Wisdom teeth are the third and final molars to develop. They usually appear in our late teens and early twenties. Because they are the last teeth to erupt there is often not enough room in the dental arch for these teeth to come in fully. As a result, many wisdom teeth become impacted or stuck beneath the gums or within the jaw bone. When these teeth break half way through the gum, it creates an opening through which bacteria and food from the mouth can pass. This often leads to infections of the gums, jaw bone and tissue spaces of the face. These infections can be dangerous affecting neighboring structures and the airway.
Wisdom teeth that remain deep in the bone without communication to the mouth can sometimes be left alone. There are however situations when cysts, tumors or other types of lesions can form around these deeply embedded teeth. It is important to monitor any unerupted teeth on a regular basis with radiographs to be sure there is no developing disease.
As impacted wisdom teeth continue to develop they can encroach on neighboring structures including nerves and other teeth. Removal of wisdom teeth in their early stages of development can prevent damage to these structures. It is recommended that impacted wisdom teeth be removed when there is only one half to two- thirds root development. This helps to reduce the risk of injury to any neighboring structures especially nerves. When impacted wisdom teeth are pushing on neighboring teeth this can lead to shifting of other teeth in the arch. This can be especially problematic after orthodontic treatment.
The surgery to remove wisdom teeth becomes more difficult the older we get. There is also an increase in risk of surgical complications with every passing year. Typically removal of wisdom teeth in adults leads to longer recovery, more time off work, slower healing and increased surgical risks. With this knowledge it is recommended that wisdom teeth position and development be assessed in all in teenage patients. Any known impacted teeth that are found should they be removed prior to age 25.
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Contact the team at Face2Face Surgery to answer all your questions about when and if your wisdom teeth should be removed.