Wisdom Teeth Extractions

TMJ/TMD Treatment

What Are Wisdom Teeth

Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of the 32 permanent teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth. Wisdom teeth generally make their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25, and are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom), near the entrance to the throat. It is thought that wisdom teeth get their name from the idea that the molars surface at a time typically associated with increased maturity or “wisdom”.

In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to come in properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or potentially harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly cysts or tumors.

There are several types, or degrees, of impactions based on the actual depth of the teeth within the jaw:

  • Soft Tissue Impaction: The upper portion of the tooth (the crown) has penetrated through the bone, but the gingiva (gum) is covering part or all of the tooth’s crown and has not positioned properly around the tooth. Because it is difficult to keep the area clean, food can become trapped below the gum and cause an infection and/or tooth decay, resulting in pain and swelling.
  • Partial Bony Impaction: The tooth has partially erupted, but a portion of the crown remains submerged below the gum and surrounding jawbone. Again, because it is difficult to keep the area clean, infection will commonly occur.
  • Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques.
Woman smiling

While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth extractions are very common, and most often performed because of an active problem such as pain, swelling, decay or infection, or as a preventative measure to avoid serious problems in the future. If impaction of one or more wisdom teeth is present and left untreated, a number of potentially harmful outcomes can occur, including:

  • Damage to nearby teeth: Second molars can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities)periodontal disease (gum disease), and possible bone loss.
  • Infection: Bacteria and food can become trapped under the gum tissue, resulting in an infection. The infection can cause considerable pain and danger.
  • Tooth Crowding: Impacted wisdom teeth can potentially put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted). 

As with any dental procedure, your dentist will want to initially conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom and surrounding teeth. X-rays will be taken in order for your dentist to evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and determine if a current problem exists, or the likelihood of any potential future problems.  The X-rays can also expose additional risk factors, such as deterioration or decay of nearby teeth. Early evaluation and treatment (typically in the mid-teen years) is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions. Only after a thorough examination can your dentist provide you with the best options for your particular case.

Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under sedation dentistry including local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia by a specially trained and certified dentist. The surgery does not require an overnight stay, and you will be released with post-operative instructions and medication (if necessary) to help manage any swelling or discomfort.

Your dentist will give you take home instructions on how to care for the surgical sites, precautions during the healing process, what to expect, and other information.  You can also view these helpful tips here.

If you experience any issues or discomfort following your procedure, please contact our office as soon as possible.

Are your wisdom teeth causing you pain, or think you or your child are a candidate to have them removed? Call our office today for a consult.