Wisdom Teeth

The last teeth to develop and appear in your mouth are your wisdom teeth, or “third molars”, which come in between the ages of 17 and 25, a time of life called the “Age of Wisdom.”

An impacted tooth is one unable to fully enter the mouth. Usually there isn’t enough room for the impacted teeth to break through the gums. Nine in ten people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.
Impacted wisdom teeth may damage neighboring teeth, or become infected if left in the mouth. The third molar area of the mouth is difficult to clean, therefore a site that invites bacteria that leads to gum disease and oral bacteria. Oral bacteria can travel from your mouth, through the bloodstream and can lead to systemic infections and illnesses that affect the heart, kidneys and other organs. Research has shown that once periodontal disease is established in the third molar areas, the problem is persistent and progressive, but may improve following extraction of the teeth. A fluid-filled cyst or tumor can sometimes form around the base of the untreated wisdom tooth. Serious problems can occur as the cyst grows, hollows out the jaw and damages surrounding nerves, teeth and other structures.

What are wisdom teeth?

Complications such as infection (fig. a) , damage to adjacent teeth (fig. b) and the formation of cysts (fig. c) may arise from impacted teeth.

Some people think they should only get their wisdom teeth looked at, only if they are in pain. However, no pain does not mean no problem. Wisdom teeth that have developed properly can still be prone to disease according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation. AAOMS suggests that third molars be examined by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon by the time a patient is a young adult. This means quickly assesing the presence of third molars, disease status, and to management options and suggestions ranging from removal to a monitored retention plan to ensure optimal patient-specific outcomes. Wisdom teeth should be removed in the following instances:

  • infections and/or periodontal disease
  • cavities that cannot be restored
  • pathologies such as cysts, and tumors
  • damage to neighboring teeth

Not all wisdom teeth will be examined and result in removal. Wisdom teeth that have broken through the gum tissue and are functional, painless, cavity-free, in a hygienic environment with healthy gum tissue, and are disease-free can be kept. If you choose to keep your wisdom tooth, remember it will require regular, professional cleaning, annual check-ups and periodic radiographs to monitor for any changes.

Since their roots are not completely formed, the surrounding bone is softer, and there is less chance of damaging nearby nerves or other structures, wisdom teeth are easier to remove when the patient is younger. Adult wisdom tooth removal becomes more complicated as the roots have fully developed (may involve the nerve), and a more dense jawbone.

Wisdom Teeth Growth

12 years | 14 years | 17 years | 25 years

You will most likely be referred to an oral & maxillofacial surgeon by your dentist or healthcare professional. If your dentist or healthcare professional recommends that your wisdom teeth be removed, you will most likely be referred to an oral & maxillofacial surgeon for the procedure. Before surgery, your oral surgeon will discuss the procedure with you. Let them know any concerns or any illness you have and the medications you are taking. There are several conditions that affect how easy it will be to remove a wisdom tooth. These conditions include how the tooth is positioned and the stage of root development. If the wisdom teeth are impacted, the surgery might be more complicated. Most of the time third molars can be removed with little or no pain. Usually they can be extracted at the oral & maxillofacial surgery office. Your surgeon will suggest anesthetics options (local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia) and decide the right one for you.

Most of the time third molars can be removed with little or no pain. Usually they can be extracted at the oral & maxillofacial surgery office. Your surgeon will suggest anesthetics options (local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia) and decide the right one for you.

You may experience  swelling and/or mild discomfort after surgery. This is the normal healing process. Your oral & maxillofacial surgeon will prescribe medication to help manage the discomfort. You can use cold compresses to help decrease the swelling.