For reasons that aren’t fully understood, humans are given three sets of molars when the jaw ordinarily has space for only two. These wisdom teeth are the last teeth to develop, and they usually become fully formed in the late teens. If there isn’t space for them to erupt normally, it is prudent to have them removed.
Since there isn’t space for them, they end up not fully erupting into the mouth, a condition we call a tooth impaction. Impacted teeth cause a number of problems. One of those is illustrated by this x-ray. Because the wisdom tooth is butting up against the second molar, it creates a food trap that can’t be adequately cleaned, resulting in a large cavity. To fill this cavity, the wisdom tooth will have to be removed first.
When Should You Have Wisdom Teeth Removed
The best time to remove wisdom teeth is before they are fully formed and before the bone becomes too dense. Once it has been determined that there isn’t space for the wisdom teeth, if the roots aren’t fully formed, the chance of complications is very low. Some people say they want to wait until the tooth causes an infection. The problem with that approach is that the extraction of a wisdom tooth becomes much more traumatic the older you are, and the risk of complications increases greatly. Not only is it harder to take out the tooth once the roots are fully formed, but the bone becomes harder and more dense the older you get.
The ideal age to remove wisdom teeth is from your late teens to early twenties.
Complications from Impacted Wisdom Teeth
If you don’t have enough space for your wisdom teeth to erupt normally and you don’t have them removed, here are some of the risks you will encounter:
- The most common complication is an abscess from a gum infection. Because the tooth isn’t fully erupted into the mouth, it is impossible to clean. Food particles trapped in the space around the teeth will breed bacteria. While most of these bacteria are somewhat benign, once you run into a virulent strain of bacteria, it can cause a very serious infection.
- These teeth are also very prone to decay, and are difficult to restore. If the tooth becomes infected, a root canal treatment can be nearly impossible to properly perform.
- Totally buried in the bone, they can provoke the formation of a cyst.
- As in the x-ray above, they can damage adjacent teeth.
What is Involved with the Extraction of an Impacted Wisdom Tooth
While there are a variety of types of impactions, as illustrated by the diagram, there always needs to be an incision of the overlying tissue. Often, we will need to remove some bone in order to get adequate access to the tooth. Sometimes, in order to get the tooth fully removed, it will require sectioning the tooth. We will tell you, during your consultation, what exactly will be required to remove your wisdom teeth. Generally, you’ll want to plan on soreness and at least a couple of days of rest after your procedure. This is not as simple as a normal tooth extraction.
Most people want to be sedated for this procedure. For more information on sedation, please see our page on conscious sedation.
At Williams Family Dentistry, we do wisdom teeth extractions in the office. You will not have to find another caregiver and go to a second office for the extractions. This eliminates the hassle for you and decreases communication problems that come up when more than one practice is involved with your care.
If you need help with your wisdom teeth you may call our office or request an appointment online.