Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to appear in your mouth, occurring normally 17 and 25 years of age, a time of life called the “Age of Wisdom”.
Anthropologists have noted that the rough diet of early humans resulted in the excessive wearing out of their teeth. The normal drifting of teeth to compensate for this wear and tear ensured that space was available for most wisdom teeth to grow.
The modern diet that is considerably softer, and some tooth-aligning procedures produce a fuller dental arch, which quite commonly doesn’t leave room for the wisdom teeth, thereby setting the stage for problems when they actually start to grow. The average jaw is made to hold only 28 teeth and can be painful when 32 teeth try to fit into that space! These four other teeth are your third Molars – the famed “wisdom teeth”.
Must the Tooth come out even if it hasn’t caused any problems yet?
Not all problems related to third molars are painful or visible. Damage can occur without you’re being aware of it. As wisdom teeth grow, their roots become longer, the teeth become more difficult to remove and complications become more likely. In addition, partially or totally impacted wisdom teeth are more likely to cause problems at later ages. They can cause extensive decay in the adjacent tooth, the second molar, since this area can be difficult to brush or floss. No one can predict when third molar complications will occur, but when they do, it can be more painful and the teeth more difficult to treat. It is estimated that about 85% of third molars will eventually need to be removed.
When should I have my wisdom teeth removed?
It isn’t wise to wait until your wisdom teeth start to bother you. In general, earlier removal results in a less complicated healing process. Researchers have found that older patients may be at a greater risk of disease, including periodontitis, in tissues surrounding the third molars and adjacent teeth. Periodontal infections, such as those observed in this study, may affect your general health.
Through oral examination and x-rays of the mouth, we can evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth and check for problems. Studies have shown that early evaluation and treatment result in a better outcome for the patient. Patients are generally first evaluated in the mid-teenage years by their dentist, orthodontist or by an oral and Maxillofacial surgeon.
What happens during wisdom tooth surgery?
Before wisdom tooth removal, your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss with you what to expect. This is a good time to ask questions or express your concerns. It is especially important to let the doctor know about any illness you might have and medications that you might be taking.
The relative ease with which a wisdom tooth may be removed depends on several conditions, including the position of the tooth and root development. Partially or totally impacted wisdom teeth may require a longer surgical procedure.
Most wisdom tooth extractions are performed in dental offices under local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will discuss the anesthetic option that is right for you.
Wisdom teeth are easier to remove when the patient is younger, since their roots are not completely formed, the surrounding bone is softer, and there is less chance of damaging nearby nerves or other structures. Removal of wisdom teeth at a later age becomes more complicated as the roots have fully developed (may involve the nerve), and the jaw bone is denser.
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