the gums as other teeth do, this type of soft tissue damage can occur. Because of the poor position of the gum or gingiva around the molar, food and bacteria can get stuck and contribute to infections, decay, inflammation and pain.

Partial Bony Impaction — A tooth that gets caught partially under the jawbone from which it is erupting, but also emerges partially from the gum can result in similar infections and inflammation. The molar can also push on the bone and surrounding teeth and cause more serious problems.

Complete Bony Impaction — When a wisdom tooth fails to penetrate the bone, surgery will be needed to extract it completely.

Why Wisdom Teeth Are Removed

Although some lucky people do not require wisdom teeth removal, it is a common procedure because there are so many problems associated with their growth. Most extractions are done due to acute problems such as infection, decay and pain. If an x-ray shows that the wisdom teeth are not in proper alignment and will cause trouble as they grow, they may be removed as a preventative measure. When impaction occurs, treatment must be rendered swiftly in order to avoid these and other harmful issues.

Examination and Evaluation of Wisdom Teeth

Before the decision to extract wisdom teeth is made, a thorough and complete examination will be completed by a qualified dentist. He will order and evaluate a series of digital or panoramic x-rays to determine the current position of the wisdom teeth and how they are impacting the jaw and other teeth. These images also reveal existing decay and give clues to any future problems that can be handled by a preemptive extraction.

This process begins at regular dental checkups in the mid to late teenage years. The growth and eruption of wisdom teeth can be tracked in order to both identify and track potential problems as they get worse. If no long-term x-rays and checkup records are available, a case will be determined by a careful examination process during one dental visit.