What are "Wisdom Teeth"?
Third molars, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, are usually the last four of 32 teeth to erupt (surface) in the mouth, generally making their appearance between the ages of 17 to 25. They are located at the back of the mouth (top and bottom). The term “wisdom” stems from the idea that the molars develop and surface at a time of maturity or “wisdom” of the patient.
In most cases, inadequate space in the mouth does not allow the wisdom teeth to erupt properly and become fully functional. When this happens, the tooth can become impacted (stuck) in an undesirable or harmful position. If left untreated, impacted wisdom teeth can contribute to infection, damage to other teeth, and possibly develop cysts or tumors.
There are several types, or degrees, of impaction 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. These teeth should be removed by a trained Oral Surgeon.
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. These teeth would require extraction by a trained Oral Surgeon.
Complete Bony Impaction: The tooth is completely encased by jawbone. This will require more complex removal techniques to be performed by a trained Oral Surgeon.
Reasons to remove wisdom teeth
While not all wisdom teeth require removal, wisdom teeth extractions are 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 (the teeth directly in front of the wisdom teeth) can be adversely affected by impacted wisdom teeth, resulting in tooth decay (cavities), periodontal disease (gum disease) and possible bone loss.
Pathology: Wisdom teeth are known to be associated with benign, but aggressive cysts and tumors which may require more aggressive treatment.
Disease: Although uncommon, cysts and tumors can occur in the areas surrounding impacted wisdom teeth.
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: It has been theorized that impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become misaligned (crowded or twisted).
Wisdom Teeth Examination
Drs. Bianco and Singh specialize in the removal of wisdom teeth. They will initially conduct a thorough examination of the wisdom and surrounding teeth. Panoramic or digital 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 is recommended in order to identify potential problems and to improve the results for patients requiring wisdom teeth extractions, however, wisdom teeth causing problems should be removed at any age. Only after a thorough examination can your Oral Surgeon provide you with the best options for your particular case.
What does the removal of wisdom teeth involve?
Wisdom teeth removal is a common procedure, generally performed under local anesthesia, intravenous (IV) sedation, or general anesthesia by your specially trained Oral Surgeon in an office surgery suite. 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. Drs. Bianco and Singh ensure that your experience is as quick and painless as possible to allow for a speedy recovery.