Wisdom Teeth

Although the removal of wisdom teeth is a commonly-performed dental surgery, you may still have some questions about your wisdom teeth procedure.  Below are some answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions regarding wisdom teeth.

What are wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last teeth to develop in the mouth--usually appearing behind the upper and lower second (or 12-year) molars.  They are called "wisdom teeth" because they usually appear during a person's late teens or early twenties (which has historically been called the "age of wisdom").

Why must many people have their wisdom teeth removed?

Many times the jaws of humans are not normally large enough to accommodate the four wisdom teeth.  This is why wisdom teeth can cause more problems than any other teeth in the mouth.  In fact, for nine out of ten people, at least one wisdom tooth remains underneath the gum due to lack of space in the mouth.

Must wisdom teeth always be removed?

No.  In fact, wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned.

What are impacted wisdom teeth?

When a wisdom tooth remains underneath the gum, or when it is blocked from erupting or coming into the mouth normally, it is termed "impacted."  The tooth may be partially impacted, meaning it grows in crooked and breaks through the gum only partially; or, it may fail to break through at all, thus remaining totally impacted.

What types of problems can develop from impacted wisdom teeth?

Serious problems can develop from partially impacted teeth, such as pain, infection, and crowding of, or even damage to, adjacent teeth.  For totally impacted teeth, more serious problems can occur if the sac that surrounds the impacted tooth fills with fluid and enlarges to form a cyst.  This enlargement can hollow out the jaw and result in permanent damage to the adjacent teeth, jawbone, and nerves.  If the cyst is not treated, a tumor may develop from the walls of the cyst and a more involved surgical procedure may be required for removal.

Will I always experience symptoms if I have a problem with my wisdom teeth?

No.  Many problems with wisdom teeth can occur with few or no symptoms.  Consequently, there can be damage without your knowing it.  It is important to know that as wisdom teeth develop, their roots become longer and the jawbone more dense.

Why is it a good idea to have wisdom teeth removed early?

Because of the problems mentioned above, as a person grows older, it becomes more difficult to remove wisdom teeth and complications can become more frequent and severe.  As a person ages, there is an increased chance of the above symptoms occurring.  For these reasons, Dr. Rider may recommend the removal of wisdom teeth even if they are not yet causing obvious problems.

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